Demystifying digital nomadism and tips on how to start working remotely.

Earlier in 2017, my boyfriend was offered the opportunity to spend a few months in Asia with his MBA. The idea of spending time immersed in a different culture was thrilling. We share a common love for traveling and for the past few years only, had moved from France to Israel, the UK, and Ireland. Yet, we were still strangers to Asia, and decided to jump on the opportunity to explore this part of the world we were so curious about.

Making it work

At General Assembly, we are a global community spread over 20 campuses in 6 countries and our Enterprise team is often traveling to meet our clients. For the past year only, my team and I have implemented training solutions for companies based all over the US, Europe, and Asia including Singapore, Bangkok and Shanghai.

There has always been an outstanding atmosphere of trust within my team given the amount of travel required. Our success is measured by achieving our OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) rather than tracking hours and “face time” in the office. It’s that trust that allowed me to have a series of transparent discussions with my management, and draft a plan to move to another part of the world for a few months. Needless to say, I feel incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to keep doing what I love, while traveling around South-East Asia during my free time.

This experience has made me realize that life is too short to feel trapped in work routine, and I hope that sharing my experience can inspire some of you to take a chance on yourself and create something better.

1. Choose a lifestyle that will make you thrive professionally and personally.

Spending a few months traveling and/or working in a different location is a unique experience which will impact your life vision and everything you aim to accomplish. Moving to a radically different place allowed me to take a step back on what I was spending time on, and provided major improvements to my work-life balance. I’ve reviewed my priorities to focus on what I value the most.

Now, there are two ways of going to a relatively long-term adventure:

  1. Going freelance and traveling the world
  2. Taking your office job with you and finding the right balance between your work and what you want to explore

Quitting your job to travel around is a rather unconventional decision, and if you love what you do there is no reason to do so. Why not take the leap and ask your employer to work from another place for a defined amount of time — or indefinitely if this aligns with your company’s values?

At GA, we aim to empower people to do the work they love by providing education in data, tech, business, marketing and design. I strongly identify with our company values and love what I do, so it was evident for me to build a case for the value I could bring our company if I worked from Asia for a few months. If you’re considering changing lifestyle, do some research. Analyze the market, identify gaps and opportunities, and outline what you think you can achieve. Also, be ready to make concessions to make it work for everyone involved.

I’m an optimist who firmly believes that opportunities come to those who create them. I also believe there isn’t one “best-in-class” lifestyle to adhere to. You should spend time reflecting on what lifestyle will fit you, and make you reach your professional and personal potential.

2. Develop the most high-demand skills.

Working remotely is not for everyone. This lifestyle change will often imply working from home, in a coffee shop, co-working space, or at your company’s office if relevant. You’ll be working in a radically different way, and there are soft and hard skills to develop that will facilitate your transition to working remotely.

There are many examples of jobs that can be done from anywhere in the world and don’t require being physically in the office every day. If most of your job is done through a computer and involves communicating through online tools, it’s very likely that you could be performing in the same way (or better!) working from somewhere else.

On top of that, you can turn your office job into a remote gig by developing the right soft skills. Being an excellent communicator is essential. Working in a different part of the world will often mean working asynchronously with peers and it’s important to be succinct in your communications, as you often won’t be able to ask/give clarifications right away. It’s also key to develop trust with the people you work with. Both sides will need to trust each other to deliver on expectations and exceed results when possible.

I found that working remotely works for all personalities. Introverts working remotely can achieve a balanced social life: When working full-time in an office surrounded people, it’s easy for introverts to feel less enthusiastic about planning social activities after work. Working remotely fits extroverts too, as long as they can manage to plan social activities within the day to fill the « need » to be surrounded with people.

Anyone working remotely should find the right balance between one’s work and social life. There are also tons of resources online to develop the most in-demand (hard and soft) skills and be able to switch lifestyle. My advice is to balance working from home and working in a space with like minded individuals. There’s so much to learn from the people who surround you and it would be a pity to be isolated most of the time.

3. Structure your day methodically and set boundaries.

If you’re a freelancer or working within a distributed company, you’ll need a significant amount of self discipline. Even if you end up moving to Bali doing freelance work from a co-living space, your productivity will peak if you are able to find the routine that works for you.

Instead of spending 50 minutes commuting to work every morning like I was when living in London, I chose to start my day by working out and meditating. I found it’s important not to “scroll” on social medias before getting my morning routine started, at the risk of wasting an incredible amount of time and motivation. I then structure my day in groups of tasks, and prioritize deep work that requires strong focus before noon.

One of the best aspects of working remotely is definitely the ability to build your own schedule and optimize your work day. You might find that you’re an early bird, or on the contrary, more productive on the evenings. There isn’t a focus on whoever spends the most time in the office, and you can focus on getting your work done efficiently in due time, even if that means working from noon to midnight.

Last but certainly not least, building your own schedule means you’re no longer missing out on what is important to you, which I find invaluable. You can plan your meetings around meaningful personal events, even if that involves a late night the day after.

Disclaimer: Remember that what people choose to share on social media does not represent how most of their time is spent. Anyone would rather post beautiful visuals of their previous trips over pictures of them working long hours. For my part, traveling around Asia is relatively easy and cheap, so most of my travels are done on week-ends. I’m committed to my work every day, just like you do 🙂

4. Master these 15 online tools.

If it weren’t for online tools, not many people would be able to work remotely effectively and asynchronously. Here are some of my favorite apps and tools:

  • Slack: Great for communicating asynchronously, sharing updates, files, and announcements. Snooze communications past your work hours not to get disturbed in the
  • Zoom: Slack calls are simple and efficient for short calls. For longer face-to-face meetings, Zoom is best. Great capacity for large teams and has the ability to screen share, record, share polls, and divide participants into breakout rooms.
  • Evernote: Take notes and sync seamlessly across all your devices.
  • Google Calendar: Set two timezones in Google Calendar to easily plan meetings with a distributed team. I also recommend setting work hours to ensure you don’t get invited to meetings after hours.
  • Dropbox: To keep your files in one place, synced with all devices.
  • Pocket: One of the apps I use the most. Pocket lets you instantly save any piece of content to read it later. The ability to read offline will make any ride more enjoyable.
  • Buffer: Schedule social media posts and use analytics to improve engagement.
  • IFTTT: Create recipes between your apps and devices.
  • Publicate: The easiest way to create awesome newsletters and landing pages.
  • Workfrom: is a great platform to find the best places to work from across the world.
  • Headspace: Lean to meditate and live mindfully with daily meditation challenges.
  • Revolut: Send, receive, and spend money anywhere in the world without fees.
  • Priority Pass: Access Airport lounges anywhere in the world for a fee.
  • Send my bag: Send luggages worldwide- great for moving.
  • Currency: Simple and user friendly, check the exchange rate for as many currencies as needed. Available offline.

I hope this post has helped you realize working remotely can be achieved by anyone who is willing to make it work. This lifestyle change is way more than an unattainable dream: it’s a real possibility for thriving in a career that you love.

I want to hear your thoughts! Do you believe anyone can work remotely? Would you rather travel for leisure only?

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