Over the last three years remote work capabilities have transitioned from a work perk to an industry-wide expectation, especially among PR agencies like ours. Now let me clarify something – working remotely isn’t the same as working from home. While working from home has traditionally meant the temporary ability to work from one’s house for a day or two each week, working remotely is a constant. And there’s an increasing number of digital nomads like me pursuing the latter.
Generations currently rising in the workforce like millennials and Gen Z are increasingly looking for these remote capabilities when searching for jobs. We’re seeing big companies like Twitter, Spotify, Pinterest, and Shopify blazing the trail for work-from-anywhere capabilities and proving that operations can still be conducted smoothly and effectively. The PR industry, being completely digital now, is an ideal career for those wanting to become digital nomads.
As long as you’re keeping up with the news cycle, remote PR work can happen from a variety of places – a dedicated co-working space, a coffee shop, an airplane – all either domestically or internationally. My remote experiences have taken place at my dedicated co-working space in Charleston, SC, seaside cafes in Mexico, hostels in Brazil, airplanes on the way to Spain, coffee shops in Portugal, a friend’s home in France – the list goes on.
The biggest draw in being a digital nomad is the freedom and global experience it brings. Suddenly you’re writing a press release from a foreign country, having a real French press instead of a k-cup at your house, and taking meetings with new cityscapes in the background. However, there are also many skills required by those who choose to go this route, especially when abroad and/or in a different time zone.
Informed by my own experience, here’s how to work successfully from anywhere.
Adopt a self-starting attitude
The camaraderie and momentum of a shared office have helped colleagues keep each other motivated for decades. By contrast, those who transition to remote work definitely feel the change in their environment and pace of work. Chances are, there’s going to be no one to physically hold you accountable outside of the office. There’s no one to notice if you’re napping, sight-seeing, or in transit during work hours. So it’s important to have the motivation and discipline to produce the work consistently and well. People who feel they lack that sense of initiative usually find it helpful to structure their days as if they were in an office, with a consistent start and stop time and regular breaks to refresh. Some even set alerts to remind them to move on to the next task.
Sharpen your time-management skills
Often the main reason employees choose to work abroad is to experience a new culture. So how do you manage the time to indulge in new experiences and surroundings but also keep up with the fast-paced world of PR? I won’t say it’s simple, but it’s definitely possible. Some of my days spent abroad were calm, and I was able to multitask by working from my phone while on a train to the next destination. Other days were chaotic, following unexpected breaking news and newsjacking. The PR industry will always keep you on your toes, so it’s important to manage your time accordingly and prioritize work first. Scheduling recreational activities outside of your eight-hour work day will allow you to really focus on work during the designated time to keep clients on track.
Lean into communication with colleagues
Since in-person interaction is diminished, it’s important to lean into communication with colleagues to ensure that everyone is in sync on tasks and the work is getting done. Radio silence while working from different geographical locations can create weariness among the employer and confusion by peers. I’ve personally found that engaging in all Slack conversations, showing up to meetings on time, responding to emails in a timely manner and having quick huddles are the best way to keep in touch with my team and prove that I’m still doing my part, whether near or far.
Invest in the best technology, leading with Wi-Fi
When your industry relies on the internet, it’s critical to have a strong connection from wherever you are working. Pro tip: research Wi-Fi speeds before you travel. No matter where you are in the world, there’s bound to be a hotel, hostel, co-working space or restaurant with high-speed internet. Mind you, it’s normal to have Wi-Fi trouble every once in a while, but it shouldn’t become a regular issue. Constant lack of internet connection is unprofessional, unreliable and ultimately less productive. In a similar vein, if you’re not storing documents on a company server, use cloud storage and above all, make sure you can tap reliable backup technologies like a mobile hotspot in case of Wi-Fi failure or even a small chromebook in the event your laptop crashes. Let me tell you, I’ve learned from experience. Glitchy Wi-Fi and calls dropping have caused me great stress in the past – there is a level of professionalism we digital nomads must uphold if we want to have our cake (see the world) and eat it, too (maintain and grow in our jobs).
Find a quiet and reliable space for meetings
One good piece of advice I heard before my travels was, “don’t work where you sleep.” Even if that’s not possible, it’s often important to have a quiet spot for meetings. Some employers are more relaxed than others when it comes to meeting environments, so read the room. If your colleagues are taking meetings with minimal background noise, it’s respectful to do the same. Sure, spontaneous huddles or phone calls that weren’t on your calendar may catch you at a noisy coffee shop, but for the regular meetings, plan accordingly. It’s wise to appear engaged and focused when interacting with your colleagues face-to-face or over the phone. Sometimes though, the quietest place is in your bed, and that’s not an ideal camera-on situation. In this instance, I’m hoping your employer is understanding of the circumstances – whether you’re on or off camera – acknowledging that you’re still there and working, which leads me to the below.
Ask for trust and support from your employer
Employees work most productively when they feel trust, support and empowerment by their employers. I’ve held jobs in the past at companies that claimed “work from anywhere” but I felt judged when I was working from anywhere but home. Any employer who currently operates or is considering operating remotely should choose trustworthy talent to produce work and support them in whichever environment they choose. Support from an employer while working abroad plays a significant role in an employee’s mental health and level of production.
The shift toward remote workplaces and work-abroad capabilities is offering a bold future with greater freedom than has previously been possible with a full-time, salaried job. This study conducted by MetLife proves that offering employees the opportunity to work abroad boosts loyalty and retention; I can vouch for this immensely–being empowered to work abroad keeps me fulfilled both personally and professionally. In the digital age where we’re all connected by Slack and email, I don’t think we need to be in the same location or even time zone as our colleagues to still work in sync and effectively. Gone are the days of vanilla cubicles and stale coffee. Hello Parisian french presses and airplane Wi-Fi.