View from the rooftop on the place I was staying at in Barcelona; my office for a couple of days

How to Work Remotely: Deliver Quality Work First

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If you’re looking for the intro article, you can find it here: Should I Work Remotely: First of the Series.
Continuing from our previous article, we’ll be focusing on jobs/professions that you can do..~well, remotely. If you have a transferrable job (e.g.: expert barista), well this article is not for you or better yet you don’t need this article. I’ll be talking about the things you’d need to do (like delivering quality work) before you even bring up the idea of working remotely to your supervisor.

One of the big pillars of this endeavour is that you’d need a job; most likely a digital one. The very big chunk of my message in this article can be summed up in these sentences:

Be Great at Your Job. Deliver Quality Work. Be Irreplaceable.

The concept’s nothing new and it’s self-explanatory that I can end the article here already. Let’s say you’re a web developer like me. You want to be able…~you know what, this is so self-explanatory. I assume and constantly deal with smart, high-value people so I’m sure you get this. If you suck (which then makes you replaceable), they won’t entertain the idea for you. It’s called “firing you/letting you go”.

Start Making Processes

So let’s picture that your request has been granted. You’d want to have a process in place for what you’re about to do. What are these “processes” I’m talking about? It’s a mix of personal and technical.

Human / Personal Example

Here’s an example of the “human” side of things: when I was living in Budapest, I had to basically be in work mode, in a work environment from 3pm to 7pm. Why? Europe’s 6 hours ahead so that means 3pm is 9am in Toronto. I’ve also coordinated with my boss then that I’ll be available for work for 4 hours (3pm – 7pm Europe time). I intentionally aligned it so that it intersects for the first half of Toronto’s work day. I’ve noticed with work (or mostly all workplaces), mornings are when plans are drawn then the rest of the day / afternoon is for implementation (doing the actual work).

Having the times intersect like that allows them to have access to me on crucial plannings. I also get to be involved in a lot of things too still. This also avoids the usual offshore working problems of: “I don’t want to wait for 24 hours for a simple things like X”. The rest of my own 4 hours in Europe then are actually done during my mornings. Those would be the “implementation” times and no one in the office nor my boss need to be in contact with me around those moments anyways.

It’s Not Always Blue-bird (sunny, warm, yet excellent snowboarding conditions)

In this example, it was a very beautiful compromise and understanding between me and my boss/employer. You can also get into hairy situations where your work wants you to be working when they are working (wherever you are). I’ve done this and it was brutal. There’s nothing wrong with this and we all know this is more pro-employer than anything. It’s something you can agree too, but if you’re working weird hours on a different country and you’re not really reaping the benefits of why you’re there, might as well just fly back and do quality work in the office and save money.

This happened to me before: Working from Lebanon and Philippines which is essentially exact opposite timings (9am Toronto = 9pm Manila). Holy, was that a grind. You’re working nights and you can’t even function properly when there’s daylight ๐Ÿ˜ You don’t want this.

You also have to realize the difficulty of this from a travel perspective: 3pm – 7pm for example are prime times to…basically live life. During summer, those are the cozy times to walk around leisurely, have some drinks, enjoy scenery etc. So on top of your work problems you need the self-control, restraint, and discipline to say no to things. Luckily I was with a nice employer so I was able to set up my schedule. If I also end 7pm, that’s perfect timing to have dinner or prep when heading out.

Technical Example

You’d want to set up as much automation as you can with your work. Actually this is applicable even when you’re not travelling. The more work that automation can do for you, the more time you can have for yourself for things you want/need to do.

On multiple occasions I had to work on multiple clients. So instead of tallying my timesheet in Excel (which would mean it’s free but more work for me), I used some online (free and/or paid) bookkeeping services. If you’re spending an hour or two trying to keep track of everything, maybe that your 2 hours in certain weeks is more important than the ~$20 (guessing how much it costs now).

Luckily we had this even before I opened up Working Remotely with work. We had a sprint framework going on and we had a project management software to keep track of everything (ps, PM tools are so useful for travellers or organizations in general). Imagine if I had to respond to emails saying the same things, giving statuses, instead of doing actual work, it again becomes a waste of my time while travelling. Actually it’s just a redundant waste of time in general.

Prepare to Compensate for the Trade-offs

Obviously if you’re working in an office, 9 – 5, the catch is you’re not somewhere else (from a passionate traveller’s perspective ๐Ÿ™‚ ). Conversely, if you’re working remotely, you of course lose certain common things in a usual workplace setting.

For example, you won’t have colleagues physically around you to chat up and lighten things up or even bounce ideas around. Sure there are messaging tools and email but we all know how it opens up margins of error and misunderstanding in those media.

In offices too you have the…~let’s call it “the gift of focus” (let’s make it sound less capitalistic). When you’re travelling, just one look out the window and you’d be like: “maaaaan, I could be doing that” lol. So again, it requires a sense of restraint and responsibility to keep these together.

I can go on but you see what I’m trying to show you here right? There will be differences and especially if you have not experienced these differences/distractions before, you might be easily tempted. You can do whatever strategies and styles you want so long as the work gets done and it’s of quality work. I’m sure that’s ultimately what your boss wants and needs. What I’m also trying to tell you here is you want (and need) to keep this together because you don’t want to have drops in quality of work. If you start dropping the ball, your employer might give you a hard time and pin it in your work situation (and you don’t want that). Above all, you don’t want them to pull this opportunity that you’ve worked so hard for.

Once that’s gone, it’s gone…along with their trust on you.

Wrap-Up

I would actually like to add that you want to have all these tips I mentioned BEFORE you work remotely. You don’t want to wing this and just take care of this after the fact. It’s too important and too big to be playing it fast and loose! By doing it before too, you’re essentially doing a pre-flight before you actually do the real thing. You’re giving yourself the opportunity to experience it and make mistakes. It will also give you clarification on what works, what doesn’t, what processes you need to add/change, and essentially what you need to do in order to pull the entire thing off. Remember that you have two challenges here:

First, your employer. You need to convince them.
Second, you. Trust me, if you do this long enough you’ll experience both: You’ll be challenged in a way that there are so many fun things going on that you need to control yourself and/or things are getting stressful and your usual support structures and people are not available.

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