I travel a lot for work — most often for conferences, clients, prospect visits, and the like.
In theory, a remote worker can get their job done from anywhere. But there are definitely challenges that come when working away from your home office. And it’s not just the lack of a dual monitor.
Here are my tips for maximizing the experience of working from the open road:
1. Load up your schedule in your target destination
If you’re going to get on planes, trains, and automobiles to travel to a work destination, make it count.
Go through your Linkedin — who do you know in that city? Who can you meet over coffee or lunch to make the time and energy spent traveling worth it? It’s more efficient to make your trips “multi-purpose,” and that old colleague you’ve been meaning to call may open interesting doors in their local geo that you weren’t even expecting.
2. Separate work & play
If you’re going to work, work. If you’re going to play, then play, gosh darnit.
An example: I recently had to go to Sydney for a conference. This was the first time I’d ever been to Australia, and there was just no way I wasn’t going to hit the beach and pet a koala while I was down there.
But there’s a weird anxiety that working from beautiful places causes (at least it does for me.) Every time I do something fun, I’m telling myself “you should really be working.” And every time I’m working, I’m kicking myself for not taking more advantage of the gorgeous opportunities for exploration around me.
To be better at both, I find it valuable to mentally categorize work and play time. I block off chunks of time where I’ll be working, and chunks of time where I plan to explore and relax. And then I stick to it — no guilt or worrying allowed.
3. Overcommunicate your schedule to your colleagues
Be really clear on when you’re working, so that your co-workers know what to expect. This should go without saying, but meet deadlines and obligations, and communicate early and often if an unexpected roadblock comes up.
Block your calendar off to reflect when you are available. They should know where in the world you are so that they can be mindful of timezones, and they should know how to contact you in the event of a major issue.
4. Undercommunicate your schedule to your clients
While your co-workers need to know where you are, your clients really don’t in most cases. If you plan to be able to get back to their requests within 24 hours and have someone else on the team looking out for them, there’s really no reason they need to know where you are.
I do sometimes put up an OOO message for conferences, but only if I expect to really be slower than usual on replies.
5. Make sure you have blazing fast wifi
This whole work and travel thing only really works with reliable connection to the internet. It all kind of falls apart without it.
I haven’t found a foolproof way to manage this, so if anyone has ideas, I’d love to hear them in the comments. But there are a couple of things I do to mitigate risk:
- Find one place that has strong wifi, and then work from there consistently. Do not attempt video calls from the tiny little boutique croissanterie around the corner — their connectivity will not be as good as their carbohydrates.
- Get an international data plan for your phone. If all else fails, tether.
- Read reviews about the hotels you’re considering. People do tend to complain about wifi if it’s notably slow.
- Book only the first night of your stay, and test the wifi when you get there. Extend if it’s looking good.
- Work early in the AM of your local time zone when less people are online.
- Inventory “Plan B” locations nearby — Starbucks, WeWork, etc.
6. Prep for being offline
It’s massively frustrating to find out the in-flight wifi is down on an 8-hour flight when you were counting on having that opportunity to get stuff done. Sometimes you will find yourself with zero internet connection, and there will be nothing you can do about it.
Are there videos or documents you could download for review to make use of offline time? What browser tabs would you want open if you were suddenly disconnected? Can you write out email responses in a Word doc?
Before changing locations or getting on a plane, I usually go through my to do list, pick a couple of things, and open everything I need to have in case I don’t have wifi. Usually not needed. But so valuable if you do.
7. Get adjusted to the timezone stat
Just because you CAN wake up at 3 AM Pacific to jump on a really important call doesn’t mean you should.
Jet lag is real, and you will perpetuate it by operating outside of the bounds of normal human sleep rhythms. My personal rule is no work time before 5 AM or after 9 PM, at least until I’m fully adjusted to the local time zone.
8. Hold yourself to a higher standard
When you’re working away from home, people think you’re on vacation. If you stop responding to emails or are really hard to get a hold of, you confirm that suspicion — whether or not that’s really true.
Make sure you are taking care of your colleagues and clients when working on the road. And enjoy yourself, too. Those things are not mutually exclusive.
What helps you do your best work on the road?
I’m definitely still learning the best way to maximize work and travel, but these are a few things that have helped me over the last 2.5 years of working on a virtual team.
How do you manage travel and work? What tips do you have for fellow road warriors? Would love to hear them in the comments!