As March kicks off many people are gearing up for their spring breaks and spring vacations.
Remote work is my norm.
Unless you are a seasoned digital nomad, it is always good to review the best practices for working remotely from “the road.”
Here is my take on the things NOT to do when working remotely on vacation.
1. Don't Count on In Flight Wi-Fi
Remote workers are afforded the luxury of wasting less time en route to their next location. Once through security you can settle in at the airport bar or your gate and get some work done, because airport Wi-Fi hotspots have become increasingly more reliable (most are even free).
However, in flight Wi-Fi is still a very new technology. Not only is it one more expense you need to consider, it is very very slow and completely unpredictable.
It is really designed to give you access to in flight entertainment that you must buy from the airline.
Having said that, I highly encourage in flight work, if it allows you to maximize productivity and reduce boredom. Just do not expect to be checking email, accessing any cloud storage, or completing any other work that requires even moderate internet speeds.
You can download or export any documents you need to get your work done before you leave for the airport!
First, you have to use Chrome.
Second, you have to be the owner of the files or have your team members confirm that their settings also allow for files to be available offline.
If you aren’t a Chrome user or can’t get your team members to play along, you can always work in a complimentary software like Pages, Keynote, Numbers, etc. and then transfer work after you land. This is easiest with word processors and spreadsheets; presentations get a bit cumbersome.
Most of all, don’t anticipate that you will be able to attend that video conference.
Honestly, even if and when the in flight Wi-Fi is fast enough to support video conferencing… just don’t do it! It’s really inconsiderate to the people around you!!
Finally, don’t forget to charge your laptop battery. There are no outlets in-flight.
2. Don't Assume Your Lodging Will Have Free and/or Reliable Wi-Fi
Whether you plan to stay with friends, in an Airbnb, or at a traditional hotel, call ahead and check on the availability, cost, and speed of the internet connection.
Some homes (believe it or not) still don’t have access to hi-speed or Wi-Fi internet.
Some Airbnbs and hotels may charge you to use their internet (though this is rare). Always confirm these details before you confirm your booking. This still isn’t a 100% guarantee, but it helps a lot.
If you find that you need to stay somewhere without Wi-Fi here are a few work arounds.
First, if you are staying with friends, family, or at an Airbnb, you can travel with an ethernet cable. If you are a Mac user, you might also need an ethernet usb adapter. It is unlikely that you will be able to plug into a modem in a hotel.
Second, if you have unlimited data you can probably use your phone as a hotspot. I recommend using the hard line connection provided by your phone’s charger/usb cable. I don’t find the connection via bluetooth to be very effective. Just make sure to do your research. Some phone companies will charge you for data when using a hotspot regardless of your unlimited data plan.
Third, you can invest in a mobile Wi-Fi plan/device like Karma. Make sure you double check the regional access that such a mobile Wi-Fi plan would and wouldn't support. These usually have some combination of monthly subscriptions and data limits, so consider your usage and only go this route it you travel a lot.
3. Don't Forget Your Power Cords
Having access to fast reliable internet only goes so far. If your computer dies and you forgot your power cord, you’re screwed.
Not only are power cords pricey to replace, they aren’t readily available in most resorts and regions.
Check and double check that you packed your power cord.
You’ll also want to keep in mind the type of outlets that will be available at your destination.
If you are traveling abroad, find out what voltage and style of outlet you can expect and buy the appropriate adapter. If you are going somewhere with significantly different voltage make sure your adapter is also a converter and surge protector. It you fry your hair dryer that’s no big deal, but if you zap and cook your computer, that’s a major bummer.
4. Don't Forget Your Ear Buds With A Microphone
I am a music enthusiast. While certain types of work are best done in silence, most of my non-social work happens with music playing.
Bring your ear buds, so you can work in more public places without sacrificing your musical experience or imposing on those around you.
If you are an iPhone 7 user who hates Apple headphones and/or also needs to use use headphones with your computer, just bring one pair of buds (I use Skullcandy) and also double check that you brought your aux adapter/lightning adapter.
I will get to the microphone detail in a moment.
5. Don't Take Conference Calls in Crowded Lobbies
If you are staying in a hotel with other friends and family you may be tempted to leave the room for conference calls or video chats.
Just make sure that you don’t leave one crowded place just to end up in a different crowded place. Virtual background noise is intensely more disruptive than you might think.
Ask the hotel staff if there are any conference rooms or banquet halls that aren’t being used.
Bottom line: best practice is to find a quiet place.
If you are completely unable to do so here are some work arounds:
For conference calls, walk and talk. Sometimes it is easier to find a quiet place to walk than it is to find a comfy and quiet place to sit. Plus, walking gives you exercise! Those ear buds with a built in mic will allow you to talk hands free.
For video chats, try to find a place where your camera is facing you and a wall and then mute yourself when you aren’t talking. This will reduce visual distractions and background noise tremendously. Again, use those earbuds with the built in mic to ensure that the people around you don’t have to listen to anymore of your conversation than is 100% necessary.
6. Don't Schedule Meetings Just Before Or Just After You Are Scheduled to Change Locations
We all prefer when meetings start on time and end early, but the truth is that they often run late. This is especially true with remote teams, because these meetings are often the only touch points, or people have tech issues, and so on.
Always give yourself a comfortable time buffer leading up to and following meetings. There is nothing worse than experiencing tech issues when you are pressed for time or being forced to end the meeting abruptly in order to rush to the airport, train, bus, etc.
7. Don't Trust Your Calendar Settings
These days, most people use a digital calendar (google, icalendar, etc.) of some kind. There are so many benefits to a digital calendar, but they are also imperfect.
Before you leave for your trip, double check your upcoming appointments.
Then check to ensure your time zone settings will adjust when you land in a new timezone.
This is the easy part.
When on vacation, be extremely careful scheduling any meetings that will take place once you get home.
Sometimes your calendar gets confused and schedules future appointments based on your current time-zone vs your home-base time zone.
Check and double check that you have entered the meeting details in the correct time zone, so that your calendar will carry over successfully once you return home.
8. Don't Forget To Block Off Time To Play and Relax
I saved the best for last.
Don’t forget that you are on vacation!!
Vacation is not intended to be a work trip.
If you have a booking service or a scheduling app that allows people to schedule time to chat with you, I use YouCanBook.me, make sure you block off your travel and vacation days. This will ensure that your vacation doesn’t accidentally get eaten up with randomly timed phone calls.
More importantly, make sure you spend as much time scheduling your play and rest time as you do scheduling your mini-work sessions.
GO ON VACATION!!
BE ON VACATION!!
The world will not end if you take a few days to a week off!
So that’s it. I know some of these sound so simple they almost seem silly, but trust me even seasoned digital nomads and frequent travelers mess these up from time to time.
If you enjoyed this article please share it with your friends and colleagues. Additionally, we'd love to hear your feedback in the comments section below. Similarly, if you have other tips and best practices for working remotely while on vacation, please share.
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