Working Remotely, Really Remotely

01 December 2020

You know what it’s like: you’ve been stuck inside the same four walls over the summer during a global pandemic. In my case, you find yourself at a good point to move out of your rented house and you think “If we’re all working from home, does it really matter where home is?” Sure, some would argue that you shouldn’t be travelling in 2020, and possibly they’re right. But in my mind, I’m not really doing anything riskier than going around the supermarket and squeezing the avocados. I am careful when I go out and I follow the local government rules. The harm to the planet caused by a flight, and the related undertaxed aviation industry is a different matter (see related post on low-carbon travel). I am of the opinion that if you are going to fly, do it infrequently and stay for longer. Conclusion? Move to the Algarve for the early retirement that you’ve always dreamed of (without actually retiring). Rent an apartment by the beach, continue to work as usual but spend your spare time exploring the delights of Portugal’s south coast.

Before continuing, I would like to add a disclaimer. I realise I am in an extremely privileged position to be able to do this, and to have a partner that can do the same. Firstly, I haven’t been that personally affected by coronavirus – physically, mentally or financially. Secondly, I work for a company who are open to this type of thing (even before coronavirus), for which I am very grateful. I did not have to ask particularly loudly to get the go ahead to work from Portugal, nor last year, when I asked to work from Madrid for five months. Most people are not in a position to be able to pick up their life and work from abroad, for reasons such as family commitments, the nature of their work or simply because it does not appeal. It certainly isn’t for everyone. But if it does appeal to you, I would highly recommend giving it a go.

There are of course some barriers in terms of where you can go and for how long. But trust me, it’s not that difficult to work really remotely, on a temporary basis at least. In my experience, you just have to confirm the tax rules for where you want to move to (which may give you some constraints on how long you stay for) and take some steps to demonstrate that the move won’t adversely impact your work. Assuming that you will be within a similar time zone, have good Wi-Fi and have successfully worked remotely over the summer in a pandemic, you should be able to argue your case. Unfortunately, if you’re British it won’t be as easy to temporarily move to the EU from January 2021. In short, if you would like to do it, make a plan, and start persuading your boss. If you are in need of a convincing case study, I am available.

It’s not all sunshine, sand and sardines (but there is a lot more of that here than there was back home). Coronavirus aside, working really remotely does have its downsides. When your colleagues are all in the same building, you are inevitably going to miss out on both social and work-related interactions. For me this is part of the compromise, and it is worth it for being able to explore a new place. Having the flexibility to be able to spend your lunch breaks on the beach, and weekends finding caves is a big enough benefit for me. The rush to get down to the beach, have a swim, eat lunch, and make yourself look reasonably presentable for a 2pm meeting is all part of the fun. Plus, there are lots of things that you can do to engage with colleagues remotely. Regular video calls for catch ups (not just meetings) make a big difference. There are now countless options for increasing connectivity – from virtual office spaces and organised coffee breaks, to online karaoke. Whilst the thought of some of these are likely to make you want to throw your laptop out of the window, others can bring you closer to the “office feel” – with the addition of your drying laundry, a sea view and a cooked lunch.

The hot and sunny beach days aren’t going to last forever. So, the sensible thing seems to be to get a bus to a city that I’ve always wanted to visit and stay for a while. Next stop, Seville.

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