Different Facets of Remote Work

This article is dedicated to my friend who is not very familiar with location independent lifestyle, so I would like to share these musings about different facets of remote work. If you are interested too, keep reading. Note, please, I am trying to avoid using the term ‘digital nomads’ as much as possible, because it became very negative and doesn’t reflect the idea of the movement. 

About a month ago I got a call from a friend of mine, a Russian woman from my hometown, who is married to another dear friend of mine from Ireland. They are now living in England with their two little kids.

My friend always had good, mostly-corporate jobs with traditional offices, traditional office chairs, and very good traditional employee benefits. In fact, even I got to use one of her employee benefits by getting the cheapest ever return ticket from Bali to Russia, because she worked in one of the world’s top airlines. (And I am forever grateful for that).

She is now on her maternity leave, and she started to think about working remotely for a company or for herself, but she wasn’t sure which was better for her future. And she was not sure where to start either. And she did not want to start working for the sake of working. She wanted to do something meaningful.

She called me because I was the only crazy person in her network who’d left Russia for Bali (almost five years ago) and hasn’t returned.  She hears me talking constantly about weird things like ‘coworking in paradise’, ‘location independent lifestyle’, ‘digital marketing’ and so on. And, yes, she saw my Instagram pictures with the ocean, a laptop, and a coconut (guilty here).

The questions she asked were very important and not easy for me to answer, simply because I had been around remote professionals for so many years I was like a fish who doesn’t think about the existence of water. I could not even comprehend how someone could have no idea about remote work. Throughout almost five years here in Bali all my professional activities have been somehow connected with Hubud and Dojo (first I was a member, then I was a participant of a Startup Weekend, then I was representing a sponsor/partner and now I am a part of the big team). Everyday I see people from all over the world who are using their laptops as the main tool that helps them make money while enjoying their time in Bali, thousands of miles away from the actual companies, businesses and projects they are working on.

How do you do this REMOTE WORK, exactly? What does it feel like? Is it easy? Difficult? Does it give you freedom? How do you make sure the work you do makes you happy? It is all clear to me, but not so much for so many people on the other side of the world.

So, my dear friend, before I dive deeper into giving answers to all these questions, I need to tell you about one of the conversations I had with a seasoned remote professional, Ionut Danifield, the Co-founder and Marketing at DevMark.co. He is from Romania and has been working remotely for quite a while. Ionut is also one of the most loyal long-term members at Dojo.

To wee or not to wee…

Ionut and I were sitting on a bench in front of Dojo discussing the challenges of remote work. He was smart and insightful – many of the ideas we’d discussed I used in the previous article – and then he dropped some nuggets of wisdom, that cracked me up…

The 3 main pillars of remote work no one talks about are {ATTENTION}:   

  1. Wi-Fi
  2. Battery
  3. Toilet

Of course, it was a joke, but for many folks who are working remotely, this is true most of the time (if they haven’t stumbled upon a decent coworking space, where all these things can be taken care of).

Explanation: You need to have good wi-fi if you work remotely, and power outlets next to your table are also a must because your battery will get flat at some point. And yes, the most challenging part is the toilet. If you are working from a public place – usually a café, in rare cases a library, sometimes a beach club (if you are watching a surf competition or want to take a few shots of you working by a fancy swimming pool for your Instagram) –  as a normal human being, you’ll have an urge to get up at some point and use the toilet.

And this is where all the hurdles start: you have to pack your stuff, go, do your thing and then come back to the table, which most likely will be taken by someone else, so you have to find another spot. And it goes on and on. The best solution for all these problems: membership at a coworking space. This is why Ionut is at Dojo: it solves all these problems. And he is also not so good at sipping one coffee for 5 hours, because he feels a moral obligation not to overuse the generosity of small business owners. And yes, he loves our community. This is where he fulfills his need of love and belonging, gets new connections, gives his badass presentations about digital marketing, and leaves his laptop for few minutes without worrying that it will be stolen.

One of our Dojo members, a young and very talented guy from Ukraine, Andrey Azimov, spent quite a while trying to solve ‘the wee problem’ and created an app for Mac. This app triggers an alarm when your Mac is stolen while you are doing your thing in the toilet (!) It was a fun project and Andrey indeed had a lot of fun, especially when he sold his app for some good money and also was awarded with the Golden Kitty as the Maker of the Year from Product Hunt (he actually did a few other cool projects inspired by their challenge).

You can read the full  story here. I think everybody should follow Andrey at least out of curiosity. I have no doubt, this kid will end up starting up a unicorn company very soon. He never gives up and never stops learning and reinventing himself.

The problems of remote work inspire a lot of people to create products and apps to make their life easier, and more  fulfilled. But there is always a trick…

Work-life-travel balance (actually doesn’t really exist)

Going back to my conversation with Ionut and putting all the jokes aside, he talks about his daily struggles to maintain work-life balance. “You cannot work and travel at the same time and be productive. You either work OR travel. Or you work AND travel, but you don’t get your shit done”, says Ionut.

“Let’s say, you decide to go to Tokyo and you have to work at the same time. You will always have this FOMO (fear of missing out). On the other hand, if you want to take a vacation, you think about work all the time, because you need to think about money and clients, and you don’t have all these benefits you could have if you had a corporate job. So, what I do is I work for 4 days and take a little vacation for 3 days to explore and do what I want to do in that new country I am in”. 

So, don’t believe that the life of remote professionals is easy and full of adventure and stunning views. It is a matter of very strict discipline, drive and passion. Some people like to add a bit of spice to their remote work experience, just like this guy….

Hurricane. Or working remotely and discreetly.  

This story was told by another friend of mine, whose name I cannot mention here. You’ll find out why later. Let’s call him Jon. Jon is from the USA and works in a law firm, serving the US government. He’s been working remotely for almost 7 years now. Loves it, travels around the world, and meets amazing people all the time.

Jon would definitely drop his work if he was not able to travel. He came to Bali 4 years ago. The internet was terrible back then. It was a pain in the ass to find a place to make a call, and then someone told him about Hubud. So, he went there, and it completely changed his perspective on things…

One day he was working at Hubud, sitting next to a big Australian man. Jon asked him what he was working on. The man said: ‘I am going to open a coworking space in Canggu’. And he surely did. It was Michael Craig, founder of Dojo and CEO of Hubud. Yeah. Small world.

Jon has been enjoying his freedom. He works from cafes, coworking spaces, and from home. The only thing is… he did not tell anyone that he works remotely. And no one at his firm has noticed his absence. Can you imagine? All the work is done mostly by phone and the whole team is scattered all over the country. The only time the team gets together is when they have ‘all hands meeting’ – a conference call where all the offices connect and update each other about what’s going on.

Jon got lucky because their office in NY has the largest number of people. So, when the time comes to state their names at the beginning of the conference call, the only thing that’s possible to say with such a big staff is: ‘New York team is here! Too many names to mention!’ So, he gets away with it. The big bosses never check, he delivers everything on time, everyone is happy.

In 2012 Jon went to Zurich to visit his friend. They’d decided to go on a road trip to Italy. On the way back, Jon realized they had to hurry up and get back to his friend’s place, because he had that weekly call where everyone had to give an update to the group.

“I got on skype, called in and I was like: ok ,cool… And then the guy on the other side says:

  • Jon, are you ok?
  • What do you mean?
  • I mean, well… your office is closed….

I was like, WTF??? I googled it and….oh, shit, I am supposed to be in the middle of an actual hurricane and I did not know! So, I go: “Oh, yeah, my apartment building is made out of brick and I am fine, yeah”…

Just for the record, it was Hurricane Sandy (one of the deadliest and most destructive hurricanes in 2012), and he ‘made it’ to the call! ☺

Since then, Jon always checks the weather in NY to make sure if someone asks how the weather is, he is fully prepared. Overall, he is blown away by this location independent movement, where so many smart and inspiring people get together, especially at Dojo and Hubud and in Bali in general. He meets more and more people who worked in Silicon Valley, run great startups that are literally changing the world, work in blockchain, do animation, artificial intelligence, web design, coding, copywriting, run digital marketing and design agencies. It is so inspiring to mingle with so many talents from all over the world, brainstorm with them, do masterminds and just talk. This is how he got the idea for his own business, he is planning to start soon to get more freedom and explore something he was always passionate about – wealth management for ordinary people.

I heard that some people travel with white sheets to cover the walls, or the absence of a wall, behind them to make sure their backdrop looks the same whenever they zoom in. But I would not recommend you start your remote journey without telling your boss about it. Unless you have the guts like Jon to be super-chilled about it and not freak out when, suddenly, someone speaks Brazilian Portuguese on the loudspeaker during your team update, when you are supposed to be in New York, which happened to Jon while he was skyping from a café in a shopping mall in Brazil.

Running and working remotely for purpose

Jon introduced me to Tarek, who joined Dojo few weeks ago, and has a very interesting story. He is a social entrepreneur with a BSBA from Georgetown and an MBA with honors from NYU. Previously in his career, he has provided strategic leadership within world-leading healthcare and financial services organizations such as Goldman Sachs in New York and London.  

Tarek was working in New York City and was completely miserable. It was one of those classic corporate jobs, helping big businesses become even bigger. One day he was walking home from his gym, feeling miserable, hated his life and all of a sudden he saw a woman who was moving her boxes across the street. She was struggling, boxes were falling down, so he ran up to her and asked her if she needed help and where she was going.

She told him that she was moving all her stuff to her parents’ place, because she used to work in New York City in the corporate world, got tired and wanted to see the real world. Now, after having achieved her first dream – exploring 100 countries, she was going after her second dream: creating a social enterprise… So, Tarek thought to himself: “this was MY dream life”.

That woman’s name was Chrissie Lam, the founder of Love is Project. Since then her project has grown into a global organization, providing 1,200 female artisans in 10 countries with jobs, and generating almost $2 million in sales.

4 years later Tarek found himself following in her footsteps, exploring a hundred countries and then setting up a social enterprise. He bumped into Chrissie again at Hubud, at a Startup Weekend. 1 year later they met again when he was one of the runners for Bali Hope Ultra, a charity ultramarathon started by another friend of mine, Tom Hickman, whom I’d met at Hubud 5 years ago.

Tarek joined Ultra because it represents his biggest passions: travel to 100 countries to fill his soul; run 25 marathons to challenge his body; and make a social impact – all to open and expand his mind and his heart. It was his big 1000 days goal before his 40th birthday and he achieved it!

Tarek is currently focused on scaling the impact and sustainability of his social enterprise with the vision to inspire remote professionals, expats and travelers to give back to the communities ‘we call home away from home.’  Tarek welcomes anyone who would like to get involved with Nomads Giving Back. His team is completely remote. He has been traveling the world and inspiring people who work remotely, sharing the story of his journey everywhere he goes. His adventures definitely deserve a separate article, but one thing is clear: remote work is something that makes him jump out of bed every single morning because his project makes sense and makes people happy.

Here’s the thing: Remote work is the future of work, as my friend Ionut says: “You cannot stop companies and businesses from going digital, and it brings many new possibilities for people all over the world to find a job, to join a project, or to start a business that contributes and supports this movement”. There are endless possibilities out there for people to explore the digital space and find something that fills their pockets and, most importantly, their souls.

Remote work can be challenging, especially if you don’t have the appropriate routines, productivity hacks and community of like-minded people around you. But it can be a fun adventure, and everyone has a chance to win. You can gain your freedom, you always learn something new, acquire new skills, meet many people from all over the world as soon as you step on this path. You just need to find the right people – your tribe.

Speaking about communities: we are supporting Running Remote this year as usual. I am very proud to say that half of team behind this project is from Russia, and they have managed to turn this event into the biggest conference about remote work in the world. This event is definitely the best place to learn everything about how to run and scale remote teams as well as it is an incredible networking opportunity, while hanging out at a stunning resort in Bali. All these companies in the lineup are partially or completely remote, some of them have hundreds of people in their teams spread across the globe and they are crushing it! I am so excited I am going. It’ll be my second time and I can’t wait to see the improvements and new speakers I haven’t met yet.

If you are in Bali – grab your ticket for 20% off using dojobali code here. They have 50% discount for Indonesian citizens as well!

Cheers!

 

1 Comment

  1. Mike

    It’s great to have someone who is living the experience tell it like it is. Real life. Real news. Real helpful. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply

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Dojo Bali

Dojo Bali is a coworking space located on the beautiful island of Bali, Indonesia. Dojo Canggu is open 24/7 and located at Echo Beach, Canggu offering a collaborative and relaxing coworking environment. New locations are coming soon. Stay tuned to find out where the next Dojo will be set up.

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PT Dojo Bali Coworking Registration No: AHU-3570685.AH.01.11.TAHUN 2015

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