Staying Connected – With Work and My Life
During a weekly call with one of my colleagues someone asked me, “what are all those crazy noises on your end?” I look out of my office window and reply, “oh, that is just Tweede Nuwe Jaar, the largest annual parade in South Africa….” Radio silence follows as they remember that I’m not in Boston anymore.
After living and working in Cape Town for the past two weeks several things are becoming clear: 1) this country is absolutely beautiful, 2) adjusting to a seven-hour difference takes a while, and 3) everyone I am with uses technology to stay connected 24/7 with their colleagues and friends and family. Without such technology this sort of travel adventure life would not be possible, something each one of us here is eternally grateful for. My schedule, environment, and workspace has changed, however, how I stay connected has not. I have used Fuze every day to message, call, and screenshare the same way I previously did out of my home or Boston office, the only difference being now I’m frequently asked what time it is and what new thing I did or ate that day.
So far in my first two weeks I have made a ton of new friends, hiked, feasted, met locals, visited vineyards, did walking tours, seen every sunset, went to a music festival, and drank a lot of strong coffee (I’m still getting used to the seven-hour time difference!). But in addition to all those exciting activities, I have also created multiple reports, calculated commissions, had numerous voice and video calls, and did my normal day-to-day tasks. While often this feels like a vacation (or a dream), I am still working the same number of hours I typically work, something I have never previously done while traveling abroad. Instead of waking up, going to work and then going to the gym, I now wake up, go hiking or exploring, have a delicious lunch, and then begin my workday just as everyone on the east coast is getting online. It has certainly been an adjustment, but being a night owl has worked in my favor, as I have been more productive and efficient than when having early morning meetings. Although I am still finding my rhythm and adjusting to the drastic change, I have noticed that I am working just as effectively and efficiently as I do back home, prioritizing my various tasks and keeping up with my usual cadences.
Throughout our trip we are provided with an apartment and a co-working space (see below), both equipped with high speed internet. If you are lucky and get an apartment with a balcony, then working with a view is an option. Our work space features 10 floors, with one designated specifically for Remote Year, as well as a rooftop, where working with a view is also an option. The work space features open floor seating much like our Fuze Boston HQ, conference rooms, phone booths, a café, and even swinging wooden chairs that have ridiculously comfortable pillows (where it is easy to doze off). On some days I have chosen to work out of my apartment, typically when I have a lot of calls and don’t want to distract others, and other days out of the office space where it is always great to chat with fellow remotes and sometimes collaborate. The Remote Year staff understands that internet is our oxygen, and if there were ever to be a lapse in WiFi or an outage, they have contingency plans ready to make sure we are always connected and productive.
As soon as our RY program began, it became evident that every participant arrived with specific goals in mind. These goals range from developing professional skills, such as creating websites or improving writing techniques, to working on personal growth, like becoming more open minded and social, or conquering fears that have held them back. We held a meeting where we shared about our careers, passions, and what each of us hopes to take away from the Remote Year experience. It was refreshing to hear that others were also slightly nervous about uprooting and drastically changing their lives, but because we all shared these concerns, we knew that we would be supporting each other along the way.
This discussion led us to organizing skill sharing and networking events, scheduled on our Google calendar with many options so that all could attend the events that suited them best. This week we will have our first Lunch & Learn, where volunteers will present on their topic of expertise, and where the audience can ask questions. An idea I presented to the group is “Remote Roulette,” where every few days each participant would be randomly paired up with a different person for lunch, dinner, or just coffee. The goal of this is to make sure that throughout the program everyone has the chance to have one on one time with their fellow travel companions, to learn about their lives, jobs, and what made them decide to join the Remote Year community. In addition to organizing our own events, we will be participating in “Positive Impact” volunteer work, teaming up with a local township (unofficial impoverished communities outside the city center), to help set up a community center and install new eco-friendly toilets.
My takeaways so far:
1. Although this is already the longest I have spent in one foreign city, there is an endless amount of activities and it is impossible to do everything. FOMO is real, however, it is important to prioritize what I want to do most and balance my time between work and leisure.
2. The Remote Year community consists of extremely motivated and intelligent individuals, who have set clear goals and will work to achieving them together.
3. We are very fortunate to be in a position where we have the means to work and fund our travels, something we are reminded of every day as we live amongst many poor individuals who must fight to make ends-meet.
4. Having a communication platform that allows you stay connected to colleagues and work is critical to our everyday routines. Without Fuze I would never be able to continue my role and complete my projects and tasks. Most people want to travel while still earning a paycheck, and unified communications is making it possible for more and more employees and entrepreneurs.
So far this journey has taught me that I am stronger than I think I am, but still need to work hard to get to where I want to be professionally and personally. I am blessed to have such a supportive community around me and am grateful to have a career that allows me to work from anywhere. I will continue learning about my surroundings, the local cultures, my fellow remotes and how to work smarter, all while staying connected to my life back home with the help of a single, unified communications platform.
This post is part 2 of a blog series on Remote Year. Read the first post in the series here.