- December 13, 2019
- in Future of Work
- by Hadi Chemaly
Working Remotely for 6 Weeks: How I Stayed Connected Halfway Around the World
One of the greatest things about working at Fuze is the flexible work policy. Last fall, I took advantage of that and spent 6 weeks in Southeast Asia visiting family, vacationing, and working. On that trip, I was able to celebrate both Thanksgiving and Christmas with my 2-year-old nephew, tour Singapore, attend a friend's wedding in Taiwan, and take a leisurely family trip to Vietnam. And all throughout, I successfully worked remotely for an extended period of time, in true distributed fashion, using the very collaborative tools we build at Fuze.
The experience came with a few challenges, but nothing insurmountable. It certainly had many rewards, personally and professionally. If you are debating whether you should go on an extended trip where you mix work and leisure, here are 4 takeaways I had that may help you with that decision— and make you aware of adjustments to make that ensure the trip goes smoothly.
Find overlapping time with your team
In my case, the time difference was about as challenging as it gets. At that time of the year, Singapore is 13 hours ahead of New York City (US ET), which is where I live. My team is scattered across NYC, Boston, Ottawa, and Aveiro. I adjusted my days in Singapore to overlap for at least 2 to 3 hours of work time with my team. Therefore, I worked nights from 10:00pm to 12:30am Singapore time (9:00am to noon US EST). This allowed me to maintain a level of real-time interaction with my team while I was away. I did the remainder of my work asynchronously during the day, when my team was asleep. You can tune and adjust your remote work habits to find what works best for you. This also reaffirms that the 9 to 5 model is not necessarily the best or only way to get your work done productively.
Connect with coworkers in that region
If your company is globally distributed like Fuze, this is a great time to nurture deeper connections with coworkers closer to your remote time zone. In my case, Fuze has an APAC team operating in Australia. During my daytime working hours, while most are asleep in North America and Europe, I was constantly communicating with the Australian sales, services, and support teams and learning about the region’s industry and customer landscape— as well as helping out in real-time where I could. I also interacted a lot more with a fellow product manager based in Brisbane. I would even encourage you to visit customers and attend professional events in that region if you get the chance. This can open up your eyes to a different way of conducting business somewhere else in the world.
Validate your products abroad
I work in tech, and in particular, I am responsible for the Mobile strategy and applications at Fuze. This was a golden opportunity for me to experience first-hand what it’s like to operate our mobile apps abroad. While in Singapore, I used a local SIM card with provider Singtel, whereas I was roaming over my Verizon Wireless phone line in Taiwan and Vietnam. Given that we sell communication tools for enterprise (voice calling, video conferencing, and chat messaging), this gave me invaluable insights on how our products behaved on various international cellular networks— with variable signal strength, latency, server proximity and other factors. In particular, I was jealous of Singapore’s MRT (train/subway) where you don't lose cellular signal underground (unlike the NYC subway). This meant I could conveniently Fuze anyone with video while riding the subway tunnels!
It is absolutely worth it
If you have the luxury of flexible work with your company, I highly encourage you to take advantage of it in planning extended trips far away from where you live. I would not have been able to spend as much time with family in Singapore or hop around Southeast Asia had I booked a shorter trip. After all, it takes 2 days to get there from the US, and one day to get back. I am grateful to work for a company that embraces flexible and remote work and allows such experiences to happen. Southeast Asia is fun! And quite different from the western culture.
Given how fulfilling that trip was for me — both personally and professionally — I am doing it again soon, fully aware of what to expect and how to make the most of it.