Lockdown acclimatised many of us to near-revolutionary changes in how we live and work. Services such as healthcare, essential retail and postal services were able to continue to keep people healthy and supplied with the food, medicines and materials they needed. Many people were furloughed, so they had to remain at home until their employer was able to bring them back to work, while many others had to work from home.
Working from home posed a challenge for businesses at first, but with the marvels of modern technology it quickly became clear how manageable remote working could be. In this article, the fourth in our ‘Life after Lockdown’ series, we explore how remote working could present opportunities for employees to work remotely ‘on the road’ – opportunities that could benefit businesses as much as employees, as well as offer the chance to practise a new language.
The rise of remote working
‘Work from home if you can’ has become a worldwide mantra for the world’s many office-based businesses since lockdown, when non-essential businesses had to quickly adapt to operating from home-based office spaces (where viable). If you had not been furloughed, the chances were that you would be doing at least part-time hours from a suitable space at home. And while not everyone loved that new normal, it has been a generally well-accepted change to office life – one that could reshape how we work for years to come.
Remote and flexible working have been around, at least conceptually, for some time, and many organisations had already been allowing for a degree of flexibility thanks to portable technologies such as laptops, tablets and smartphones. The pandemic showed us that the trust and freedom granted to employees to make their lives easier on an occasional basis (such as to fit around a doctor’s appointment at an awkward time of day) could be extended to create a new way of working.
In many ways, greater acceptance for flexible and remote working has been waiting in the wings for some time – the pandemic just pressed the fast-forward button.
Remote working… wherever you might be
Office-based workers are very fortunate to have been able to adapt to the current pandemic with such flexibility in terms of workspaces – simply set up your laptop (using a decent wi-fi connection), have your phone to hand (just in case a call comes through that you cannot engage with on your laptop), and off you go! Dining tables, dressing tables, kitchen tables and even outdoor spaces have been adapted successfully into workspaces all over the world.
Our daily routines have also adjusted accordingly. People are developing healthier relationships with their working patterns – often working when it best suits them, while also finding better ways to fit in a decent break to eat lunch, go for a walk or chat to a family member. All this raises the question: if you can work from home and accommodate your ideal daily routine, surely you can do that from anywhere with internet connectivity?
The answer, of course, is yes, why not? People have been doing this in small doses for years, from employees at conferences keeping up to date with work while on the move or in their hotel rooms, to freelance travellers picking up a few projects to fit around their travels – or even co-working or co-living with other ‘digital nomads’. So, while this may not be a new phenomenon, it is perhaps becoming a more normal situation – and one that employers are more open to in a post-lockdown world.
Travelling to your ideal remote working destination
Overseas travel is still possible – to some countries, at least – but the potential for quarantine restrictions to appear, change or evolve during the course of your trip (or in the run-up to it) is making many holidaymakers reluctant to commit to the journey. However, if you are going overseas to both work and play (as well as taking all the precautions you need to ensure your safety, as well as the safety of any family members), then maybe a little extended overseas living could fit well with your lifestyle.
Countries such as Barbados, Estonia, Croatia and Georgia have recently started to offer ‘digital nomad’ visas to encourage global-minded workers to visit, especially those who might also bring a few tourist dollars into the country for a longer stay. However, shorter working trips are also starting to become popular, and they could even function as a trial run for a more permanent overseas move.
How might your employer’s business interests fit in with such ideas? We have often speculated about the many opportunities that come with global mobility – attracting and retaining talented employees, opening up a company’s business network, and creating stronger professional international relationships chief among them – and while the pandemic may affect the direction of a business in the short term, organisations are less likely to recalibrate their longer-term goals unless forced to do so. If overseas connectivity is on the horizon or immediately desirable, it may still be possible to achieve such goals during a pandemic – with a sensible approach that prioritises the health and wellbeing of all involved.
If you are self-employed or your small business has decided to close its office, you might already have thought that you could be based anywhere you like and be looking at ways to make this work for you. In short, if your laptop can operate as a portable office that allows you to work from home, you could in theory work wherever suits your personal or professional interests.
Combining remote working with the opportunity to learn a language
Keep in mind any potential barriers to working overseas – beyond the immediately evident ones, such as visas, health concerns and travel restrictions. Not understanding the language may be a significant potential restriction, but it is also an opportunity to start practising a new language!
Whether you are looking for a short-term change of scene or considering a longer-term move, a new remote working location could provide you with the ideal opportunity to learn a new language or practise and polish your language skills.
Remote working is already changing how businesses operate, how they prioritise employee wellbeing, and how they can make the most of opportunities for the business that also create desirable opportunities for employees. If employees are able to work from wherever they choose, that extra degree of flexibility could make the pandemic a little more bearable. Language learning is both an enjoyable hobby and a valuable skill that can be maximised for personal and professional gain. If you are interested in finding out more about how we can support you or your organisation with language training, please do get in touch.