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I've Worked Remotely Around the World. Your Employees Should, Too

Katherine Conaway

I have been traveling since June 2014—not only in the U.S., but also in Dubai, India, Hong Kong, Southeast Asia, South America and Europe. And during all of this travel, I've continued to work a steady job.

Working remotely has not only enabled me to travel the world, but also allowed me to become a more confident, creative and complicated person thanks to experiencing so many cultures, challenging moments and having so much agency over my life. I strongly encourage employers to consider opening opportunities for their employees to do the same.

Unparalleled Professional Growth

I stumbled into a remote role in April 2014 as I was preparing to leave my job in production at a Brooklyn design studio. A creative director I knew, Sarah Ancalmo, had founded her own brand strategy and design studio called Public Persona, and asked if I wanted to work remotely a few hours a week managing her projects. Then, last May, I joined Remote Year, a company that organizes year-long trips for cohorts of 75 people to live and work in a different country every month. I am now in my 7th month as a participant of their second cohort.

The professional growth I've experienced while on Remote Year and working at Public Persona would not have been possible at a typical 9-to-5 job. I have significantly improved and widened my skill set from client management, pitching proposals and scoping contracts to research, copywriting and design. I've grown into a partner role with Sarah and together, we've faced the challenge of keeping a now three-year-old company alive.

Easy Collaboration and Networking

Working remotely around the world has enabled me to work side-by-side with people of diverse personal and professional backgrounds. In each city we live, Remote Year organizes "Junction" networking events for us to meet local professionals and hear 3-5 speakers talk about everything from nonprofit investments in La Paz, to establishing a chain of fusion restaurants in Cusco, to building a new co-working space in Prague. Through one event, I met the co-founder of a design studio in La Paz, Bolivia and was able to provide consulting services for their team.

In Buenos Aires, we organized a "Hackathon" day and attempted to create a website together. In Prague, I led a version of a Public Persona branding workshop for 10 members of my group. One of my fellow RY participants works for Accenture full-time and created a blog called Impact Beacon featuring interviews with local social entrepreneurs to create a discovery hub for the social impact community.

Improved Communication and Self-Motivation

While setting up a company or team workflow to facilitate remote work requires additional upfront work and revising processes, it also results in a more consciously designed system, with employees who are both more communicative and proactive in their roles.

For example, Sarah and I have learned to communicate through a variety of new technology—Slack, Basecamp, Asana, Google apps, Evernote, Box, Dropbox—that make it easy for us to work together regardless of physical location or proximity. I also buy local SIM cards that function as hotspots, so that wireless connectivity is less of a concern.

Ultimately, an employee that is able to effectively work remote proves that they're really capable, good at time management and invested in their job and company. Remote work is a great litmus test for employee performance: the company will either replace a less competent or uninterested employee that fails to make it work, or they make a great team member happier and more successful.

Whether an employee wants to try short-term options or attempt a formal program like Remote Year, remote work can facilitate access to a varied network, new sources of inspiration and a shift in work-life balance that can be tremendously beneficial—not only for the individual, but their teams, clients and employer, too.

Photo: Creative Commons

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