If you’re interested in becoming a digital nomad and taking your 9-5 job across the globe, this guide can help.
If you’re here, you’ve probably been contemplating the digital nomad lifestyle for a while now. You may already have a dream of working from a cabana by the ocean (not as comfortable as you might think) or a cozy chateau in the snow-capped mountains. Maybe you’ve already picked the country (or at least the continent?) you want to set up as your base, read through visa requirements and made sure you won’t be travelling in the rainy season.
While these are all important considerations for travel, let’s not forget the main purpose of this type of travel – work. Have you thought about the tech gadgets and habits you’ll need to ensure success while working remotely? Have you considered things like time zones and reliable internet connections or comfortable working spaces and data protection?
Whether you believe you’ve got it all figured out or not, keep reading for some essential – and frequently overlooked – tips and tricks for working safely and effectively while abroad (from Synchroworks’ very own digital nomads)!
Although Synchroworks is not a purely remote company, we support workers who have the desire to work abroad while respecting company policies and performing at work.
They say the best companies promote a healthy work-life balance, right?
Why become a digital nomad?
In recent years (hello COVID and a global shift towards remote work), many companies have had to re-think their remote working policies. With this shift came an acceleration in the advancement of remote work technology and apps, making the ability to work from anywhere easier than it’s ever been. Add to this the fact that many people have come to realize that their work (depending on the industry) can successfully be accomplished outside the walls of their cubicle or office, and you have the perfect recipe for the digital nomad boom.
Many employers once feared that employees who work remotely have a lack of focus, motivation, and productivity. In reality, the increased inspiration and energy that comes with a remote work lifestyle leads to happier and more productive employees – 77% more productive, to be exact.
Our essential tips and tricks for succeeding as a digital nomad:
Tip 1: Location, location, location!
As with nearly anything else in life, choosing the right location is essential. This is what can make or break your success as a digital nomad. Some important things to consider when selecting the right location include:
Digital nomad community
Choose a location that is known to be a hub for remote workers and expats. This is especially important for ‘first time’ nomads. If you choose to travel to a super off the grid area, you may find yourself feeling more isolated and lonelier than you imagined – in addition to the difficulties you’ll likely face finding a reliable Wi-Fi connection (see below). As enticing as a true local experience in an unknown village in the Amazon may sound, it’s important to find the right balance between local and convenient. Save those remote trips for your weekends and vacation days and opt for convenience when you’re trying to be productive. The advantage of heading to digital nomad hubs is that you’ll have plenty of important resources such as co-working spaces, cafes, and not to mention a sense of community. These cities became well known nomad destinations for many desirable reasons such a safety, tourism (and probably a fair level of English), nightlife, weather, and accommodations that cater to this type of lifestyle.
This may be hard to fathom but finding a reliable Wi-Fi connection isn’t a given. Many developing or under-developed countries still lack the resources needed to provide secure and reliable internet connections. There are many resources online that rate various aspects of living and working in a given city – including internet reliability! Do your research.
Will the location you select support or hinder your ability to work? If your laptop crashes and needs on-site IT support or you lost your charger and need a quick replacement, how easy will these things be to find? If you’re in the middle of the jungle, probably not that easy.
If you’re tied to the working hours of your company’s time zone, keep this in mind as you select your location. Are you willing to work from 2:00pm – 10:00pm to accommodate your work schedule? If not, moving from somewhere like Toronto to Cape Town may not be the best option for you. If you’d rather avoid the jetlag and strange working hours, consider options closer to home.
It’s not just your own personal safety you should be considered about. When working remotely, you probably have some expensive tech you’re lugging around with you. Pickpocketing and theft is one of the most common issues encountered while travelling abroad. Try to pick a location with low crime rates, don’t flaunt your stuff in public, and get a good travel insurance policy.
Tip 2: Must-have gadgets and apps
Let’s focus on the very important technology you need to make your digital nomad dreams a success. Aside from the classic travel gadgets like adapters and USB multi-plugs, a lifestyle like this requires a little more. Yes, it’s important to socialize and make memories, but your trip could take an abrupt turn if you’re unable to get work done or join team meetings! Being prepared for how to manage online work while abroad will noy only help you keep your job, but ensure you succeed. We’ve listed some top gadgets and apps that can help you stay secure and connected while abroad:
Voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) is a technology that allows users to make calls using an internet connection instead of a standard phone line. MicroSip, for example, is an open-source portable SIP softphone that works for Windows OS – it’s extremely user-friendly, functional, and secure!
Noise-cancelling bluetooth headset
Keep in mind that you may be working closely alongside others who are running webinars, on calls, or in cafes with music that is just a touch too loud for getting work done. You may be required to take calls from these loud cafes so be ready! The right Bluetooth headset can make all the difference.
Power bank/portable charger
If you end up working in a space without outlets, having a portable charger could be a lifesaver! Power banks are also extremely useful when you have multiple gadgets that need to be charged simultaneously.
We know, we know, your suitcase is already bursting. But it could get a bit tricky and expensive to replace your tech if it gets lost, stolen or broken, so we recommend bringing multiples. Outlet converters, extension cords, extra chargers and even an extra phone are all excellent things to consider bringing. Having these extra things on hand will save a lot of headache and time finding them in a foreign place. Remember, if you are in a nomad hub, others will be able to provide insight on where to buy certain things, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Leave a bit of space in your bags for back-up tech.
An Ethernet connection is generally faster than Wi-Fi and provides greater reliability and security. This is a great option for those who are hesitant to connect to or don’t have access to public Wi-Fi networks.
Laptop privacy screen
Good for working in direct sunlight and for keeping your work private from other nearby workers.
This one is a lifesaver! Make your nomadic ‘workplace’ a little more ergonomic by investing in a foldable laptop stand.
Look up whether there are Facebook groups for nomads or expats in the city you are staying in. Expat groups are great because these are people who may have been living in that country for years and know their way around. Don’t be shy to post about meeting up for coffee or a local hike. You’d be surprised how many people reach out and are also seeking companionship.
Tip 3 – Schedule regular back-ups!
If you are planning to be away for several months at a time, make sure you schedule some time for backing up files. This is an important aspect of our digital nomad tips and tricks because it’s often overlooked. You are constantly taking photos and videos – and we don’t blame you – but that quickly takes up space on your phone. It’s always good practice to transfer files from your phone and onto cloud storage. The same goes for any working files you do not have backed up that are on your laptop. If you back-up your photos and files regularly, you won’t lose any of those beautiful memories or hard work if your laptop or phone are stolen. If you are bringing USBs with you, make sure they are password encrypted.
Tip 4 – Stay connected to your team!
Yes, you’re off meeting amazing new people and seeing amazing new places. So, you probably won’t realize that you’re becoming a little disconnected from your team. No more after-work drinks, team lunches, or chit-chat over coffee. Don’t forget the importance of maintaining healthy connections at work. Even though you’re not physically there, this makes it even more important.
Video over voice
Show your face once in a while! Use team meetings as an excuse to see each other instead of just hearing each other’s voices. This can be a great way to encourage communication and keep you connected with your team members.
Virtual team building
Try setting up some virtual team building games or events. Just because you’re not sharing an office space anymore doesn’t mean you can’t be a part of the fun! Check out some of these fun online team building games for inspiration.
Whether you’re managing a team or sharing equal responsibility with your team members, keeping up communication is more important now than ever before. Set up daily or weekly check-ins to make sure everyone’s on the same page and to keep your virtual team working smoothly.
Being a digital nomad can be one of the most exciting and fulfilling things you ever do. You will undoubtedly meet amazing new friends, discover breathtaking places, and uncover a level of motivation and productivity you never had while cooped up in the office or at home. But in order to succeed as a digital nomad, you must be prepared! Use this guide to improve your remote working experience and ensure your continued success while working abroad.
We can hear you unzipping that suitcase already. Do you have any tips to share?
Let us know. Happy roaming.