Working From Home Abroad – When Remote Working Really is Remote

On 23 August 2017 Practice Manager, Paula Langley, and Senior Partner, Gideon Cristofoli, embarked on a month long trial of working from Costa Rica.  They wanted to trial working from home abroad and somewhere remote.  Here is the blog that Paula wrote whilst away.

Post 1

Is it possible to make working abroad feel like I am just working from home?

This is the question I hope to answer over the next month as I head to the rainforest overlooking Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. It helps that I have an incredibly supportive and able team who are carrying on as usual in the office – probably enjoying the peace and quiet!

I know that there is good wifi at my destination and we have set up the usual remote access to email and desktop, Viber and What’s Ap and all the other free connections we could think of. Is there anything we have missed? Time will tell!

I am hoping that our structures will allow me to be on the other side of the world and yet continue to hold our weekly team meetings as normal – the only difference being that I will be on a screen and not in my chair. Will the peace and quiet help me to focus or will sloths and monkeys be too much of a distraction?

I have taken some specific projects with me to work on and so I am hoping that a change of scenery will offer inspiration, or at least afford me the time to get on with it! The next month will tell me if it’s possible to do my dream job in my dream location.

Wish me luck!

Post 2

On the first morning of my working from abroad experiment I am wide awake at 3.30am Costa Rica time. No worries about missing UK office hours today, even with the 7 hour time difference.

I am staying at the Wyndham Herradura Hotel – only 10 mins from the airport and which I found, for the first time last night, without getting lost. It has super fast wifi and so checking emails, even at 3.30am, is easy. I know I could wifi call anyone and it would be crystal clear – although I don’t think Gideon Cristofoli, Senior Partner, my partner and fellow traveller, would be too happy about the noise right now!

Service is a key component of the green tourism industry here but I also think great service is just in the nature of the kind hearted Costa Rican people. They are proud of their home and want to share it. Where else in the world would you get the baggage scanning officer show you photos of her cat whilst your luggage goes through, smiling and nodding encouragingly as you use your newly learned Spanish to tell her you have 2 dogs at home?

After one night of rest in the big city we leave for where the coast meets the rainforest covered mountains.

Hasta Luego!

Post 3

We have been in Costa Rica for 6 days and so far the work experiment seems to be going well. Senior Partner, Gideon Cristofoli, had to speak to a client and a third party who were in different UK locations on Friday – the first test of our technology plan.

The first hiccup came when one had What’s Ap and one had Messenger and so it wasn’t possible to group call. Solution: we have 2 phones and so we dialled each one individually and had them on speaker next to each other. It worked perfectly!

We can log in to our desktop remotely and so Gideon was then able to complete the amendments discussed immediately, just as he would in the office and with exactly the same resources at his finger-tips, and email it for approval. Job done!

With howler monkeys sounding their approval the rest of the morning was spent at the beach whilst the sun was shining. In the afternoon the rain begins and this is a great time to catch up on email and other work. Even a tree frog joined us for shelter as we continued our working day in paradise.

Working from Home Abroad – The Final Episode

As we come to the end of our wonderful month in Costa Rica it is hard to know where that time has gone.

We have much to reflect on before we do this again. Technology has been an issue at times but also the desire to actually work when there is so much to see and do here. I didn’t realise I would find it so hard to focus. I thought as time went by and I got used to my surroundings it would be easier, but England has felt more and more distant and the work I brought with me less and less important! Is this why so many people we meet here have given up their office based businesses and now find themselves focussing on some lifelong dream – making the best gourmet sausages or their own chocolate out of the fresh cacao that grows in their garden.

The day to day work, contact with the office, immediate decisions to make – those have been easier. Senior Partner, Gideon Cristofoli, has also found it easier than me – doing his work every day as promised to clients. But maybe that is it. As Practice Manager, the projects I brought with me are not urgent. I have no one to answer to about them. They were just things on my ‘To-Do’ list that would wait. Knowing I left the office in the capable hands of our Office Manager, Magdalena, let me off the hook.

I am really looking forward to going home. This surprises me too. I have found it frustrating not being able to actually see our office and speak to people face to face – even though I have used video chat and this has been ok when the wifi was working. I realise I need more contact. Would I get used to this? I don’t know.

So we get to the wifi. This has been the biggest stumbling block for me. It is good here – you can download and send emails and surf the internet, watch a movie or upload a photo – but it is so slow compared to our fibre optic at home that I just don’t know if I can cope. I found that logging on to the VPN was difficult as the connection was too slow. This meant I couldn’t regularly log on to my desktop at the office. Frustrating! We got around this by getting people to email us what we needed instead but this didn’t feel like the most efficient way of working. A small price to pay for working in paradise?

My hobby is film making and photography. I have a drone and I actually managed to film a baby whale out at sea from directly above. This was a magical thing and something I thought would be impossible. I have captured birds on the wing, whales and dolphins playing in the ocean, the elusive humming bird, 3 different types of monkey, iguanas, crickets, dragon flies, beautiful plants and amazing vistas. Is it all just too beautiful here to worry about reviewing our office manual?

As we pack up to leave I feel satiated. Maybe I didn’t need to work abroad. Maybe I just needed an extended holiday that has filled me with the joy of nature and has made me appreciate what I am returning to.

I cannot thank everyone at Bookers & Bolton enough for indulging us and I cannot wait to see everyone in person to tell them how much they are appreciated.

Hasta luego y gracias Costa Rica!