Working from anywhere?

Life imitating art, I am finally fulfilling the stereotype of the remote worker and getting things done in pajamas. The time difference with my mostly UK based team means that I am taking our daily meeting at midnight!

On the plus side, I am now working evenings/nights, which is a schedule I am curious to see develop. Will it continue to work? How will I feel a week or even a month from now?

I’m hoping the time difference will let me take advantage of the days and work with much fewer distractions. I prioritize more, becoming a project laser with neat, precise incisions of work and time rather than my more sprawling usual. So far, I have more of a life here during the day. This is also related to the fact that I am currently staying with a friend and there will be much to do and see during the days. As well as the fact that I was laid up in Belgium for five months with nothing to do but work!

However, my recent stay in Switzerland showed me that I find it difficult not to work in between meetings, or at least think about work. As a result, between a morning and afternoon meeting, I will be working, in some form or another. Great for the company, not great for (not) going to the gym, (not) going outside, (not) having a life!

Hopefully this new way of working will help me compartmentalise and feel like I have more freedom during the day.

This is all based on my own personality. I have difficulty unplugging, disconnecting from projects that I’m interested in. When I worked in an office, I always liked to do my physical activity before work, even if this meant getting up at 5:30 am to take the train to boot camp or get a ride share to spinning class. Now that I’m able to restart a schedule of physical activity, I have to find a way to do it.

The thing about working remotely is you have to be more self motivated, in all areas of life. There isn’t any grocery shopping on the way home. There is no biking to and/or from work. There are no colleagues to go out to lunch with.

Of course, there are pluses too! Otherwise I wouldn’t be conducting this experiment on myself. And there are ways to stay in touch with colleagues and feel/behave as part of a team even from 5000 kms away.

Working from anywhere doesn’t necessarily mean working from anywhere.

This last week near Alstonville in New South Wales has been interesting in that respect. Many people I meet through my friend here ask me where I’m headed or what I’m going to do on my ‘holiday’. As the time zone difference means I am working evenings (so far with jet lag this has been a big challenge!), my meetings take place at night.

Staying with friends is not a good idea either for work. There’s always something else to do, and focus shifts. Luckily this week has been more off than on at work, and now, with my move to Brisbane today, l’ll see what happens when in the city. Hopefully the Internet will be faster.

I would say that that is the real limitation. ‘Anywhere’ means anywhere with high speed internet, which is a limitation in certain parts of the world. My first experience of this was in Spain, where I moved into an apartment and only later discovered that the fastest I could get was 10 MB, because the fibre didn’t reach yet. Not enough for a Skype conversation.
I found myself working in ‘internet cafes’ or even pubs close to my then apartment in Torremolinos, as they were the closest places to my place where I could have conversations with minimal background noise. Even then the bandwidth was very low.

I became desperate to find a place where I could work,me specially have skype meetings from, that didn’t require me to buy a coffee.

There is a strong remote and coworking culture in Malaga, especially among the expat community. However, coworking spaces are often closed spaces, where desks are hard to come by. One space I visited was like a coworking sweatshop. The first floor, the ‘open’ space where anyone could come in and sit down to work for the minimal fee, was completely empty, save a lonely student in the corner. When the office manager showed me upstairs, the place was packed! Not one free desk out of at least 15, and almost all working on large screens, plugged into their various online businesses, intent on their universes. I was assured that once a week there was a Friday drinks session. My reaction was mixed feelings. I work remotely because I don’t want to sit in an office all day, so I can maximize my productivity and creativity by mixing work with activity, let my subconscious tease out a problem while I do something else, give myself space to have an aha moment. Not transplant, substitute one office for another one.

So what is co-working?
What are we, as digital nomads, really looking for?
What are we actually getting out of the various iterations of co-working spaces that exist? How many ‘success’ stories are there, what does co-working success look like?

In theory, the idea is to combine many different types of people and businesses in one space, creating opportunity for mutually beneficial partnerships and innovation that wouldn’t be possible in our traditional, siloed versions of work.

What’s actually happening in co-working spaces?
What are stories are out there, do they really foster collaboration and cooperation across sectors?
What works?

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