By Anna Wheeler, Nutrition Talent Co-Founder
The improvised office set-up
Covid has undoubtably brought dramatic changes to the workplace, with many more of us working remotely some or all of the time. Some companies have trialled, with most then continuing a 4 day week for the same pay as a full time role, and seen increased productivity and quality of life scores from happy employees, who reported improved mental and physical health and reduced fatigue and anxiety due to their additional downtime.
Our recruitment projects over the last few years have definitely seen a big shift in terms of workplace location with employers realising they need to offer additional flexibility in order to get the best out of their employees; and candidates prioritising their work-life balance more than ever before. Getting the balance right between time in and out of the office is a key challenge for employers and employees alike and it is different for each organisation and individual.
There has also been a big shift as to where in the world we can work, with the rise of the ‘workation’, ‘hush trips’ (working away while not telling your boss where you are – we’d always recommend transparency with managers!) and the increasing trend of being a ‘digital nomad’.
What’s a digital nomad I hear you ask? A search throws up this definition: a person who earns a living working online in various locations of their choosing (rather than a fixed business location). However, my simpler definition is that it is essentially a working holiday.
I was lucky enough to experience a taste of this myself recently, on a six week escape from the UK winter to live and work in Madeira with my husband. So aside from the obvious advantages of sunshine, higher temperatures and walks by the sea, what were my key considerations and learnings for working in this way? Read on for my top 10 digital nomad checklist.
- Time zone: Choosing a location in the same time zone was incredibly helpful. It was important to me that the rest of the Nutrition Talent team didn’t notice any reduction in my work output or difficulties connecting with me while I was away, so not having that time difference to navigate was essential, as was a fast, reliable internet connection.
- Equipment: A 4 plug extension lead, adapters, keyboard and mouse, laptop stand – these all made it into the suitcase. I knew I wouldn’t manage for six weeks using only a laptop, so protect your posture and bring what you need.
- Additional tech: Think ahead and remember any software or additional tech you might need for work. I brought my DietPlan memory stick, calculator, microphone for recording podcasts and headphones.
- Work setup: Even with this planning done, there was improvisation involved working at the dining table in our accommodation – setting up the tv as a bigger screen, using cushions as boosts and backrests and books to prop the laptop stand on to get the right height. Having a proper desk setup with screen would be ideal. It was also important to have enough space to escape from each other if required when both doing meetings!
- Location: In terms of where you stay, for us the view was important, as well as having a long walk available from the house. We were very lucky to have lovely walks along the coast every day, leading to increased activity vs a normal January/February at home.
- Home comforts: As this was a work trip as well as a holiday and the longest I had ever been away from home – I felt it was important to have things around me to bring joy/comfort. For me that meant bringing my favourite decaf Earl Grey tea bags, basic Pilates equipment so I could still do my Zoom class and (ridiculously!) buying a blanket for relaxing in the evenings. So my advice would be to think what those things would be for you.
- Social networks: Think about how you will manage without your usual social networks in place. We were only away six weeks and had two sets of visitors during that time, but even if you are away with a partner/friend/family, you may find you miss other company if you are away for longer.
- Mindset: This was a work trip and not a holiday and when you are in a lovely location with exciting places to explore, you do need a different mindset to holiday mode. Allow yourself time to settle in before you start work (advice I wish someone had given me!) and have a clear plan about when you are working and when you aren’t. We took a week off, and an extra day off most weeks in order to maximise the experience which worked well.
- Communication: Being clear with your work/holiday boundaries and communicating those to your colleagues is vital to ensure your team knows what to expect and doesn’t experience any difficulties because of your trip.
- Explore what’s around you: There was a Digital Nomads hub in the next town along, which provided free co-working space inside and outside with desks and screens. They also offered networking opportunities and held social events and activities. Due to us having a good enough set up at ‘home’ we didn’t take advantage of this but if we had been here for longer we would have done – both for the facilities and for the social interaction it can bring. These groups are springing up all over Europe (and further afield), so do look them up. Having a co-working space to go to regularly would be brilliant and might even lead to work opportunities with the people you meet.
Overall, working away for six weeks was a fantastic way to travel, experience a different culture and have a break from the winter cold, and with some careful planning and thought I found it was absolutely possible to maintain ‘business as usual’ while working as a digital nomad.