We are just wrapping up our month long visit to the Big Island of Hawaii. I say visit and not vacation because the first two weeks here I worked a regular work day. I extended our trip because I wanted to experiment with working remotely, and I wanted our family to be here as long as possible. Here are some of the things I’ve learned
First, before I start, not every remote work situation is going to be the same. I was primarily running our appliance business remotely. That involves making sure there was enough work to keep everyone busy, finding appliances to buy, posting appliances for sale, handling all the sales calls and scheduling deliveries etc. This required constant access to my phone, a high speed internet connection and the work to be done during regular business hours.
1. You have to be very disciplined. I would get up at 6 am here every morning and start my day. We are two hours behind the west coast out here in Hawaii. I would work until things slowed down later in the afternoon. Normally this isn’t difficult to do, but it’s much more difficult when you are in a tropical location and you have the clear, warm, beautiful ocean tempting you to come swim. Later in the year after the next time change I would have to start at 5 am.
2. Cell coverage and internet access are necessities. This might sound obvious, but there are many places, especially on the island we are visiting, that don’t have good cell phone coverage. You have to plan ahead and make sure you arrange to stay in a place with adequate coverage. The same goes for high speed internet. We are staying in a friend’s condo that has very fast cable internet. I came prepared with my 4g hotspot just in case because fast internet access is a must. No coverage = no work. Do your research before you go.
3. Prepare for some extra guilt. We flew out of Portland and as if on cue the sky dumped 8 inches of snow/ice over the city. It’s one thing for the people in your business to be aware that you are in a warm tropical place, but quite another when they are experiencing extreme cold and snow. Warranted or not, this brought on some extra guilt. Instead of being able to go outside and empathize with their situation, I found myself drinking a cold beverage with my shirt off well into the afternoon.
4. Communication is key. You have to be able to communicate well with your team via phone, texts and emails. If you can’t, it will drive you crazy because there is no walking down the hall or going out into the garage and making sure things get taken care of. If you have communication issues before working remotely, they will only be magnified when working from afar.
5. You have to be able to trust your team. If you can’t completely trust those that you are working with, things aren’t going work out. If you want to be able to work remotely at some point, you have to be able to find great people to join your team. It’s one thing to feel like you can trust someone when you are always around, but quite another when you aren’t going to be present to keep an eye on things.
6. Problems get magnified. When there are problems, or business is slow, you will feel the effects more when you are working remotely. I think it mostly comes from feeling like you can’t do as much to help when you are not physically there. Being physically present to handle a problem or crisis definitely has it’s advantages. So know that there will be extra stress when problems arise. .
7. Funny story. I got a call from a guy who wanted us to deliver his daughter a dryer. At the end of the conversation he kind of laughed and said that he was actually calling from Oahu! I laughed as well when I told him that I was just a little south of him on another island in the middle of the pacific ocean. We both got a kick out of that and set up the delivery. It’s a new world we live in!
8. It’s a great way to escape for a season. Portland is a great city, but there are often periods during the winter where you don’t see the sun for quite a while. It can be dark, rainy and cold for weeks on end. This is a major cause for seasonal depression, and it’s something I’ve struggled with often during the winters. I planned our trip out here to escape that weather at it’s worst, and it was a bonus that tickets out here are cheapest in the winter months. Hawaii is an outstanding antidepressant.
The other night I was out in our surf spot with some friends, waiting for the next set of waves to arrive. We were laughing, joking and just having a great time together, all while getting some refreshing exercise. The water was warm as was the evening air. We stayed out surfing almost two hours. Then we came in and joined a bunch of other friends for a BBQ and to hang out until well after dark. This happens every week.
It’s been this combination of beautiful community, location and general lifestyle that has motivated our family to actively pursue the the possibility of working remotely, even if just for a portion of each year at first. For others it might be to live closer to family, to save money by living somewhere more affordable (think anywhere outside of silicon valley) or to enable a season of extended travelling. Everyone is different, and no two paths are going be exactly the same.
In the end, technology is making it easier for people to add value remotely. Though working remotely isn’t for everyone, if it encourages and enables people to focus on living a healthy, happy, balanced life, it is a beautiful thing. Remember, we don’t live to work, but we work so we can live.
Have a remote-work story you would like to share? Or a situation where you wish you could have lived somewhere else and worked remotely? What would like to be able to work from?
Bonus: I took this video yesterday of a humpback whale slapping it’s tail 19 times in a row. Pretty amazing to watch!
This second video is the road down to our surf spot that I describe in the post.