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Mixing business with pleasure – my working holiday in the Southern Hemisphere

When I first started working in the IT industry 10 years ago, even as a developer, I was glued to my desk between the hours of 9am-6pm every day. The industry hadn’t quite entered the digital workplace era and Office 365 was on the horizon. It wasn’t until I moved to London as a consultant that I learned of flexible working positions from fellow colleagues and clients.

In the past I thought flexi-work wouldn’t be right for me. What if I wasn’t focused? What if I got distracted by the dishes, washing and even worse, the TV?

In November 2018, I joined Silicon Reef and was presented with a new way of looking at the work environment. The company culture supported a task-orientated focus rather than hours completed. I was able to work from home and even more impressively, had the opportunity to work part-time for six weeks as I travelled across Australia and New Zealand. The chance to work while travelling abroad would put flexi-work to the ultimate test.

 

Journey to Australia & New Zealand

First Challenge: Scheduling Time to Work

Even though Silicon Reef offers unlimited holiday time, I still wanted to get time in to work, especially with it being so easy to connect with everyone no matter where I was going to be. As Australia is 11 hours ahead of the U.K. and New Zealand is 13 hours ahead I had to create a working structure in order to keep me connected with the team in the U.K. I decided working 2-4 hours in the morning and 2-4 hours after 9pm local time would be a good start. We were going to be driving for 2,200 miles (3,542 km) which also gave me a good opportunity to work in the car between kangaroo spotting.

Next, I needed to figure out which days I would and wouldn’t be available. This ended in a great big table of all the amazing places I would go and when I was available for the team (in reality this moved around a little).

With all my planning now out of the way I turned on my “out of office” and headed on the long flight to Australia and 24 hours later I made it in time for the last few hours of Christmas day.

Second Challenge: Work-Travel Balance

After some lovely time in the sun and celebrating New Year with my family, I now had to go back to work. In practice this seemed easy, but when my family was still on holiday for another week going to the beach or swimming in the pool, I struggled with my 2 hours a morning and 2 hours a night on specific days as planned. My original plan was to work Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, but I found that working any day for a few hours, even on weekends, worked best with my sporadic schedule.

With the use of Microsoft Teams, I found it easy to join internal calls from anywhere and monitor my phone using the app if anyone needed anything from me. This is the classic double edge sword of working remotely and being flexible. One can work on and off but of course you can be contacted at any time of day, or night (outside of my wine tasting days).

Road Trip & Work Experience

Once my family had left and we began our 2,200-mile journey I found it easier to focus on the days we were driving. Each night I would log in and join meetings from wherever I was, thankfully everywhere had WiFi. Some of the places were so amazing I had to send a snapshot to my colleagues of my latest workstation.

After the first three weeks I got quite used to this routine – get up slightly early and work a bit, go out for breakfast. Hop in the car and get to the next location, go out for dinner, then log into work to join meetings. One thing that became harder as my jet lag wore off was trying to stay focused late at night, particularly when you are in a hot country.

Four weeks in we headed to New Zealand, my home land. Things became slightly trickier – we were driving less, and each location included visiting friends and family. It was a bit more of a juggle as I carried my laptop to random places to get some quick down time. 20 hours doesn’t seem like much when you have a good routine, but it strangely becomes hard to fit in when you are trying to work around visiting family and friends.

I managed to work out ways to ensure my work was completed and enjoyed a final few days of pure holiday for my friend’s wedding. After the wedding I headed home to London and straight back to normal working hours.

 

Work from Abroad Review

As amazing as my six weeks were visiting family and friends – even more so that I didn’t have to worry about tracking a set number of days for holiday – it was really nice being able to remain in contact with work and ensure my projects ran smoothly. With the technology we have today most meetings and tasks can be done using screen share and conferencing. There was only one meeting, I would have preferred to have been at in person. On the other hand, make sure to have a routine and be strict about it no matter how tempting going to the pool may be. I would definitely consider doing the same working trip again in future.