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Lessons learned: Working remotely from Thailand for a month

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Learn what happend when an eloomi employee worked remotely from Thailand for a month and the lessons learned from that.

A huge part of eloomi’s work-culture, is empowering employees and encouraging personal development. Motivation might be very different things for different people and our leadership team recognizes that.

To increase productivity, performance and work happiness we have a very open and flexible workplace.
For example, we all have seats but everyone is encouraged to use any space they want. We have multiple rooms with several types of environments, decorations and vibes. (We even have a quiet-zone!)

Not to mention our office dogs, flexible working hours, laughs, friendly banter and open communication.

Multiple locations – What about a temporary one… in Thailand?

We are a very diverse team, consisting of multiple nationalities and religions, spread over our offices in Copenhagen, London and Aalborg.

As I have an insatiable wanderlust I asked our CEO, Claus Johansen, if we could have a conversation about working remotely for a brief period. With multiple office-locations, and a very open-minded leadership that believes in empowerment and trust, it wasn’t difficult to agree to, as long as I kept delivering on all my goals and projects as I normally would, despite being on the other side of the globe.

The outcome

After a month in Thailand where I spent my days sightseeing, and the evenings working (Danish time), I had not only managed to do the normal amount of work, but also about 20-30% more!

This Harvard Business Review study by Nicholas Bloom found the same results when testing it in call-center workers. The people working responded to 13,5% more calls per day, effectively providing the company with a weekly extra day of work, for free!

I thought about what I could attribute this increase in efficiency to and narrowed it down to the following:
The removal of the commute freed up roughly 2 hours of time per day, which in turn removed a stress factor and made sure I was much more in-the-zone while working.

I also had less interruptions and spent less time small-talking which does add up over the weeks.

Lastly, I wouldn’t take any lunch breaks, as I just ate while working since it was easier and less formal, this effectively gained me half an hour of extra work per day without even thinking about it.

The result was, that I came back home and was ahead of my schedule, had a huge portion of good vibes to share and an overabundance of happiness with my job and colleagues.

Text, Person, Electronics

Lesson 1: The importance of keeping in contact and coordinating

When working remotely, you run the risk of becoming isolated, if you don’t actively reach out and maintain your presence within the day-to-day business. A few things to keep in mind are:

Realize that work comes first: You are working remotely, and whilst your day-time might be spent petting elephants or zip-lining through the jungle, you need to make sure that your duties for work is clear, that your work is being delivered on time and that YOU keep up to date with any development within your organization. It’s on you to stay up to date, not on the people in the office.

Video meetings: If there are meetings in your department, be proactive and set up online video meetings so you can be a part of the internal communications instead of just receiving sum-up mails.

Coordinating and setting expectations: If you are part of larger deliveries, make sure to coordinate with your team, and be aware that there might be communications going over the table, that won’t necessarily be in writing as it’s an “in the moment” thing. Make sure to set expectations and get updated on any development that might have happened, either through bi-weekly meetings or mail summaries.

There is a huge amount of trust placed in you by allowing you to travel and work at the same time. Honor that trust and make sure you earn it every day!

Lesson 2: Evaluate your working-space short term before committing long term

Before arriving in Chiang Mai, I had already booked a guesthouse for 2 weeks, and made sure that it had all the luxuries a westerner abroad needs in SE Asia such as hot water, Wi-Fi and A/C. However, when I showed up, it turned out that the Wi-Fi wasn’t available in the room, only in the lounge-area and that the A/C was only available mid-day and in the night. Luckily, I was able to move to a room within the same guesthouse which had all the amenities a digital nomad needs, and it was resolved.

From then on, all bookings were done for 1-2 nights and then evaluated upon arrival. This approach later saved me from sleeping in capsule-like claustrophobic bedchambers on Koh Samui, with raging techno-music and speaker-adverts all day. Not exactly the most productive working environment, and one I very quickly switched from!

Book 1-2 nights, evaluate the area and the amenities before committing long term.

Lesson 3: Failing to plan, is planning to fail

At some point, something will go wrong. Make sure you have contingency plans in place for anything work-related to it doesn’t affect your deliveries.

Take an earlier flight, work an hour longer, know where you can find backup Wi-Fi, read the proposal an extra time etc.

For example, after spending 2 weeks in northern Thailand’s beautiful scenic Chiang Mai surroundings, I wanted to see a bit of the southern islands and so I was looking at transport options.

Working Danish local time, I had the morning and early afternoon to get to my destination on Koh Samui and be ready before work started. Instead of taking the transport-option that would have made me get there on time, I opted for an even earlier one “just in case”.

Despite having to wake up in the early hours before sunrise, it was a great decision. The ferry was delayed and would be all day, so I ended up being ready on Koh Samui an hour before work, instead of the scheduled 3 hours before.

Had I taken the later one, I would have been stuck somewhere in the gulf of Thailand while people were waiting for me to get online.

If something can go wrong, it probably will. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

Lesson 4: Spend your free time wisely & remember to enjoy yourself!

You are exploring the world: Get lost in the moments. Enjoy the sights, smells, sounds and immerse yourself in the culture. See something beautiful, do something crazy and embrace the moments that bring you outside of your comfort-zone.

While keeping on top of all deliveries, managing my own work-load, keeping up with organizational communication and doing “extra” tasks, I still managed to travel Chiang Mai > Koh Samui > Koh Lanta > Koh Phi Phi > Phuket > Bangkok.

I’ve met countless amazing people who now all know what eloomi is and how we aim to change the way performance and learning is done today.

I’ve also done a few things that I will remember for the rest of my life:

  • Trekked to the top of a waterfall and shared a coconut with a front-end developer from Canada.
  • I went swimming in glowing plankton with a pet-sitter from North Carolina with a night sky full of stars above us.
  • Received a Thai massage in a prison rehabilitation center. (Always support worthy causes!)
  • Ziplined through the jungle 40+ meters above ground.
  • Enjoyed a coffee in the mountains harvested 10 meters from where I was sitting.
  • Worked out in a gym where birds flew around inside.
  • And of course seen many absolutely stunning views, temples and scenes!
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