For most Americans, we’re coming up on the one year anniversary of working from home. From the beginning of the work-from-home experience you might have noticed some friends and acquaintances deciding to not re-sign their leases and begin to truly work remote—from a place that isn’t their permanent address. This became such a trend that places have even started paying people to work remotely from their small towns in states like Oklahoma, Alabama and Georgia to name a few. If working from a location other than your home is something you’ve been considering, then I’m here to break down some pros/cons and give a few suggestions from my own experience.
My partner and I just got back from spending a month in Tabernash, Colorado. He is in the restaurant business in DC and made the decision to close his business for a few months during the winter. I want to emphasize that this was a truly sad decision that impacted a lot of people. We decided to relocate for a month because being in the restaurant business, well, remote work is not an option, ever. This was the one opportunity we saw to get out of town for more than a few days and to make the best of an unfortunate situation.
Here are some pros/cons and a few other insights to consider if you are thinking about working remote for an extended period of time:
Change of scenery
The change of scenery was more refreshing than I could have hoped. Our cabin was on the edge of the Arapaho National Forest, about a 15 minute drive from Fraser Colorado. It snowed almost daily, some days even a few feet. After 12 months of my small desk in my small house, just waking up somewhere else and having a different view out the window was beneficial. I found myself in a much different headspace almost immediately, excited to start the day and break out of a monotonous routine that had been weighing me down.
Change of lifestyle
Colorado is on mountain central time, so two hours ahead of EST. This meant my workday was 7-3. I am a morning person, so having a significant shift in my schedule like this was also a welcome distraction. My morning routine shifted to waking up at 6, breakfast, meditation/journal and enjoying a cup of coffee before logging in at 7. My workouts moved to the afternoon, and I even got to ski a few runs on weekdays. This was another welcome shakeup from the daily same-old same-old and added new energy to different parts of my day.
Another unforeseen benefit was that I was able to focus on becoming a better skier on the weekends. Adding a new hobby to my weeknights/weekends was a really nice feeling. I had almost forgotten what it felt like to have a new hobby that really excited me. Getting excited about something new and focusing on improvement was extremely beneficial for my mental health and a welcome reminder that we are constantly growing, improving and learning.
Ability to disconnect
This was a surprising benefit for me. The cabin we stayed in didn’t have a TV (and not great internet which I’ll get into later). But that being said, I was able to spend my evenings reading, journaling, taking the dog for long hikes and soaking in the hot tub (what ski cabin is complete without a hot tub?). I was more focused on enjoying the moment and being in the present than watching tv or looking at my phone. Something I think I desperately needed.
A dog’s paradise
It was incredibly heart-warming to bring our dog to a totally new place. She absolutely loved the snow, being off leash for walks, and almost daily hikes up through the mountains. She met a few dog friends that she got to play with often and I think she enjoyed the change of scenery as much as we did. A nice warm/fuzzy benefit of the whole experience.
When we originally booked our cabin, the description said no wifi. However, after booking for an extended period of time the owner reached out to us and said she planned on putting in wifi before we arrived. Great. Once we got there, we logged in, checked download speed and everything seemed to be fine. Awesome.
After two days I noticed a tremendous slow down of internet speed (from 15-16 mbps to about 1-2). After contacting our host we learned that they didn’t really install wifi, but had set up a mobile hotspot for their own cell phones. I won’t go into the nitty-gritty here, but it took us a few days to get this fully sorted out. I am a designer, and I need high-speed internet and unlimited data. Period.
However, a lot of places will sell you “unlimited” plans that really only mean 30-40 GB, which I can easily use up in about 2 weeks. We solved our problem by purchasing our own hot spot, buying an adapter for my laptop, and an ethernet cable to connect directly to the hotspot.
Once we figured out that this would be sufficient, every morning I duck taped the hotspot to the back of a chair, extended the cable outside and shielded it with a tiny umbrella made out of cardboard to protect it from snow. Really. This got me to the end of the month.
Drive instead of fly.
Driving ended up being much cheaper than flying even with gas money. This also allowed us to bring our dog, most of our frequently used home appliances, and didn’t restrict our packing at all. Also, it limits your exposure to COVID significantly.
Use it once a week? Bring it! Bring what you would normally use on a weekly basis so you spend less time “adjusting” to your new home. For example, I drink smoothies daily so I brought my blender. We brought our staple pantry items that we knew we’d use, a few cooking appliances as well as our own bedding, towels, etc.
Use some PTO
I took off days sporadically, so I could stay connected at work but still enjoy the new but fleeting change of scenery. In total I used 5 days of PTO spread out over 4 weeks. Hopefully your company provides you with some PTO time, and that is for a reason! If you have it, use it!
Plan, plan, and then plan some more
Planning most of our meals ahead of time saved us a lot of money and time. I usually plan my meals out for the week, but before we left I scheduled almost all of our meals for the month, allowing a few nights for carry-out from local restaurants. This ended up saving us a lot of money on groceries that might have gone to waste, and kept us out of the grocery stores for unnecessary trips. It also allowed us to soak in our time there as much as we could! Highly recommend doing this.
Climate/weather, time of year, etc.
After having this experience, I really would recommend working from a place that offers climate, activities and/or scenery that aren’t typical of your home location. This way you can truly get that feeling of a change of scenery/lifestyle that was so refreshing and beneficial for me.
Check-in with your direct reports
This one should go without saying but definitely talk to your boss and direct reports before you go. I had a chat with my Creative Director to let her know about my upcoming PTO and time difference, just so she was aware. I told her that while I was on PTO for a few days I wouldn’t necessarily be totally disconnected, so if a deadline was tight, I was willing and able to put in some hours on the weekends, which did end up happening. This is not something I would do if I was going to be gone for a full vacation for a week, but in this case it felt appropriate.
Seriously research the place you plan on traveling to
If you go to a place that is similar to home it might do more harm than good because you might feel disheveled and spend too much time “adjusting.” But if you’re in a new place with lots of outdoor activities that aren’t available to you at home, then it can be a very welcome distraction. I wouldn’t recommend going somewhere just because “you’ve always wanted to go” because places aren’t exactly the tourist hubs that you might have envisioned.
If you truly want to experience the culture of a place, I’d recommend waiting until recreational travel is encouraged again throughout the US. We have been to Colorado several times, knew a lot about the area we were going, knew some friends nearby if we needed anything, and generally knew what our days were going to look like (mainly just being in the cabin and/or on the ski mountain). My one regret is not experiencing bar/restaurant culture like I would have wanted to. But we felt it was more important to keep our exposure to other people as limited as possible.
Life is weird right now. Things are uncertain and I think most people are experiencing burnout in some form. If you have a work situation that is flexible and would allow you to work remotely then I would highly suggest it, after considering the aforementioned things! Making the best of a bad situation is a hard thing to do.
Some of these suggestions could even apply to your permanent work situation like disconnecting from TV/phone for a while or making an effort to get outside more. If you and your partner/spouse/roommate are considering working remotely, I hope these tips can offer some useful advice or be helpful for your planning purposes! Most importantly, stay safe and go easy on yourself.