Just as we’ve grown accustomed to working efficiently from home — a natural by-product from the pandemic — another trend is heading our way. Remote working, just about anywhere beyond borders. They say globalisation makes the whole world smaller, but remote working may have literally just made the world your oyster. If you think about it, working from home isn’t any different from working from anywhere in the world. It’s all relative anyway.
As a result of closed borders, countless have been separated from their families and loved ones in the past two years. But as we ease ourselves into an endemic, some have made plans to return home and travel after a long time, in a trip that isn’t just a simple two-week break from work. Adibah, a regional content manager, has been working remotely from Baku, Azerbaijan since August 2021. “After 18 months apart, I wanted to reunite with my long distance partner who’s a citizen there. We already had an inkling of when Azerbaijan’s borders would open to Singapore residents, so I had the conversation with my boss about two months before I was due to go. My boss was very supportive as she also knew how important this relationship is to me,” says Adibah.
As far as work goes, it’s regular programming. “It’s the same amount of work and pace, nothing has really changed in terms of work output. Of course, since I am still working Singapore hours, that means being fresh and raring to go at 6am in the morning. That was something I had to get through in the first month, coupled with jet lag.”
On work efficiency, she stresses on weekly virtual check-ins with her teammates. “Don’t just chat about work, but foster sessions where you truly get to know one another as good work relationships produce even greater work. Adhere to the timelines set, be honest with what you can or can’t take on, and put your best face forward even if you’re knackered. Honestly, this is advice for everyone, not just those who work remotely!”
Sales manager Marco, too made the trip to Portugal and the rest of the EU once borders opened up, to reunite with his parents. Now currently in his one-month mark, he says: “As far as work goes, we are in the midst of wrapping up projects so it’s been quite manageable. My habits obviously had to change, especially with being about eight hours behind Singapore. I think it’s important to find a routine that works for you and make sure you set up a space that is dedicated for work only. This will allow you to jump right into work mode. For myself, I invested in some resources, like a quality computer monitor. Lastly, I would say that it’s key to be flexible as well.”
To establish more concrete answers on remote working, we looked to Head of Business Development at Lark, Zac Lin to share some tips and adress possible concerns so you can make this work-from-anywhere concept a reality.
Who’s likely to get the ball rolling?
Before you get all excited, it’s worth sitting down and evaluating what kind of work you do. According to a McKinsey analysis, some industries such as the management, professional services and information sectors have the highest potential for remote work, explains Lin. Even those in the finance industry could possibly hop on board as well, though there might be a few obstacles along the way, like establishing a secure network. Lin shares that while the potential for remote work can vary depending on which country you’re in, most who work in an advanced economy should be able to work remotely roughly 30% of the time without jeopardising productivity.
And if you work at a startup, your chances of working from anywhere is even higher.
“At Lark, startups seem to be having some of the biggest success adopting our digital collaboration platform, likely because they have progressive leaders who champion the future of work and a more collaborative way of working. Many of these startups have received significant funding this year, a testament to their success adapting and growing despite challenges brought on by the pandemic.”
What are some of the challenges that we’ll need to pre-empt?
It’s on you to make sure you’re still connected and can get work done. After all, you still have a pile of work with your name on it to clear each day. Lin emphasises the need to ensure a solid connection and it’s recommended to do a test call before any client calls to avoid potential mishaps.
You say Good Morning when it’s midnight
Depending on where you plan on working from, the time difference can impact productivity and well-being. Lin gives an example of employees working from America or Europe, they will likely need to shift their hours to work overnight and may need to shift the way they work – doing work that requires the most brain power early on in their shift and pushing more mindless tasks toward the end of the night.
Security and network privacy
For those that work in regulatory environments, such as banking, Lin advises that you may need to go through an additional layer of approvals to ensure a secure environment where sensitive information is not jeopardised.
Increased job competition
Being able to actually consider jobs overseas is a pretty enthralling thought, but with more job opportunities opening up, its also vice versa. Others from overseas countries would also be considering the same, resulting in some pretty stiff global competition. Despite this, Lin still stands that the biggest benefits to remote working is that fact that it levels the playing field and is an effective tool in strengthening diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Hybrid arrangements and equipping employees with the right work tools can empower employees no matter where they’re located or what their gender or age is.
“In fact, we’ve seen remote work help tremendously with gender disparity, largely due to the fact that women and working mothers no longer have to choose between their career and family. So yes, while it might drive competition for talent, it ultimately makes opportunities at work more equitable and inclusive.”
Managing work and play
As exciting as this idea could be, Lin warns that working from anywhere can result in blurred lines between work and leisure, and employees who struggle to strike healthy boundaries between their professional and personal lives might face the same isolated feeling while working abroad. To ensure this doesn’t happen, he suggests using Lark Calendar’s working hours feature, since it can help with maintaining some semblance of work-life balance. For example, you can set your working hours from 9 am to 6 pm from Monday to Friday. Then, if someone tries to book a meeting outside of your working hours, they will immediately be notified that you may not be able to attend the meeting – this is especially important if you’re working in a different time zone and not on your team’s normal working hours, Lin explains.
At the same time, you have to do your part and dedicate set periods to do work and be as productive as possible during that set time frame. Lin suggests boosting productivity by eliminating any potential distractions, and to get “deep work” done in windows where you know you’re most productive — especially while navigating time differences — and push your “shallow work” to when you potentially have less brain power.
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