The Covid-19 pandemic has opened many families to the privileges (and struggles) of working from home. Many have taken this a step beyond and become completely nomadic as they are able to find flexibility and resources to stay connected from almost anywhere. Working on the road can be incredibly rewarding, but it also can pose some unique challenges. Here are our best tips and cautions for balancing travel, family life, and work as a digital nomad.
Prepare The Children
The biggest wild card in order to work as a digital nomad will be kids. Children can detour the best plans when it comes to working and traveling. The logistics of living a nomadic life with kids can be tricky, but it’s entirely do-able and the rewards are priceless. To have the best experience for both parent and child here are some tips. These do not make every situation perfect, but they have been found to ease some stress and anxiety.
- Communication – There are 4 parts to communicating with kids. What everyone needs/wants, what to expect, what is expected of the people involved, and flexibility in expectations. A lot of major frustrations with kids can be headed off with communication.
- Flexibility – This needs to go both ways. Be open to situations that may not be normal working conditions in an office. For example, let them be involved at some point with your work during the day. This will help them be more understanding when you need alone time.
- Preparation – If you know you need to be unavailable from 9-10 am. Prepare drinks, snacks, and any needed activities before you need to “go under.” The less they need to ask for, the better.
Tip: Headphones for the whole family will also pay off. They allow them to be near you but engaged in a show or app.
Pre-Pandemic, this was fairly easy. Any coffee shop, book store, mall, or library could become your office. This is much trickier now as not as many places are open. However, there are lots of mobile hotspot devices that are coming onto the market and the pandemic has helped to make them more accessible. Verizon and T-Mobile both have devices that are small and provide immediate connection. They often offer short deals on unlimited or very high data allowances. So, if you have a preferred carrier, reach out to see what the latest offer is.
Caution: Most cell phones also provide hotspots. We have found that these are very limiting in bandwidth and often do not have the same speed as your actual cell connection. So, if you have 5G on your phone, it may drop to 4G when used as a hot spot. Also, be careful with your data usage if using a cell phone, especially in a foreign country!
Time Management (Time Zone Changes WILL Get You)
There are two parts to time management when you work as a digital nomad. You are not on vacation, even though you are in vacation-like settings. So, you have to learn to manage work vs experiencing life where you are. Sometimes this is easy and sometimes can be extremely challenging. Many people got a taste of this life with the pandemic. Juggling work + kids + traveling. It often requires some pre-planning, but even more so, it requires flexibility in expectations. You will have days where the kids entertain themselves while you work. However, you will also end up pulling over mid-travel to maintain an internet connection for that SUPER important call.
The most stress-inducing part of work as a digital nomad is actually the time zones! Where you are compared to the people you are working with maybe hours (if not, days!) apart. You will want to check devices and clarify time zones with others. You also will have to constantly check the calendar and other automatic clock settings to be sure you are setting reminders and meetings for the correct time for everyone. This is definitely something that will take some getting used to if you travel often and frequently changing time zones.
The name of the game is flexibility and organization. Depending on what your job is, the type and amount of space you need will vary. Plan on working in the ideal setup, but also prepare to have to change that set up to accommodate different conditions. For example, you may set up shop at the table, but if the kids need it or if you want to move outside, a portable lap desk may be handy to have as well. Having materials organized and packed together will make adjusting the workspace easy.
Self Management and Work + Balance
Even the best remote worker will need to adjust their lifestyle to work as a digital nomad. Working from home and managing your time relies on a predictable set of circumstances. Work + travel takes a completely different level of self-control and management. A couple of tips for making this happen:
- Spend more time at a destination than you would on a vacation. This allows you to get work time in and have time to take in the activities and culture of where you are temporarily living.
- Early mornings and evening work times can be tricky but will free you up for daytime adventures.
- Update clients and team members if you will be unavailable for a stretch and when you will be checking in.
- Update children if you will be unavailable for a stretch and when you will be checking in.
- Prep children
- Investigate cell/wifi/internet connectivity well before you need it.
Here is just a quick list of some of our favorite Nomadic Work items.
Wifi/Hotspot– We love Verizon’s Jetpacks. Also, consider having a hotspot carrier separate from your cell carrier to increase your coverage over multiple providers. There will be some areas where T-Mobile works and Verizon does not, and vice versa.
Sturdy Portable Laptop Desk- This will leave you ready to work in any space!
VPN – Put this on every device you will use to work/connect to public wifi. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) will protect your data from potential hackers on public networks.
Charging Banks– Generally great for traveling but even more so when you need to make sure your devices charged throughout the day for work.
Kids Head Phones– For moments where they have to be close but occupied.
Adult Head Phones- for meetings/calls. A good one will cut down the noise. So, the “hum” of children and the pitter-patter of their feet will be less noticeable to those on the other end (and to you).
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