You ever have one of those moments where you realise you’ve become the kind of person you mock? Here I am, sitting on a beach in Vietnam, wearing a bum bag, writing a blog and referring to myself as a “digital nomad”. Vomit.
I had never heard the term “digital nomad” until very recently, and it sounded like something fantastic but totally unachievable. Basically it’s the idea that all you need to work is your laptop and wifi, and as such you can work from literally anywhere in the world. It makes a lot of sense; most of the time, though companies insist I am present in the office, my work is a solo thing. Of course I need to speak to other people on the team, ask questions and so on, but actually designing something doesn’t require me to be sitting next to the project manager and development team (I may get my head bitten off by some Agile evangelists for saying that, though!).
Back in January then, I was working for a company who needed me in the London office every day. They were an absolutely fantastic company and I’d definitely work for them again, but due to some personal stuff that was going on for me, I just needed to get away from London. From my flat. From England, even. So I decided an extended trip to visit an old friend in Vietnam would do the trick- it’s cheap enough to do that I could live without a month’s income.
So, just as I was getting ready for the trip, I heard from another client. I’ve worked with them before and they’re based in the south of France, so I tend to pop out there for the kick off and then work from home. I told them of my plan to go to Vietnam, and that I could work part time for them there, if they wanted. To my surprise (and happiness) it was fine, and we agreed that I’d come to France on the way to Vietnam and would work roughly 3 days a week.
There have been some issues, of course. The wifi in my Airbnbs has been less than adequate, which has meant hunting for cafes with strong signals in which I can conduct remote usability tests. But on the whole it’s really working out. So much so, that I was supposed to go back home today and instead have flown to the beautiful island of Phu Quoc to work from the beach. If you don’t hate me yet, you should, it’s spectacular.
So I think the thing I want to communicate is that while, yes, it’s a little trickier me being here than being in the office with the team… it really hasn’t made that much difference. It’s Agile that’s made people think we must all co-locate, because of the fast-paced, team working, “get s**t done” methodology it is. And I expect that if everyone on the team was doing this it might be a bit of a nightmare. But if you’ve got someone you trust, and you think is good at their job, but who can’t work in the office- I would say to give the remote working thing a chance. It might just work out really well for everyone.