Remote working - What they don't tell you

31 May 2019

Sunshine on crystal blue infinity pools. Sunset over a perfect beach. Surfing and yoga pictures. Sometimes there is a laptop in the background...

This is what we see in our mind's eye when we think about working remotely. We think of these views because that is what Instagram keeps feeding us. However, there is a dark underbelly behind all of these beautiful sights. It's called "planning".

Recently my husband and I decided to use my newly won remote working freedom by going to Nature's Valley for a few days. A friend of mine was taking an overseas job for a few months (maybe forever) and it would be an opportunity to say goodbye to her. I changed the tyres, checked the oil, filled the tank and organised roadtrip snacks. I had my laptop, chargers and headphones. I was ready.

But was I?

Disaster struck on our first evening when we arrived at my parents house and they told us that their internet had been down for 3 weeks. Usually this wouldn't be a major problem except for the fact that husband and I have Sprint Mobile phones which block the hotspot functionality on our phones. This was when I learned Lesson 1:

Lesson 1: Pack all the tech

I knew that we didn't have hotspot capability, but somehow it just didn't occur to me to pack a device that would allow us to generate our own hotspot, like a data dongle or another mobile device. We have a phone at home that has hotspot functionality, but it was at home, so that didn't help us. The education was however not complete yet.

Lesson 2: Manage your schedule

We had planned to quickly check in online at Peregrine Farmstall before moving on, but a support call and 2 Skype meetings later, it was 3 hours later and almost lunch time. We were still at Peregrine. 5 hours later we arrived at Nature's Valley, a beautiful piece of heaven and then we learned our last lesson of the trip:

Lesson 3: Check the reception beforehand

Nature's Valley is in a valley and there was no MTN signal at the house where we were staying. We ended up having to live off our friend's Vodacom hotspot for the duration of the stay.

Knowing all of the above, what would I do differently next time?

  1. Think our activities through. Will there be a room that you can use as an office, or will you need to sit in the kitchen with kids running around? If so you might rather want to sit in a coffee shop.
  2. Will there be a coffee shop, or is your place so remote that you'd need to drive, thereby limiting your available online hours? (not necessarily a bad thing if you planned for it)
  3. Ask your host what the internet/wifi situation is like. In South Africa it is also a good idea to check on the network coverage.
  4. Pack a backup phone or internet dongle that is a different service provider than my main data connection.

Bonus lesson:

While we never had this problem it could very easily have become one:

Lesson 4: Pack backup power.

In the car that means having a car charger, while on the beach or hiking it means a power bank.

Now you might think that when on holiday you're on holiday, except that we're not: We are working remotely. That means that we always need to be available during standard working hours.

Yes, we might do most of our work during the early hours of the morning or late afternoon when everyone else is clocking out, but if someone phones me during standard office hours I need to be able to answer the phone and respond.

So next time you see those enviable instagram photo, remember that it's a little like the image of the duck: Looking cool and calm above the water, while kicking like crazy below.


Adri's personal mantra is "get stuff done" and she's got a knack for converting big scary projects with looming deadlines into much more manageable and achievable bite-size chunks.