About 1 month has passed since I started my adventure of remote work in Mexico. Before it started I wrote down some basic thoughts about remote work, which served as a form of preparation. They also were applicable and helped me to mentally to prepare for what was coming. But now it’s time for an interim conclusion with my top learnings and challenges!
A huge advantage of working remotely is that you can organize your day pretty much independently. As a remote worker you obviously also have fixed weekly appointments, meetings and jour fixes. But depending on if and how the time difference is, you have many other possibilities.
For example, I often took a break after the first 3-4 hours and had lunch, just as I would have done in the office. But I also frequently went to the gym, as the time difference between Mexico City and Cologne, Germany is 7 hours and I was therefore able to do the rest of my working time in the afternoon. I couldn’t have done that so easily on a normal working day. But my colleagues were not in the office at that time anyway and I could divide my time differently. As long as I have my to-dos under control and don’t miss any deadlines, my form of self-organization continues to suit everyone involved as of now.
As a remote worker you need patience or you have to develop it. The latter was the case for me – both in terms of my daily work and my new home in Mexico City. Because if the internet is down for a short time or even for a longer period of time, you can only wait patiently until the error is fixed. This can happen just as well when working remotely in Mexico as anywhere else. However, according to data from the electricity supplier CFE (Comisión Federal de Electricidad), there were comparatively frequent power failures in Mexico due to vandalism in 2019, especially in poorer states such as Sinaloa or Tamaulipas – a total of 61,000 between January and May 2019.
I did indeed have a problem with my internet connection for two consecutive days – but this problem was related to an unstable power connection. Because the power failed on these days various times for a second or less, so that of course the router in the house was automatically restarted and the internet did not work during that time. You can imagine how much patience it takes not to get upset about such unpredictable internet failures 😉
The day before, luckily a Sunday, the electricity even failed completely. Someone came on Monday to repair it, but the short outages on the two following days showed that the error had not yet been completely fixed. More patience was needed here – from my colleagues as well as from myself and of course the other residents of the house. After all, I got kicked out of video conferences several times and my colleagues waited patiently until I was back – thank you very much for that!
Another challenge of a daily remote work life: Possible room reservations for your video calls with your team are of course less defendable when working remotely. So if a meeting takes longer or a spontaneous ad hoc (customer) meeting is called, there is little you can do to defend the room. Then you have to jump on the phone with your colleagues while they are sitting at their desks, which can be annoying to the other colleagues in the office.
Moreover, some feedback also takes longer than you think. Apart from chat messages, (video) calls or emails, there is not much you can do to get answers or feedback on a document. There’s no possibility to “go over there quickly” at all, so even simple tasks and requests can take longer than usual. So patience is essential for your mental health and success when working remotely.
Therefore you need to…
Communicate with your colleagues on a regular basis.
You need to communicate to get all the relevant information. I had already suspected this in the context of my planning, but in the day to day remote work it became clear how fundamental the change in the flow and exchange of information really was…
Normally you might find yourself in the kitchen or in the hallway picking up new information that is important for your work or the company as a whole. You have to get this information proactively when working remotely. In my regular video calls I had the opportunity to exchange information with my team and to get such information. With most of my close colleagues I used to exchange information once a week via Zoom. The video element should not be underestimated here. Because we are empathic beings who communicate a lot through gestures and eye contact.
It is also important to react to messages and e-mails as promptly as possible, even if your are not always able to take care of the issues directly. This prevents misunderstandings! While not every request can be done immediately, a short answer shows your colleagues that you saw the info – and didn’t watch Netflix, for example. I have made this experience and would like to recommend you to always quickly reply to e-mails or messages when working remotely!
Self-motivation is necessary
If you are having a bad day or are not feeling fit, your colleagues can help you. This also applies to remote colleagues or your colleagues on site in the office. But at the end of the day your self-motivation is crucial for your success and your own perception of your work. Because you own the day and the day does not own you 😉
It helps to set daily goals and to achieve them. Because completed (sub-)tasks motivate and show you your progress in projects. What your colleagues might be doing in the office in an analog way, you can do with completed todo lists, finished Jira tickets or other forms of documentation of work progress.
Remote Work = highly focused work
I have seldom worked on tasks as focused as in home office or as a remote worker. Why? You have very little distraction. Of course your environment has to be right for that to work. Your partner should respect your working hours even if they may be in his or her free time. Only then can you get into a kind of highly focused tunnel where you can do your work well, efficiently and motivated.
If you work in a busy co-working space, you might as well work in a permanent office! Unless, of course, you need this fuzzy atmosphere for your productivity 😉 But if you prefer a small office or an office corner at home, you can work undisturbed during your working hours. Create a good working atmosphere so that you feel comfortable and you will be more productive than ever.
Remote work in Mexico: my interim conclusion
Even if there have been odd challenges or even some lonely moments, I enjoy my remote work in Mexico to the fullest. I would recommend anyone who can basically imagine working remotely to take this step in their working life at least once. Whether from home or from a distant country doesn’t matter in my opinion. But the flexibility, productivity and compatibility between work and private life is just great when working remotely. I’m very happy that thanks to my Remote Work packing list I also have all the necessary gadgets, plugs, cables and much more with me. So I don’t have to do without my usual things when working remotely in Mexico and can be completely productive.