Work Holiday Lisette SutherlandWhile I do all of my work “remotely”, most of my time is spent working from just a few places: my house, my partner Florian‘s house, or the train. I’ve had time to perfect each space to be productive for my needs. For the last ten days, Florian and I decided we wanted to try working entirely somewhere else. We chose Switzerland because it’s our favorite place to go on vacation.

The experiment was to see what it was like working from an entirely new location – while playing in the mountains as much as possible.

Using AirBnB, we rented an inexpensive room in an artist house. For us, the internet connection is the crucial piece to the puzzle. The experiment would fail if the internet wasn’t good enough. Before booking, we double-checked that the internet was suitable for our needs, and luckily it was. In the future, we came up with the idea to verify the connection with a speed test.

The first day was spent getting everything in order – unpacking, groceries, buying extension cords, and maps for the area we were in. I invested in what I call my “travel monitor”, a super thin, light-weight, easy to carry, external monitor (it fits in a backpack!).

It takes time to get set up in a new space. And it got us thinking about our own individual needs for a work environment. Florian wanted a real desk and a view out of a window. I simply pulled a chair up to the windowsill (though admittedly, the windowsill ended up feeling quite cramped by the end of the week). We quickly realized that we wouldn’t be able to work from the same room (something we strangely hadn’t thought of). Not only would it be bad for our relationship, but both of our normal work days are filled with lots of phone/video calls.

Speaking of… when I mentioned that we were in an artist house, I wasn’t kidding. The walls were all spray painted with gold sqwiggly lines – not the most professional back-drop for my client meetings. Luckily, there was a projection screen in one of the rooms so I propped it behind me for a more professional look (now I just need to work on my clothing). 😉

Work Holiday Offices

Every morning, the church bells went off at 06.00 and 08.00. And not just a couple of chimes – it was a full bell orchestra! Apparently there are no night owls in that town. At least none that live within chiming distance. I ignored the first set of early bells and then got up for the second set at 08.00.

Florian works a regular 9-to-5 schedule, whereas mine is usually 9am to 10pm with a few walks in-between. I’ve never done well in a 9-to-5 environment. It makes me feel suffocated. I prefer to break up the day with exercise (walking, running, or yoga)… giving myself “room to breathe”. I tried to keep my regular routine – coffee and Duolingo, a quick morning walk, work a few hours, a lunchtime walk, work another few hours, an evening walk, and then my remote collaboration session with Gretchen (who lives in California). While I had my usual evening collaboration sessions with Gretchen, Florian went out and explored various Meetup groups.

It felt nice to apply my usual routine to a new location! And while some things did take extra time because we were in a new environment, we both felt as productive in our Swiss offices as we were from our home offices. And since I track all of my time, I even have the numbers to prove it. We also did some epic hikes, ran a half marathon down a mountain valley, climbed a little, and enjoyed the hell out of being in Switzerland.

All in all, it was a successful week. It took careful planning, and we learned a few things about what we needed to be productive, but I would call this work holiday experiment a success.

Here are the highlights of what we learned:

  1. Make sure the internet connection is suitable for work needing to be done.
  2. It takes time to get set up in a new space.
  3. Determine your needs for your best work environment.
  4. It’s good to break out of your usual routine. There’s always something to learn.