Four weeks — Four learnings. Conclusions after working remotely from Bali

Yann Schaub
November 29, 2017

For the last four weeks I’ve been working remotely from Bali. In this post I’ll highlight my key takeaways from my time here in Canggu.

#1 — Time difference can be tricky

The main thing I struggled with was the time difference. As we wanted to have at least four hours of overlap with our coworkers in the Netherlands, we usually started working at 11:00 and finished around 20:00.

We experimented with starting early and filling our lunch break with activities or doing things before work in order to create a balance. We failed to make this a habit and ended up working late most of the days without having done much else. This leaves you with a feeling that all you did was working — even though you just completed an ordinary 8 hour working day.

This results in evenings being quite short. And in a touristy place like Bali where most of the activities happen during the day, this left me unbalanced.

Evenings here are designed for drinking, which is not something you’d want to make into a routine if your goal is to be productive.

#2 — Four weeks are not enough

The beauty of working in an exotic place like Bali is the accessibility to quick getaways. This is one of the things that really makes me want to stay here for a bit longer: Taking small breaks more often and enjoying what the island has to offer.

I was stuck somewhere in between “I’m only here for 4 weeks so I want to do something with my time” and “Nevermind, I’m here for work in the first place”. I never really felt the pressure to fill up my weekends with activities — in fact I enjoyed casual evenings with friends. But once you realise how easy it is to take a small weekend vacation (like going to the other side of the island for two days of diving) it makes you want to do that more often.

Short diving trip to Permuteran on the weekend

You also simply need time to fully understand a new place. Imagine moving to a new city; it takes months to get the vibe and the character of it. It felt like I was just getting used to being here in Canggu and now it’s already time to leave.

To me, an ideal situation would be to spend around three to four months in one place. Surprisingly, most of the people I met in my first week were still around in the fourth week. So it seems like I’m not the only one with that mindset.

#3 — Going remote is the best way to put your company’s workflow to the test

Working in a team distributed across different time zones means working asynchronously. It means not relying on real time conversations.

Being async forces you to plan ahead. It needs to be very clear what everyone is working on and what tasks there are to pick up. Otherwise you’ll waste time and create unproductive downtime.

If you’re an employer I highly recommend sending several of your employees away for at least one month. This puts your planning, your process and your communication style to the test.

Everyone wants to reduce or even fully eliminate meetings. This is exactly what remote working is about: You can’t rely on in person meetings / calls to figure things out — documentation and a clear & transparent way of communicating is key! Something every business can benefit from.

At Firmhouse, we use Basecamp for that. Unlike Slack, where everything happens in real time and creates a huge fear of missing out, Basecamp allows you to pick up things on your own terms. It’s where we discuss ideas as a team, make decisions and have daily checkins to make work visible to others.

#4 — It’s a great way to start your own business

Disclaimer: This one doesn’t apply to me personally. It’s something I’ve picked up during my time here and want to share with you.

In co-working spaces like Dojo you get a mix of freelancers, entrepreneurs and regular employees. Every once in a while you’ll come across a I-quit-my-well-paying-job-to-work-on-something-I-am-passionate-about-but-dont-know-what-exactly type of person.

Now I’m not advising you to quit your job and go to Bali without a plan. But there are several reasons why you want to consider going remote when working on your next idea:

First and foremost, you’ll create a very tough constraint which will force you to get creative in ways of making money. We all have great ideas on how to make the world a better place — but what we sometimes lack is execution and focus. Especially if we work full time. Some of us need very strict deadlines to make things happen. And if you’re anything like this, I challenge you to set yourself that deadline, go abroad and work very hard on your next thing!

The low cost of living allows you to go several months without making money or only very little. It removes the comfort and safety of your daily job which forces you to work on things that really matter — and, more importantly — make money!

It sounds scary but that’s the whole point of it: It can be very rewarding, but as with most of the rewarding things in life they don’t come from a place of comfort. You have to leave that comfort zone, take a small risk and make it happen.

I met a lot of people here that made it happen or are currently trying to make it happen. My personal advice would be to build up something on the side and when you feel that the time is right and it has the potential to become something sustainable, take some time off and go remote!

And that was it! We’ve reached the end of our little experiment. We hope to have provided you with some insights into our remote life and inspired you to try something similar. If you have any questions just post it as a comment or message me on Twitter.

If you liked reading about our time here in Bali please smash that 👏 button!

See ya later 😎