12 things to consider when working remotely from abroad

Viesturs Abelis 9.04.2024
drawing of woman working remotely from abroad

For many people, working remotely from abroad sounds like a dream. Some fantasize about working remotely for a foreign company without having to relocate. Others wish they could leave their country for extended travel while maintaining their position in their current company. 

In either case, nowadays, both options are becoming increasingly accessible thanks to the growing prevalence of remote work. 

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But fantasy is one thing – actually living the remote worker life is a different story entirely. It can be a real challenge if you’re not prepared. There are best practices for how to live abroad and work remotely. 

So, let’s take a look at 12 things you should consider when working remotely from abroad, with specific tips for both short- and long-term stays. 

Man wondering can i work remotely from another country

4 things that should always be top of mind

The first four tips are foundational to remote work – it doesn’t matter whether you’re working on the other side of the world or from the coffee shop next to your office. If you’re part of a remote work environment, always consider:

1. Connectivity/infrastructure

People like to say that all you need for work nowadays is a laptop. But just as important is an internet connection, and a good one at that – video calls are both demanding on the bandwidth and inevitable in a remote environment. 

Since work depends on connectivity, it’s also wise to think of backups in case you encounter connectivity issues. For instance, can you use mobile data to create a hotspot? Where is the nearest coffee shop/library you can move to if your internet disappears? 

2. Time zones

Time zones are an obvious consideration, but those that haven’t yet worked remotely might underestimate just how big of an impact they have, especially when collaborating across continents. 

Communication slows down, meetings have to be squeezed into tight timeframes, and the general rhythm of work can be thrown off significantly. Even a couple of hours of time difference can complicate matters and you’ll have to be ready to adapt to wherever the majority is located.

3. Are you prepared for the nature of remote work?

Many remote workers cite isolation as one of their biggest struggles with their work. This can become particularly pronounced when a majority of the team works in-person, as company culture inevitably gets focused around office life. In his book on remote work, Jason Fried, CEO of Basecamp, says that in such scenarios, it’s not uncommon for the remote work experiment to fail, as companies don’t bother to invest in and integrate remote workers, viewing them as peripheral additions to the team. 

Some people might not mind – even thrive in – this kind of environment. But for others, this may be a dealbreaker. 

4. Legalities of remote work – are you allowed to work remotely from another country?

This point is particularly pertinent to those working remotely from overseas for longer periods of time, but can be important for short-term stints, too. Think of things like employment contracts and classification, benefits, worker protections, tax implications, pay currency, and more. While most of the responsibility to get the legalities in order falls on the shoulders of the company, employees should nonetheless be informed about the situation to avoid legal troubles or being taken advantage of by their employer. 

man happily working remotely for a foreign company

4 tips for temporary remote work

Now that companies are more lenient with in-office attendance, many workers have the opportunity to work from anywhere, at least for a short period. No wonder things like workations (combining work & vacationing) are spiking in popularity. Or zipping away to a warmer country for the winter months. Or visiting family abroad. 

But even if you’re going away for a short period – be it a few days to a few months – you should prepare accordingly. 

5. Destination

The realization that you can work from anywhere in the world can be a little overwhelming with all the choices and options. But, let’s be real, “anywhere” should be taken with a grain of salt. 

When going abroad, you should give careful consideration to your destination and, in some cases, it might be wise to run it by your manager. Why? Because of several reasons, including ones we’ve discussed above. e.g. you may need to ensure you have some overlapping work hours with your colleagues, so going literally to the other side of the world might not be an option. Connectivity is also important. 

But there are personal considerations, too – how will you spend your free time? Do you need to book activities in advance? What are you looking to get out of your adventure? What’s the cost of living?

If you’re considering a European destination, check out our article on the best places for remote work in Europe

6. Location

Where will you work? Will your place have good enough wi-fi and a suitable setting? What if it doesn’t? 

If you’re a European, you might think – I’ll just pop over to the local coffee shop and work from there, but, for example, Australia doesn’t have a coffee shop working culture and you may be hard pressed to find an accommodating cafe with good wi-fi. 

Perhaps you’re planning to book a spot in a co-working space. Again, while this is common practice in some locations, it may be a tall task in others. For instance, in Canada workers prefer to make use of libraries as they offer all the necessary amenities – work stations, wifi, printers, and more. 

7. Work-life balance

Let’s be real – nobody’s nipping abroad to work remotely just for the sake of working from another country. The goal is to experience what your destination has to offer, while ALSO staying on top of work. 

Unfortunately, many people struggle with work-life balance in a standard setting and going abroad won’t magically solve things if you already have issues with overworking. That’s why you need to put in a conscious effort in giving yourself the time and space to enjoy your destination. 

Our top tip – try to make the most of any flexibility you have. For example, if you can work during the evenings, then use the daytime to travel around. If you’ve worked more one day, take a shorter one the next. 

8. Family situation and distractions

You need to account for your traveling companions, if any. If you’re traveling with little children, you might not have a kindergarten to drop them off to and will need to watch over them during the day. This WILL impact your productivity, especially when on a longer trip. Think it over – is there anyone you could take along to watch over the little ones? Or perhaps you’d be interested in hiring a local babysitter? In either case, it’s something to plan in advance.   

woman considering working remotely from overseas

4 tips for working remotely from abroad permanently

Today, there are more remote work positions than ever before. Large legacy companies increasingly seek talent abroad, whereas many new companies and startups choose to be fully remote with distributed teams from day one. 

For better or worse, it’s possible to build a career without ever leaving your neighborhood. But if it’s your first foray into this mode of working, take these tips to heart to get the most out of it. 

9. Communication style

When joining a remote company, especially if it’s your first time, one of the first things you should do is try to get a grasp on their communication style. That includes discovering what are their preferred ways of getting information across – chats, emails, meetings, Loom recordings, or anything else. You should also pay attention to the format, i.e. is it synchronous, asynchronous, quick-fire, and/or long-form. Keep an eye out for the terminology they use and, at first, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification. 

By understanding company lingo and ways of communicating, you’ll find it much easier to fit into the existing team. 

10. Tech stack

The previous point was about shared language. This one is about shared tools. Chances are you’ll be looped in about the software used in the day-to-day during your onboarding. In case that doesn’t happen, make sure to ask what tools and software are used in the company and adapt to the same technologies. 

Otherwise, it can quickly devolve into a mess of document conversions, downloading endless programs, and disagreements about which tool is best. 

11. Remote work best practices – have a dedicated environment & more

If you’re working remotely from abroad long-term, then investing in your workspace is a must, be it renting a spot in a coworking space or putting together a cozy little home office dedicated to work. You should also follow other common best practices, such as establishing clear work-life balance boundaries, sticking to a schedule, taking breaks, tracking productivity, and more.

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Check out our complete guide to remote work for additional insights. 

12. Retrospect – understand if remote work suits you

The fact of the matter is that remote work isn’t for everyone. While one might forever thrive in their little home office, another may grow isolated and frustrated, even if they liked WFH at first.

The social element of in-office work is undeniably more pronounced and, for some, it’s a key component for feeling engaged at work. So, if working remotely from abroad isn’t for you, then it just isn’t for you – either try to find a solution with your employer or look for a better suited job opportunity. 

Remote work – it’s what you make of it

In the online discourse, remote work is a divisive topic. But in reality, people are just trying to find ways of working that suit them and their lifestyles best – and most people understand that. 

Yes, remote work CAN be terrible for you both professionally and personally. But only if you don’t put in the effort. If you do, you might grow to love it even if you were skeptical at first.

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