by ANN BROWN
People always ask me how I continue to work while living in Africa. For the past six years, I’ve lived in Cabo Verde, a group of islands off the coast of Senegal in West Africa. And for that entire time I have worked remotely for American companies. Being a freelance writer has afforded me the flexibility to travel and relate worldwide for most of my career. I’ve worked from NY, LA, Arizona as well as from Ghana and South Africa, among a few other places. As long as I have my laptop and Internet hookup, I’m set to go. But you don’t have to be a freelance writer to work abroad, there are ways to convince your U.S. employer to let you work remotely.
“As technology improves, more and more jobs can be done abroad with hardly any noticeable difference,” explained TripScout founder Konrad Waliszewski, an expert on working from abroad. “While some jobs will always require you to be in-person, if you are mostly relying on your computer and an Internet connection at your office, there’s no reason why you can’t do the same job remotely.”
That’s if you and your employer are willing to bend a little, Waliszewski further explained. “Doing your job remotely will require some flexibility from yourself and your team. If you want to move 12 hours ahead, you will likely have to work during very abnormal hours to ensure you are still available for the team at the office. The biggest barrier to working remotely is communication, both you and the company need to invest in tools and processes that makes it easy for everyone to work together like you were sharing an office.”
But how do you convince your company communication and any other concerns won’t be an issue? “The best argument an individual can make is being really, really great at your job,” Waliszewski said. “For top performers, employers will often choose being flexible on location rather than watching one of their stars walk out the door. Most employees would be surprised by how much leverage they can have in these situations. There are also practical advantages, if you are working remotely from somewhere with a dramatically lower cost-of-living you could potentially renegotiate your pay to make it mutually beneficial. In many positions (such as customer support and software development) having coverage on different time zones allows other people on the team to work more normal schedules.”
Feeling confident enough to start packing your bag? Here are a few more tips on how to get your boss to let you work overseas:
-Make sure you–and your desired new country–are up for the task. “Ensure you will be able to work reliably while abroad. Verify you will have consistent Internet access and a workspace that is conducive to productivity,” Waliszewski suggested.
-Become an indispensable employee to your company: “Obviously your boss is going to be a lot more likely to let you work from home or abroad if you provide a lot of value to the company. If they ‘can’t do without you’, then they’ll be open to accommodating your desires,” reported Discover.Share.Inspire.
-Get all the details ironed out. “Set clear expectations with your company about work hours and availability–3pm in NY is 3am in Bangkok, so unless you plan on being a complete night owl let people know when they can expect a response from you to minimize frustration,” explained Waliszewski.
-Wait for the perfect time to do your pitch. “Depending on your company and those ‘in charge’, the idea of working remotely may be a very foreign one. You’ll want to introduce the notion gently and indirectly, sharing articles on how it saves companies money and improves employee morale. Then when the time is right, perhaps after a job well done or when you’re due for a promotion, confidently make your proposal,” reported Discover.Share.Inspire.
-Illustrate how the company will benefit. “I would approach this from—how would it support the business you’re in? What is the benefit to the business [not to you personally]? Then you’re not making an ‘argument’ for something, trying to convince someone of something—but showing them how it would forward their objectives,” said business coach Kerry Walls, founder of the Coaching Collaborative. “Also, listen to their concerns about it. How might you address those concerns? What can you promise? I’m traveling in Portugal, Spain, Germany, Czech Republic and Austria. I’ve scheduled my clients in my late afternoon hours which will be their morning, I changed my cell phone provider so I get the cheapest fees, and I’m making sure I have the Internet connection I need during the hours I need them. I’m going to find at least one client when I’m traveling so I can tax deduct the trip.”
-Show how you will stay connected. “With today’s technology it’s so easy to connect and work with people, even on opposite sides of the globe. Through email, Voip (voice over i.p. phones), video conferencing, and remote desktops, you can practically work ‘in’ the office, even from another country. Show your boss how easily accessible you’ll be — so much so that she’ll hardly notice you’re not on the same continent,” reported Discover.Share.Inspire. There are lots of options for international calling and “over-the-phone” meetings–MagicJack, Skype, Facetime, Google Hangouts. For video conferences try Zoom. You can share documents with others in your office with Google Docs or Dropbox.
-Organize your finances before you go. This is something I should have done because it took a while to straighten out. If you don’t get your finances together before taking off, you’ll be spending lots of money of wire transfers, so do some research on expat banking and open an account with a bank that offers it along with low international ATM withdrawal fees, such as HSBC. There are a few others as well. This way you can have your company direct deposit your check into your American bank account and have it transferred to your overseas account or simply withdraw money from an ATM. Also, alert all of your credit card companies that you will living overseas and making international transactions. You will most likely need to appoint a trusted family member or friend to forward your mail and take care of any U.S. financial transactions that need to be done.
–Once you’ve moved, get up and running as soon as possible. “Be ‘business as usual’ as quickly as possible. Find your routines, be productive, and treat your work exactly as you would if you were not remote. If your performance remains strong, the company and team will adapt to your new situation just as they adapt to anything else,” said Waliszewski.