Remote Working Series: South East Asia to Serbia
Four months, four countries in South East Asia, 12 flights and 3 side trips for adventure, culture and relaxation, and finally I’ve made it back to Europe. This month I find myself in Belgrade, Serbia, continuing my remote working series. Whilst it’s nice to be somewhere that feels more like home, I will miss South East Asia and the amazing experiences I had there from hiking around the most beautiful valleys in Sapa (Vietnam), to exploring the ruins of Angkor Wat, to the last few days in Thailand where I went ziplining through the jungle and got to hand feed Elephants at a rescue and nature park. It’s safe to say my time in South East Asia was packed with activities and fun.
South East Asia was at times a sensory overload, however my time so far in Belgrade has been relaxing and back to normality in some senses. Having been to European cities before I know what to expect in terms of food, accommodation and climate.
Looking back, South East Asia presented some unique challenges when it came to my working pattern and communicating with the team, mainly:
- The time difference
- Communicating effectively using text based communication methods
- Attending team meetings and demos
Lost in Translation
Being back in Europe allows the time difference to be at a minimum. In South East Asia, I was 6-8 hours ahead of Belfast, which at times made communicating with my co-workers awkward. But with effort there are easy ways to make it work, my solution was to start work slightly later than I normally would in the morning. This gave me a better overlap time with the team and a chance to talk with everyone. It also allowed me to be more involved with general duties such as our Stand Up (part of our daily Agile routine) and Code Reviews.
Another area of communication that we were careful with was making sure that particularly in text based communication, we were being clear and concise. To make sure we were on the same page my Team Lead and I discussed how we could communicate effectively, the solution was for us to have a video call at the end of every day to discuss what I’d be working on over the next days, any issues I foresaw or if I had any questions. This gave me a whole new set of communication skills, helping me learn how to articulate myself better, which worked not only for me, but the entire team.
Maintaining my involvement in team meetings and company wide demos is something I knew would be difficult before leaving for Remote Year. But we had discussed how we would work around it and how I would work the time difference into the fortnightly team meetings we have. In South East Asia, I attended at least one team meeting a month, depending on time difference this usually saw me staying in the workspace until around midnight. These days were quite enjoyable because it gave me a large chance to overlap with the team and catch up with any news I had missed in the office. For demos, we had some plans in place to help me demo if need be and in my first month travelling I demoed a feature I completed from Kuala Lumpur. Which I think has been the first remote demo ever for the company!
There aren’t any hard and fast rules when it comes to communicating effectively with your team, it depends on the work style you have and the communication tools on offer. The most important tip I can give is to make sure you continually talk and refine the plans you have in place for communicating whilst working remotely. If something isn’t working right or there is some miscommunication, try and address the issue as soon as possible. The quicker the issue is resolved the more productive and happier both you and your team back home will be.
In July, I shall be flying to Lisbon, Portugal for almost the entire month before coming home for 2 weeks to catch up with the team in Belfast and attend my sister’s wedding in August. I honestly can’t wait to come home and see everyone!