Road Warrior’s Utility Belt
A benefit of Lantana’s virtual structure is the ability to work almost anywhere. Most days, this means working from our home offices (boring!). Occasionally, we truly work from anywhere, setting up a temporary office in a different city or even country. Some of us have worked from cities in India, Indonesia, Dominican Republic, and Europe—how’s that for remote!
We put together a list of items and activities from our many expeditions, affectionately titled the Road Warrior’s Utility Belt, to kick telecommuting up a notch.
We begin with a few essentials. I recommend you find, pack, and/or address these items before leaving the country.
This is a no-brainer. In fact, don’t even attempt a remote working solution (or bother reading further) if there is no stable internet connection at your destination. Contact the facility/house/hotel you will stay at to confirm before arrival. Let me emphasize that the internet must be broadband. There’s plenty of places on Earth still stuck with dial-up or slow DSL. The best option is to trust no one and test your solution before committing.
Power Plug Converter
Almost every continent has its own charging plugs and voltages. Most modern laptop chargers are built to handle different voltages without a transformer. Double check to avoid accidentally frying your laptop. While you’re doing this, check your other electronic devices for voltage requirements. Most USB powered devices, like phone chargers, are easy to address—just swap the USB plug for a plug that works locally. These plugs are relatively easy to find, now that USB chargers are near ubiquitous.
Power plugs for other devices remain an issue. A universal power adapter will make life simple. Some even come with voltage transformers built-in. You will need at least one for your laptop, and most likely two+ for your phone and other devices. I recommend the Universal Power Adapter from Brookstone.
- Skype – Most of my traveling worries revolve around a stable phone line with connection to the US. While getting a local cell phone is the most reliable solution, the cost is prohibitive for daily conference calls to the US. Allow Skype to come to the rescue. Skype offers cheap, unlimited calling plans to US mobiles and landlines ($2.99), North America ($6.99) and World ($13.99). This is unbeatable in terms of quality and cost. The only drawback is that Skype calling only works through the Skype app on a smartphone or laptop. There’s no way to use it with a regular phone and it requires headphones/headset. You can pay a bit more and get a “Skype Number”. You can choose the area code; and any calls on this line will ‘ring’ the Skype app on your phone or laptop . If you forward your home office line to this Skype number, your colleagues won’t need to remember a new number. When you’re offline on Skype, the Skype number provides voicemail service as well. Since this is a VOIP solution, it all goes back to good, fast internet.
- Vonage or Magic Jack – If using a regular phone unit is important to you, then these solutions are more appropriate. Vonage and Magic Jack support unlimited calls to US landlines or mobile phones. Cost vary but they provide a phone number that people can use to reach you. Both options are also VOIP solutions, which require an internet connection, and ship with a hardware unit that plugs in to a regular phone jack. You need to plug the other end to an Ethernet port (Vonage) or a laptop USB port (Magic Jack). You’ll either need a router or to keep your laptop running all day. They also take a bit longer to set up because the hardware unit needs to be shipped. Unless using a regular phone is of utmost importance, my recommendation is Skype.
Mouse/Keyboard – You will want this for a longer remote stay, because a laptop touchpad and keyboard aren’t comfortable for long sessions.
Good Quality Headset – There are two types of people: those who sound like they live in a tin can (drawing the ire of co-workers and managers) and those who use a quality headset, like the Sennheiser DW Pro 2. It’s really important to isolate the mic from the headset speaker, so a Bose noise cancelling headset can work well, too.
Extras, Backups, and Life Savers
While the basics listed above should get you through any remote working arrangement, I recommend packing a few extras for a longer absence. You never know when you will need them; and they’ve often saved my behind when the Internet stops working inexplicably or the power goes out (yes, that’s a thing in ‘developing’ countries).
- Wireless Router (with Battery) – The battery backup will come in handy during a power cut. Laptop battery + wifi router battery = uninterrupted conference calls. Check out the Tripmate Wireless Router.
- Extra Monitor and Display Adapters – A portable monitor that works through USB is a real productivity multiplier—unless your productivity is zero, in which case… Useful when you need to present/screen share. Carrying display adapters allows you to use other monitors (e.g., TVs in a hotel room) as your second screen in a pinch.
- Portable Battery Packs/Backups – If your laptop or phone battery isn’t great, an extra battery or battery pack might be a necessity. Other options include solar chargers for your devices, if available.
- Local Cell Phone with Data plan – In case of an emergency, a phone hotspot can serve as a decent internet connection; and the phone provides a true emergency contact number. Our travel experts recommend looking for one at the airport when you land for the best, most reliable options. You will need an ‘unlocked’ phone if you want to swap SIM cards when you land overseas. You can get cheap unlocked phones on Amazon or you can request your carrier provide you with a code to unlock your phone for international use (they will charge you if you don’t own the phone outright).
- Mobile Hotspot Device (GLocalMe) – A mobile hotspot device is a great idea for a backup. GLocalMe is an international mobile hotspot that works in 100+ countries and offers pay-as-you-go plans. This could be a real life-saver.
Before You Go
Here are some final considerations for Road Warriors before heading out.
- Revisit Office Hours – Chances are that your remote location is not in your normal time zone. Adjust your working hours so you overlap with EST for at least four hours.
- Reschedule Meetings – You will need to move certain meetings based on your new time zone and work hours.
- Communicate Updated Schedule – Duh!
And don’t forget to write!