Six Continents, Six Inspiring Stories: Remote Work in Different Corners of the World

The concept of remote working has gained considerable attention over the last couple of months. Thousands of companies from around the globe are suddenly compelled to experiment with new organisational structures to continue operating. However, even before the coronavirus pandemic, the remote job sector was already experiencing a massive surge. The appeal of flex hours and working from home or while travelling has seen the sector grow by 159% between 2005 and 2017.

Even during Contentor’s conception 12 years ago, we were already working on the idea of creating a remote platform to unite the talent and skillset of people from all over the world. Today, our ethos remains more relevant than ever. Our 400-plus strong remote force works harmoniously and effectively in a progressive work environment which promotes a culture of inclusivity.

We’ve decided to share the stories of six of our writers who presently live and work remotely on six different continents. We believe that their stories can inspire individuals and companies working hard to implement new remote working setups for their workforce to meet the COVID-19 challenge. It might even help them to look at their current undertaking as an opportunity for development instead of an obstacle.

Ingrid, Australia

An ordinary workday for me starts with a phone call to my eldest daughter who is currently living in Sweden, followed by my morning routines which include shower, breakfast, getting dressed and walking the dog – not necessarily in that order.

Since I work from home, I could potentially lounge around in pjs or sweatpants all day without anyone noticing. However, not only am I vain, I also find that I am more productive and efficient when I’m properly dressed and have brushed my hair. At around 10am, I go into my office and scroll through my Yammer messages, respond where needed, add deadlines to my diary, and accept assignments on our internal software.

The view from Ingrid’s home office

As I live in Melbourne, Australia, my time zone is UTC/GMT +11 hours, which is 10 hours ahead of our Sweden head office. This means my workday is generally pretty quiet and I can focus on getting through the assignments.

I take little breaks throughout the day for starting a load of laundry, prompting my 18-year old daughter to get out of bed, ironing, vacuuming, dusting, chatting to friends on the phone… Next level multi-tasking in other words.

In the late afternoon, Sweden wakes up and there’s usually a lot of activity on Yammer with new assignments, people responding to questions I’ve asked and so on. I have frequent contact with several of my colleagues, both via Yammer, telephone, FaceTime, Instagram and WhatsApp. As such, despite working remotely and being part of an online community, I’ve developed a number of lovely relationships through Contentor.

At around 10 pm, I call it a day and stop responding to messages. Or I try to. Sometimes I still respond. Well, most of the time I respond. Nah, who am I kidding here? As long as I am awake, I keep responding.

Naume, Zimbabwe

A couple of years ago, I was struggling to get a decent job during an economic downturn characterised by a high unemployment rate, fierce competition in a tight labour market and hyperinflation. Speaking of inflation, I became a literal trillionaire at one point. And yes, that really did happen!

Back when Naume was a trillionaire!

I did have three things though: internet access, a love for words, and a knack for research. So, I decided to venture into the world of remote work where I wouldn’t be limited by geographical barriers.

One of the beauties of working from Zimbabwe is that timewise, I’m ahead of my colleagues in America and parts of Europe. This gives me a head start and greater flexibility to take on more work with tighter deadlines. However, my location also means I sometimes have to work late evenings to meet deadlines, although working in advance helps limit how often I had to do this.

My typical workday starts with an early morning workout to get my energy levels in the right place. After that it’s work, a quick nap around midday to reboot, then more work until my day is done. I limit checking my mail and notifications to three times during work hours (unless I’m specifically keeping an eye out for something) so as not to mess with my productivity.

It may seem obvious, but working remotely gives me a lot of flexibility and, to a large extent, independence to set my own rules. I love that I can work wherever, whenever I want with virtually unlimited growth potential. Being a remote freelancer has also added deeper meaning to my life – I’m now using my experience to show my fellow countrymen how they too, can improve their lives with remote work the way I did.

Scott, United States

I am very new to working from home and what’s striking to me thus far is how stressful yet empowering it is! It could be the culture shock of moving from Stockholm, Sweden to my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. Or maybe it’s the sudden freedom that feels like it needs to be filled with work. Or perhaps, it’s the influx of messages and notifications from multiple employers on multiple communication channels in multiple time zones; who’s on WhatsApp, Zoom or Yammer? And why did I think two separate email addresses for work and not-work was a good idea?

However, it’s only been three weeks for me, and I am sure I’ll get the hang of it. It helps to have a dog to walk, and a porch to sit and work on when the sun comes out. I love the little voice-over recording booth I built in the closet. I like being able to choose to work when it’s a quiet, rainy Saturday or not to work when it’s a sunny, warm Wednesday. The trick is to be disciplined with my time and limits. It would be easy to think I could work 18 hours a day, and take off four days a week – but it’s not so simple. But I’ve discovered that if I make a schedule and stick to it, I can get the most out of both my working hours and my free time – regardless of when those times are.

Scott’s makeshift studio

But maybe most of all, in this time of lock-downs, quarantines and social-distancing, I am so thankful that I have the opportunity to reach out to different employers all over the world and offer whatever time and effort I have to give.  And to know that I can take care of myself and my family (and dog) from the comfort of my own home. And that’s what’s empowering.

Linnea, India

I’m Linnea, originally from Sweden, but I’m pretty much a nomad these days. Freedom is my number one value and I thrive when I can decide my own working hours; at times, it’s 9 to 5, while at other times, it’s long, intense days followed by short vacations. Remote work gives me the privilege to live my life the way I want!

In January, I left my apartment in Paris to live out of my suitcase in the tropics. Since sunshine is my lifeblood, I ended up in Goa, India – also known as the sunshine state.

While working from the beach might sound a little clichéd, I was literally working from a beach bar there where views of concrete buildings were replaced by the vast, emerald ocean, office lights by endless sunshine, and air conditioner by sea breeze! Wi-Fi admittedly wasn’t the fastest, but it works for writing – and SIM cards with unlimited data are (almost) as cheap as street food.

The view from Linnea’s mobile office on a beach in Goa

Just before the country went into lockdown, I went to Bangalore, the Silicon Valley of India, for a weekend. My plan was to go back to Goa afterwards but all transports were cancelled. I’m lucky enough to stay at a cosy, almost empty hostel with Western standards. I’m currently staying here with a few travellers and freelancers from India and around the world since no one is allowed to leave at the moment.

Thanks to the freedom of being a freelancer, this unexpected event didn’t have an impact on my work life. I start my days with meditation and yoga, then work, before wrapping up the day by leading a yoga class for the other guests and browsing my social media channels. We also cook during the evening – I already know the difference between Punjabi and Bengali dishes!

Being a freelancer allows me to work wherever I want and whenever I want. The freedom of movement might be temporarily paused, but thanks to freelancing, I will always have the freedom to plan my days – forever!

Michele, Sweden

After two careers in the UK, in the Royal Air Force and at a large American company, I took the opportunity to go to university and study landscape management. Not long after, I was doing CAD drawings for a tree surgeon online, and hence started my remote working career!

I soon appreciated the benefits of not having to rush out the door in the morning! However, it took me a little while to realise that it’s important to stop occasionally and do something different. So, a number of times in the day, I go and do some household chores. Even just a few minutes at a time helps the brain to reset – and also frees up the evening!

I also ensure I get out and exercise at some point. In the UK, I used to go out for a walk or run, but now I am very fortunate to live in a village in the most northerly part of Sweden, just a five-minute walk from the Ice Hotel. It’s so beautiful, and in the winter, I am able to ski right out of my front door, across the field, onto the river.

Clearing snow from the yard may seem like a chore to some – not to Michele, though!

So, when my brain feels overloaded, I get my exercise and fresh air and come back ready for work. Or sometimes I just end up shovelling snow – but it kind of has the same effect! In the summer, it’s walking, running or cycling in the forest, and the snow shovelling replaced by cutting the grass (not so keen on that, but it still does the job somehow).

I also sometimes visit the weaving cottage in the village, where I am learning the wonderful craft of weaving. It’s another way to reset the brain by just focusing on something different, or a having chat with the other weavers (and a chance to practice my Swedish as well).

I guess from me, the message is – do some things that take your mind off your work – you’ll be amazed at the difference it can make. That’s the beauty of remote working!

Matilda, Ecuador

Sweat is breaking out on my forehead as I gaze towards my window; it’s another sunny day. I hit the snooze button for another half an hour of sleep before I get up for coffee. As I open the balcony doors, the humidity and heat hit me like a wall. Birds are chirping and from a far distance, I can hear the waves roaring towards the shore. I sat down on my couch, and as I enjoy my coffee, I thought how lucky I am. Welcome to South America!

This is my fourth time in Ecuador. The first time was in 2004 as a curious and excited twelve-year-old. Now I’m back again, my second time living more permanently here. There’s just something about this teeny, tiny country on the equator. Maybe, it’s the energy that flows here at the centre of the world. I’m not sure. I typically work the same way as when I lived in Sweden. Only some things have changed – a warmer climate, lunch breaks at the beach, more reggaeton (a bit more than I can handle) and the friendliest people on earth.

Matilda soaking in the last rays of the evening sun

I’ve been working as a freelance writer since 2014 while living in Chile. Since then, I’ve lived in Japan, Ecuador, Costa Rica, and Spain. I remember quitting my old job at a military base on the Swedish west coast. It was very challenging to work around so many people and to always plan my life around my work hours. When I finally decided to just quit my job, I didn’t really have a plan. I cancelled all my subscriptions, sold basically all of my things and said good bye to my friends. One day, I was suddenly standing at the airport with two massive bags and a heart full of excitement.

My ordinary work life in Ecuador offers so much freedom. Since I am surrounded by beautiful, lush nature, it’s just so easy to take a short break from work. Sometimes, I go to the beach and practice surfing. At other times, I walk to a nearby smoothie bar and order a “batida con frutilla y maracuya” (smoothie with strawberries and passionfruit). Then I’m reloaded with energy and feel more creative to continue my workday.

After six years of living abroad, I’ve discovered so much. I learn something new every day just by leaving my house, whether it’s talking Spanish with the local fruit seller or practising salsa. To be my own boss and make my own schedule grants so much freedom and tranquillity to my life. I wouldn’t change it for anything.

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