By Laura Balboni
There’s a difference between working from home when you’re a few hours from the office or even a couple time zones away, vs. working from home on the other side of the world. As a military spouse with PCS orders overseas, sometimes this is the only option to maintain your career.
Luckily, working from home is easier than ever. Thanks to a digital revolution, remote workers can be physically located just about anywhere in the world and still meet job requirements. In fact, U.S. companies are hiring more remote workers because benefits such as higher productivity from employees and cost savings are great incentives.
Being the lone employee in Italy or Malaysia while all your co-workers are snug together in a San Francisco office has its own set of career challenges, however, and like all remote workers, we need to put in some extra effort to stay connected to our home office, secure an irreplaceable role in the company and make sure we aren’t missing out on opportunities that may be easier accessed by our colleagues working in-office.
Working remotely is like being in a long-distance relationship and often, the more distance, the more unique challenges employees must tackle, especially as a military spouse when your personal life involves constant change and sometimes scrambling. In the past year, I made the move from working in-office, to changing jobs and working remotely when my spouse went active duty, to working from a 13-hour time difference on the opposite side of the globe. These tips and best practices have allowed me to not only preserve my career, but helped me to love and embrace this unique work situation.
To thrive as an overseas-remote employee:
#1: Make Yourself Visible
Of course you can’t make yourself physically visible to your coworkers or boss, but there are things you can do to keep yourself from slipping out of sight and out of mind. Aside from making your work product visible (obviously important),
- Call the office a few times a week to check in or to ask questions that may have otherwise been emailed,
- Ask to Skype or dial-in for team meetings,
- Introduce yourself to any new employees or team members whether you will work directly with them or not,
- Send fun gifts to coworkers from your country or region of the world for holidays, and
- Wherever you can add a voice, picture or personality to your name, do so.
Don’t just be “Bob who works in South Africa;” be someone your coworkers know and view as part of the team.
#2: Be Assertive
This one can be especially difficult if you’re an introvert like me. Depending on the type of work, it’s easier sometimes to put your head down and get things done quietly. But when you are thousands of miles away, this can gradually lower the priority of your work in your employer’s eyes, get you passed over for promotions, allow others to take credit for your work or even hurt your company since you may be withholding valuable ideas, input or efforts.
Don’t assert yourself just to make noise, but stay an active player in your team and participate in meetings, brainstorming sessions and email threads whenever you can offer value.
#3: Adjust Your Hours
If you’re working overseas it’s likely you’re on a pretty different time zone than the rest of the office and, depending on the type of work, that may be a hindrance to your ability to stay involved and connected.
When I moved to East Asia, if I had continued to work 8-5 my new local time, I would have had a totally opposite shift from U.S. business hours and would have been disqualified from some of my pre-existing job duties. So, I opted to start my work day at 5:30 a.m. local time in order to have a few hours of overlap with my clients and coworkers in the U.S. To me, a morning person, this was an ideal schedule—if you start early you’re off early, and I have much more free time now in my day than an eight-to-five-er.
Even if your job duties can be carried out independently of U.S. (or wherever your home office is based) time zones, building in some daily overlap with your co-workers, in order to attend meetings and have some real-time interactions, is critical for staying visible.