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Culture

Hello from the Philippines: Life of a Digital Nomad

Waking up to a team email titled "Hello from the Philippines" isn't unconventional at RebelMouse. That's because we're a fully-remote company where every employee has the opportunity to work anywhere — yes, even your bed if you please. Being a global, results-oriented startup is built into our culture, made possible by evolving technology and a new business mindset.

As self-titled "Digital Nomads" we're not only allowed, but encouraged, to take advantage of working around the globe.

So one of our Rebels, Kris, decided to start adventuring and documented his journey.

Kris has been working remote in the Philippines capital city, Manila.

Working remotely isn't a freelance phenomenon anymore. Sixty-six percent of workers are expected to work remotely in the future and some big tech companies have caught on, too. The focus on employee health is also global — Sweden recently switched to a 6-hour work day in an effort to maintain work-life balance for its citizens.

Remote work allows for so many freedoms: from traffic, gas money, stiff offices, and toxic politics. The idea is that work isn't about how many hours you can endure planted in an office chair, but the quality of work you produce.

Kris is plenty productive as a developer at RebelMouse. He lives in Poland but works closely with other Rebels all over the globe, from Hungary to Texas. Kris left Poland this February and took his office to the capital of the Philippines, Manila.

"It's really awesome to be able to travel this way and try the 'digital nomad' style of living. For me so far, it's been a very good experience. Being open to new cultures is a truly amazing experience."

Kris explored some of the most beautiful destinations surrounding the Philippines.

"I'm mostly in the capital of the Philippines, Manila, but last week I had this amazing opportunity to travel to Boracay — 425km away from the capital."

The ability to travel constantly with a full-time job is one thing. But experiencing different parts of the world + learning about new cultures is an added benefit we can get behind.

"To make it more interesting, me and my friends from a co-working space took a car instead of an airplane. It was a really awesome experience. I was able to see how the people outside of big cities live and how fauna and flora looks like during this trip."

Beautiful beaches of Boracay.

With his flexible schedule, Kris was able to check out the second most active volcano in the Philippines — with 33 historical eruptions.

"I had the opportunity to see Taal volcano when we're going through Tagaytay."

His trip to Boracay took about 15 hours total. Kris traveled in ways he never expected: by ferry, by motorboat, and even on a tricycle.

"I also had an opportunity to try fresh seafood bought at a local market a few steps away from the restaurant. You buy fresh seafood, then bring it to a restaurant and tell them how they should prepare it — cool!"

And more firsts for Kris.

"It was also my first time trying scallops, clams, and kilawin — a local meal made from fresh, raw tuna. It was better than I expected."

When our fellow Rebels travel, we often get to learn things about other cultures as well. Kris let us in on some random facts about the Filipino lifestyle:

  • They only eat meals with forks and spoons (no knives).
  • Red Bull is sold in glass bottles.
  • The most common type of public transport is a Jeepney or tricycle.
  • The most common street food is Balut — duck embryo (a hard pass on this one).
"I was able to experience this only because we're not tied to office walls and we can basically work from anywhere. I highly encourage any adventurer to use this to their advantage, because it might be the opportunity of a lifetime to see new places and experience new cultures!"

We might be biased, but remote life is the good life. Free rein of travel is a ginormous perk that really drives much of the incentive each Rebel carries with them each day to produce quality work — whether working in sweatpants or from the beaches of Boracay.

Culture

Everyone Should Work from Home in 2017

October 2016 marked one year of working from home for me. Before that, my 20s were spent in a have-to-be-there-even-on-Thanksgiving news station and a clock-watching ad agency. Now, people ask me all the time: How do I like working from home, and how do I do it?

I love it, I never want to go back, and it's a lot easier. If you don't feel comfortable working from home at least some of the time, take 2017 to get more used to it.

I know not everyone can do that. I'm lucky to work at RebelMouse, a startup with employees all over the world that thrives on being global. So many more companies are joining us. In fact, 50% of the U.S. workforce in 2016 holds a job that is compatible with at least partial remote flexibility, and 20–25% of the workforce teleworks at some frequency, according to Global Workplace Analytics.

Side note: If you don't work at a place that can do this, you guys are the real MVPs. (Shout-out to doctors, nurses, teachers, waiters...)

This year, I was surprised by how many people I met who said, "Gosh, you work from home! I could never do that." People are worried about isolation and productivity, mostly. But what I learned is that working from home gives you both of those back. Here's why:

Results, Not Regulation

All year long, I've tried to articulate why working from home is actually more productive. Software engineer Yan Lhert summed it up perfectly in this Medium article. The case for results-based work puts an emphasis on success rather than boundaries that can easily let "bad actors" reign.

Here's what Lhert means:

"Bad actors in an organization will figure out what the rules and the process are and follow them to a letter. Then they'll find a way to slack off within these boundaries. Just as a hypothetical example, let's look at working hours. Let's say the company makes a new rule: "you have to be in the office from 9am to 7pm." The bad actor will be at the office from 9am to 7pm. They might be on Facebook half of the day, but you didn't make a rule against that, right? When it comes to performance review time, this bad actor can say "I followed all the rules & process! I was here from 9am to 7pm every day!"

You know you've worked with these bad actors all your life. You may have even been a bad actor once or twice. But nobody is a hero in an office setting. Nobody sits down at their desk and works at 100% productivity, stopping only for a sensible one-hour lunch. When I worked in an office, there were days I spent my most of my time gabbing with coworkers, refreshing Facebook 100 times, and reading Wikipedia stories that could haunt your dreams.

I wasn't a bad actor, but I was held to standards not conducive to productivity. Now I work in a space created all by me, wherever it is, and I can deliver results. It's those results I am measured on, not how many days in a row I can sit in a chair for 8 to 9 hours.

How much of your life is a scene from Office Space, still, in 2017?

What It Means for Your Life Outside of Work

This is perhaps the most important. Employees deserve to work in a place that makes them peaceful, not a place that breeds dread and stress. For many, this means actually working from home — a place where they can pause to switch over to the laundry, take their child to a doctor's appointment, or just catch up on a show for a brain break.

Ben Brooks is the CMO at MartianCraft, an entirely remote company. To him and many of his coworkers, working from home is about being there: "It is about your loved ones — your spouse, kids, pets — being the small daily interruptions, and not Milton complaining about his stapler."

For me, working remotely this year meant I could be a halfway, wannabe digital nomad. I kept my home base in Austin, but was free to travel and work wherever I wanted. I found myself reaching levels of productivity from everywhere to a hotel lobby in Silicon Valley to a cafe in Lucerne, Switzerland.

Believe it or not, after this cheers on top of the Swiss Alps, I went to work! And I was productive.

Experiencing freedom is life changing, no matter what your perfect workplace looks like. Aside from the opportunities to travel, which I treasure and pinch myself over that it's even possible at times, perhaps I am more grateful for the freedom to be myself. Just a few things I've been liberated from over the past year:

I've been free of workplace politics, from failed workout routines and unhealthy lunches, from exhaustion, from daily work outfits, from makeup, and from perfect hair. Free from feeling like I need to be a hero by sitting at a desk with a cold, from trying to compartmentalize problems to put on a brave face for the day, from stressing out about what my boss thinks I am doing, and free from pettiness. I work at my best, I relax at my best, and, in turn, I am a better person to the people around me.

That's why working from home for me is about health, not just convenience. Productivity and employee retention is just an added bonus.

You Should Be OK with It Too

What does your own office look like for you? If it makes you feel uncomfortable, think about why. If it's because you're a social person, maybe figure out a way to be social and work from home. I promise you, the freedom is worth it.

Employees who aren't self employed that work from home has inflated 103% since 2005, and it's only going to grow. It will soon not just be for tech, or niche communities, but rather a skill for your resume.

Might as well start now.

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