1. Hey, can you please introduce yourself?
I’m Laura — I’m into travelling and design. Growing up, I wanted to study literature and become a teacher. At the last minute, I went with International Relations because I thought it would give me a better shot at leaving my native Portugal.
Since then, I have worked with non-profits between Germany and Brazil, content management and translation in Portugal, product design in India, and community management and travel operations across the world. I’ve joined InVision in November 2018 as a Customer Advocate.
2. What motivated you to choose remote working?
When I moved to India in 2015, I was very excited about all the travel opportunities across Asia 😀. But other than the occasional travels within the country (which were amazing in their own right), I was so focused on work that I ended up not having many opportunities to travel.
After a while, I started looking out of the windows of my office building, longing about faraway lands. It dawned on me that there were not so many reasons that I should always be at an office in order to get things done.
That’s when I started considering remote work: I decided that being physically at an office is not the same as productivity, and when I decided that I didn’t have to sacrifice my career in order to see more of the world. Shortly after that, I joined Remote Year as a Program Leader, where I led a group of digital nomads on a year-long round-the-world trip.
3. What were your initial months like? Did it live up to your expectations?
As you can imagine with a company with the word “remote” in the name, my first few months were, rather unsurprisingly, pretty fun and smooth 🎉.
Because Remote Year’s team is fully distributed, all conversations take place over Slack and Zoom, and everything is pretty systematically documented. Everyone managed to stay connected and form genuine connections, even from a distance. It was thrilling to finally be able to work during my most productive times rather than in a predefined “9 to 5” schedule.
4. How did you find remote working roles?
I’m focusing on companies here (and not freelancing or entrepreneurship) because that’s where most of my experience with remote work is. I came across Remote Year through my network. For my current role, I applied to InVision because it had long been on my radar: I’d used the product for years, and I knew it was one of those magical fully remote teams.
There are a number of listing websites dedicated to only remote roles — WeWorkRemotely, Remote OK, Go Remote, etc. Those are quite helpful, especially to have a sense of what is available out there. However, I find that many of these websites focus a lot on engineering roles, which can be discouraging for some people.
For anyone looking for a remote role and unsure where to start: make two lists. The first list, with companies that inspire you (because they make something you use and love, or because they’re funny on Twitter – whatever draws you to them). The second, with companies that hire remotely. The intersection of that Venn diagram is where you start looking.
5. What have been the best, good and worst aspects of remote working for you?
Working from a tropical beach island is all fun and games until you realise there is sand everywhere and the only place with good WiFi is closed today because the power went out.
Jokes aside — without a strong support network, not having that default social life from the office can make it quite lonely, especially in a new place where you don’t know anyone.
Other than that, I’m infinitely drawn to the fluidity it gives my day. I can easily cook a meal in the comfort of my home at lunchtime, and I’m known to leverage my breaks to take care of the laundry. If it’s freezing outside, I can stay at home; if it’s sunny, I can go to my favourite outdoor café. I make a point to have a “get ready to work” routine every morning, but my office attire are what I lovingly call day pyjamas 😎.
My parents are big fans of remote work too: because I don’t have to take time off to visit them in Portugal, I end up spending a number of weeks working from their place every year.
But more importantly (and unexpectedly), remote work also did wonders for my mental health. Living with depression and anxiety, there are times when getting out of the house is pretty daunting. If going through a rough period, this leaves me with two alternatives: begrudgingly drag myself to work, or take sick leave. Now, I’m not advocating to never taking sick leave or ignoring a mental health issue for the sake of productivity. But remote work has empowered me to focus on work while staying in a more comfortable environment.
6. What tools do you swear by while working remotely?
The usual suspects: Slack for team collaboration, Zoom for video calling, the Google suite for productivity. Spotify is almost always in the background.
To figure out timezones, I use Miranda on iOS and Figure it Out on the browser.
The FIO extension in beautiful SOHO coworking, in Sofia (Bulgaria)
7. Your most exciting/ hilarious experience since you started working remotely.
I always love to get a glimpse of my colleagues’ lives — what they are celebrating, where they went for a weekend getaway, the occasional cat walking over the keyboard during a video call. It reminds me that we’re all connected and we have a common purpose, regardless of where we are!
8. What is your golden advice to a new remote worker?
Fully embrace the lifestyle 🤗! Working remotely gives you the flexibility to travel to faraway places, hang out with your kids, or do your laundry in the middle of the day, without sacrificing your productivity. Don’t feel guilty for doing those things — as long as you’re staying balanced and not working too much or too little.
9. How do you see your career shaping up and your goals?
I don’t have a very rigid plan; some of the great opportunities I’ve had in the past few years have been very much outside the path I was planning for. The goal is to keep pursuing what moves me (travelling, design, sustainability, languages), and to keep learning and growing.
People sometimes ask me if I would be able to work from an office again. I don’t have a flat rule against offices, and I would go back to one if that made sense. But even in that case, I’ll advocate for a greater deal of flexibility to make my own hours and to work remotely.
10. How do you expect remote working to evolve in the future?
Companies are realising that remote working makes sense. Less need for expensive office space. Less time spent commuting. A greater work-life fluidity leading to happier employees.
I don’t think remote working will ever completely replace everything else. Not everyone is meant to work remotely, but everyone should have that opportunity if they so desire.
Even for companies that aren’t fully distributed, I can definitely see them opening more opportunities to work from home a few days of the week or to work from other cities or countries for a few weeks or months.
But what really excites me about remote work is that it levels the playing field. Growing up in rural Portugal, it was always accepted that one day I would leave to a larger city (or another country) in order to study and work. I’m excited to live in a world where you don’t have to move to New York or the Bay Area, or sacrifice your family life or your dreams of travelling the world, in order to have a world-class career.
11. Where can we follow you on?
My website is lauracunha.com, and you can also follow my shenanigans around the world on Instagram @lauratimshel