The 21st century and new technological possibilities has opened up a variety of ways to work. Suddenly, we are not bound to our desktop computer or office desk any more. All we need is a laptop, a good wifi connection and fancy cappuccinos. From where and when we work becomes a secondary question. More importantly: The work needs to be done, whether from Zurich, Lausanne or in our case, Lisbon. We wanted to find out if life as a digital nomad is really that simple. That’s why a part of our team decided to test this flexible way of co-working and co-living at Outsite in Lisbon.

Let me share some insights and learnings with you:

1. Planning is key

Since working remotely means that you won’t be available in person, you first have to inform your business partners or customers and second, to block the week somehow. In addition, there is the time zone factor to take into account. Between Switzerland and Lisbon there is only a one-hour difference, so this was manageable. However, this topic becomes more difficult if you have to adapt to the local work culture. We experienced this for instance our first Monday morning on site: A group of Swiss and German people gathered before a closed Co-working space. Starting your work day at 10am might be normal for Lisboetas, but not for Swiss people! Luckily, right next door to our co-working space was a great café, where we enjoyed incredible cappuccinos and the wifi network.

  

2. A quiet space and fast wifi connection is crucial

What you need to keep in mind is that setting up at a new location always involves certain productivity challenges and extra time before you are fully functional. With Outsite we were super lucky that we had an accommodation and environment that really helped us to become productive quickly. The co-working space was quiet, the wifi fast, there were separate rooms to make phone calls from, and even though the temperature rose to 43 degrees outside, inside it was cold enough to concentrate and work (I bet that our office in Switzerland was less comfortable to work from during the heatwave). Furthermore, the co-living rooms were well furnished and quiet. We had our private room and shared the common space and kitchen with digital nomads from all over the world, who were all in Lisbon for one thing – to work (and a bit surf and food besides). The accommodation as well as the people you share it with are crucial to create a productive working environment: you all have to be on the same page and share the goal of working together.

3. Work is work with a little twist

One can say that distance brings us closer. Our whole team is used to working in different locations in Switzerland and from that perspective being together in one location helped us to create ease of daily exchanges, natural bonding and ultimately a higher trust. The week was really productive and thanks to the co-working space we could focus on our tasks. The real difference was made the moment you stepped outside. It is was only there, I realized where I was: in beautiful Lisbon. The perks of working remotely were for example to eat some pastel de belem, to try out the cable cars or to go for a swim in the ocean after work. Some great change to Züri Gschnätzlets, the Ticinese grotto or the Lake of Geneva. This helps you to get your mind off work and keeps your motivation high, even though you are working much more than back home.

What did we learn and what’s next?  

Our Lisbon remote work and co-living week was a great experience. I would definitely do it again, even though I felt as if I could use some holidays afterwards and it was rather costly due to the fact that we all paid personally for everything. However, it is a great way to work in our digital world and deepen the bonds and exchange in a team. The new location is inspiring and during the shared dinners and breakfasts a lot of bonding moments are created and new inspiring ideas arise. It is definitely crucial to choose the right space and set up. In addition, I would definitely plan a longer stay for the next location. One week is almost too little, especially when you don’t strictly plan your working days. You tend to work too long and miss out on exploring the new location.

We only worked for one week in Lisbon, however companies like buffer prove that a fully distributed team with nomadic team members is possible (see link). Therefore, we just scratched the surface of what is possible and how the future of work in the digital age could look like. Fact is that our digital technologies provide us with the tools that make flexible working all over the world possible.

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Author Matthias Zwingli, digitalswitzerland

Matthias Zwingli is in charge of the Startup Enablement pillar at digitalswitzerland. He works as an ecosystem enabler and connects startups, corporates, hubs and investors. As an innovation and entrepreneurship enthusiast he loves to work in a fast paced environment who shapes the future and questions the status quo.

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