Where in the world is Grace Chandonnet? Most of the time she’s in the southern US, but every once in awhile she logs in from somewhere else and shares pictures with the team of the view out her new window. Working in a beautiful, chosen location can be good – not just for the soul – but for productivity as well! This week Grace shares her top tips for working remotely – securely. ~Helen
Those of us who are lucky enough to be a part of this profession have known for a while that our occupation lends itself nicely to remote work. HBG was years ahead of the curve in understanding that a remote workforce allows us to choose candidates from a national pool and to also save resources on the bricks and mortar aspects of running a company – long before the recent COVID pandemic changed remote work on a global scale.
As COVID-19 takes up less space in our collective psyche, a lot of workplaces expect their employees back in the office. Fortunately the Prospect Intelligence field seems to have adapted for the long haul and many shops appear to be continuing to embrace the zeitgeist of remote work. I recently took a look at Apra’s Career Center site and, out of 27 job openings listed in the Prospect Intelligence/Research space, 13 of the positions were hybrid, seven were fully remote, and seven were onsite.
I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to take my work with me and be a little bit digitally nomadic as a Helen Brown Group employee, and for any of you travel buffs working in our profession, I hope that you give it a try too!
I spent a month in Cuenca, Ecuador in the fall of 2016, a month in Livingston, Montana in 2021, and another month in Ecuador, this time along the coast in a town called Manglaralto, in 2022, and worked while I was in each place. I am planning for my next adventure to be lengthier, and I’m looking forward to exploring more of Latin America and Europe on a longer-term basis and taking my job with me! It’s easier than you might think, but as with any new and unfamiliar situation, there are things to consider in order to keep yourself and your employer’s information safe and secure, especially when working abroad.
We all know that it’s a good idea to run a security check up on your systems and data on a regular basis, especially when you are a remote worker and act as your own IT department. HBG recently held an internal session to talk about this and it was a great refresher. It is especially important when you are traveling and cannot confirm the security of the network you are accessing.
USE A VPN
The first order of business when you are taking your work on the road is to get a VPN for your computer. A Virtual Private Network is a cheap and easy way to protect your and your company’s privacy, and in my opinion, the most essential tool in the toolkit for working while traveling. You can find one for $10 per month or less.
A VPN establishes a secure connection to the internet by creating a private tunnel through which encrypted data travels safely between your device and the VPN server, making that data unreadable to anyone else. It protects your personal data and privacy online, and it hides your IP address, online activity, and communications. A VPN connection is also secure against external attacks. When you are home or anywhere that you know your network is secure, it may not be necessary to use a VPN, but it truly is important when you are traveling, especially internationally. When I first used a VPN in Ecuador in 2016, it slowed my system down noticeably, but not terribly, and I was able to adapt easily. When I went back to Ecuador in 2022, I had no issues with system performance at all, and in both instances, it made it possible to safely access sites and resources that I would not have accessed otherwise.
All of that being said, there are U.S.-based vendors that many of us rely on that specifically restrict their usage outside of the country, so be sure to consult the guidelines of your go-to vendors and know what the restrictions are. You can then formulate a plan – such as enlisting a helpful colleague in your team to assist you with look-ups when you’re out of the country.
BE PREPARED – INFRASTRUCTURE
The infrastructure in unfamiliar places may not be what you’re used to, so it’s a good idea to think about things like unexpected power outages. If you think that you are going to be in a place that may be subject to frequent or extensive losses of power, you should consider buying an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), which is a type of device that will power your system, nearly instantaneously, in the event of grid power failure, thereby protecting your equipment from damage. It’s a one-time expense that may prove to be money well spent, even for at-home use if you live in a place that experiences power outages on a frequent basis.
PASSWORDS AND ENCRYPTION
You likely already know this, but it’s always a good idea to use a password manager, which will store your login information for all the websites you use and help you log into them automatically. It will also help you generate and store long, unique passwords for your online accounts.
Also, if you are not already doing so, consider using a secure cloud-based file sharing system to store and share all of your work.
Don’t forget to check with your cellphone provider well ahead of time to find out what your international calling/texting options will be. You could also consider using an encrypted service for calling and texting. For example, WhatsApp chats are encrypted and use the internet rather than through your phone provider. It is the standard for texting in many parts of the world.
None of this stuff is difficult or awfully expensive, and if you, like I, love to travel and have thought about experiencing new places for longer term than a one- or two-week vacation allows, there is no better time than the present! There are lots of places where the cost of renting a comfortably appointed space for a long-ish period of time is no more expensive than booking a hotel room for the length of that beach vacation. I am happiest when I can wrap up my work for the day and, as I call it, walk out into the world!