The modern workplace is a very different one compared to in previous generations. The use of email and mobile phones mean instant communication is not just possible, but expected. Omnipresent computers mean every desk has the resources of a graphic design and publishing department. As a result, the material conditions of the working environment have shifted dramatically over the last thirty years.
One of the biggest and most positive changes the developments in technology have provided is that working internationally is now not merely possible, but relatively common. From multinational companies having specialists collaborating on projects across borders, to smaller companies like a digital marketing agency or international architecture firm which offer their expert services to clients across the world.
The opportunities are endless, even when working on an individual level, with freelancers building a portfolio of employers in different countries. Working remotely and checking in using Skype, Slack and other networking technologies that keep people in touch across time zones.
If you think this could work for you, it’s wise to trial it out where possible before making the big leap. If you work in a multinational business, get proactive about collaborating with your colleagues in other countries – either ask your manager for opportunities to do so, or seize the initiative and start sharing ideas to see how things work.
If you work for a smaller company, you might not have those opportunities, though if they have clients across the world you can try to get some experience on international accounts. If you have links with other companies it might be worth looking into the availability of exchange programmes, like the one organised between these two architects. This benefits both you, by exposing you to international working practices and new environments, and both companies involved by bringing in some new talent and experience.
If this is a course you decide to pursue you’ll need to prepare and do your research before approaching your boss. Even if you’re working within the structure of a larger organisation, working with colleagues in a different time zone can be difficult, creating barriers between you and your colleagues. To succeed at working abroad you need to be self-motivating – able to generate results without the immediate supervision of a manager to galvanise you and self-reliant enough to thrive without the social, as well as professional support of close colleagues. Communication is key in overcoming this, regular and concise updates on projects are essential in ensuring everyone knows what’s going on. This could be in the form on a daily update email or a weekly conference call, as long as it’s consistent and it works for you and your colleagues.
If you’re working alone in a different country, but thrive on social interaction through your working day, it might be worth looking into local co-working spaces to help provide the background hum you need to do your best work. Whatever your working situation, when you have the high degree of flexibility afforded by an international career, the most important thing you need is a fearless, honest appraisal of what motivates you and what you need to keep you motivated and at your most productive.