From Wrocław to Malta. What I have learned from working remotely?
“When I was joining ITMAGINATION to work for their Warsaw office three years ago, I had a few things planned beforehand. I knew, for example, that I wanted part of my work to be done remotely, from Wrocław. As you know, plans don’t always work out. I didn’t anticipate I would be working remotely but… from sunny Malta”. Read the whole story of Darek Przybyło, our Data Consultant, and find out what he has learned from working remotely!
I want this too!
I’m a consultant, a Business Intelligence Developer. I often hear that every candidate for work in my area wants to know if remote work is an option. When I applied to ITMAGINATION, also I asked if it was possible. It was not a critical condition for me. But I was happy I didn’t hear a no.
First, I decided to show they could trust me. I spent the first year working in the office in Warsaw. I was doing well, as the company agreed for me to work from the Wrocław office and combine it with remote work. In Wrocław, I was the only programmer – everyone else in my team worked on customers’ premises or remotely, and the other people worked for departments other than IT. I combined working from the office (collaborating remotely with Warsaw), with working from home. I know myself and I knew that working 100% from home is not for me. I like the contact with people and I hate to work remotely in solitude for long hours. Always when I’m in a city where ITMAGINATION has an office, I like to “drop by” to do some work with the local team.
In Wrocław, I could plan out my working days myself. On Wednesdays and Fridays, I would normally work from home. Some might be surprised: “Why not Mondays?”. I believe that Monday is an important day of the week and you should start in full swing. Working remotely is not easy, contrary to what many may think. There is no working in your pajamas or blissfully lazing about. To work effectively, you need a lot of self-discipline and worked out practices. Myself, even though I’ve been working like that for a few years, I always try to optimize my routine. I get up early in the morning, I take a shower etc. – I get ready for work just as if I was to leave the house. I try to do things as efficiently as possible. Remote work is about saving time, not wasting it.
Planning out my time
The undeniable advantage of remote work is that you can plan out your time. Of course, you have to keep in mind that customers for whom you work remotely will expect you to be available in standard business hours. However, you can plan your day to benefit from the privilege of remote work. Which is why I have worked in all sorts of places. For example, while waiting for my car to be fixed, which can sometimes take up to five hours. Travel time to the garage and back costs me an hour. So, instead of wasting that time I worked, seated comfortably in the lounge of the garage.
I’ve had an interesting case of working from a Passport Office. In the Passport Office in Wrocław you wait in the same queue with people who need to take care of other kinds of business, not just passports, for example a permanent residence card for Poland. I don’t know what it looks like in other cities, but in Wrocław it is madness. I went there on Tuesday, because on that day the office has longest opening hours. It opens at 8:00 am, but I arrived at 7:30 because friends had warned me of long queues. As it turned out, I was not the only one so smart. Half the city was there, queuing up with me! At first, I joined a queue for… a ticket for the queue. My first success came at 8:15. I had the ticket in my hand and 200 people before me, waiting to take care of the same business as myself. Not to mention those who came to take care of something else, but we shared the same queue.
I took a comfortable seat and started my computer. Thanks to that I wasn’t thinking how much time I was spending in the queue. And just as well, because I left the office about 5:30 pm. I had spent nine effective hours there. I’m afraid that for the other people waiting with me it was just wasted time.
Work-life balance put into question
“Daddy, why are you working all the time?” Unfortunately, I hear this from my 5-year-old son quite often. He comes back from school and sees me work longer than his mom, who goes to work and comes back home in standard office hours. When you work remotely, you tend to make more breaks and even though you work a total of eight hours, you stretch them over the whole day. This is the biggest trap, in which I have fallen many times.
The temptation to run small errands is enormous. “That store is only open until 4:00 pm, so I could go there during the day to get it out of the way” – but since I’m already leaving home, I can also pick the parcel from the post office. As a result, everything takes two hours which I then make up for by working in the evening (just like now, at 10:30 pm).
It’s important to keep a work-life balance, which saves you from burnout. And changing the location allows you to change your course of thinking. When you work remotely you don’t get that, because you are in your home, which should be associated with leisure and free time. A great solution is to have a study in which, on the one hand, you can focus on your work and not be distracted, and on the other, you have an option to go to another room, e.g. to have lunch and relax.
From Wrocław to Malta
I was already pretty experienced in remote work, when one June morning my wife got a surprising offer: to work in Malta. The decision had to be quick, because we would have to move by the end of the month. We didn’t hesitate long: we’re going!
I remember calling my supervisor to tell him I wanted to work remotely from Malta. He just asked: “What’s the time zone difference between Poland and Malta?”. Luckily, there is none. After two years of working for ITMAGINATION, I had won my boss’s confidence, so I had no problem getting him to agree for this mode of work. Besides, I was already working remotely, just that now it would be from a little further from Warsaw. Malta is a fairly small island south of Italy and Sicily. On the one hand, it is one of European tax havens, and on the other, a holiday island, so in the summer I get the impression that I am the only person working there.
The fact that Malta is a member of the European Union is important, because moving around within the EU is very convenient. As I moved here, I did not have to change my phone number or open a new bank account, I am simply using the ones I had so far. Here is an interesting fact: Malta is regarded as a very modern country in terms of law, e.g. it practically uses the bitcoin, although it may take up to two weeks to open an account in a local bank! Importantly, calls within the EU are free, in line with the new roaming rules, but only for four months. After that time, in accordance with a fair use policy, operators charge fees, which are still very attractive.
Traveling from Malta to Poland is usually not a problem. My travel time by car from Wrocław to Warsaw was normally about 3-4 hours. A flight to Malta takes less than 3 hours and with good planning a plane ticket will cost you the same as a train from Wrocław to Warsaw. So, in the event I need to urgently meet with a client, the distance is not a problem.
In its history, Malta has been ruled by Arabs, Sicily and the UK. This is why Maltese sounds like a combination of Italian and Arabic. Malta is an English-speaking country, which is important. English and Maltese are equivalent official languages, and everyone speaks English here. You can be sure that even elderly native Maltese speak this language fluently. They drive on the left side of the road and have the British standard of electricity in their homes. It is surprising that Malta doesn’t want to change it, as most of the household equipment available in their stores comes from Italy. So, in every Maltese apartment you will find British sockets and a collection of European adapters.
Weekends like vacations
Working remotely from Malta is no different – when it comes to its course and duties – from working from Wrocław or Warsaw, which I got used to. But daily life looks completely different. My apartment is less than 300 meters from the promenade. So, in a break from work, I often buy a coffee and sit there, to get an extra dose of sunshine. I also try work near the window every day, to have the sun shine straight at me all the time. I love the big dose of vitamin D!
Weekends are free, and I like to spend them away from home. Malta is not big, so it takes just a few days to see it all. In the summer, I spend time swimming like a typical holidaymaker or overcoming my fear by jumping into the sea from higher and higher places – quite a popular pastime in Malta, and some people jump from frightening rocks. When the temperature drops below 20 degrees Celsius, I go for a walk around the cliffs – I like to stand at the edge of a 200-metre cliff and feel the strong, gusty wind.
With the combination of the weekend trips and the large amounts of sunshine, I don’t feel I need a vacation so much. I feel more rested and I have noticed the results of my work are better and better. I have no specific plans as to the length of my stay in Malta, but I think it will be up to two years. Malta is too small an island for me, and I also like winter and snow. So, maybe my next place will be closer to the mountains?:)
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