The new WFH: TPG staffers on how to master the art of working from anywhere (WFA)

Aug 1, 2020

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As offices closed at the start of the pandemic, working from home has become the norm over the past five months. What was once an occasional luxury is now a sustaining reality for millions of people in the workforce.

In fact, a recent study from Stanford estimated that 42% of Americans are now working from home full-time. It’s also unclear when offices will return. Major companies like Apple and Facebook aren’t reopening offices for the rest of 2020, while Google announced that offices will remain closed until summer 2021.

While travel plans have been canceled, working remotely has revealed its own set of benefits. As the summer is wrapping up, many of our staff here at TPG have not only worked from home — but also worked from anywhere. From road trips to vacation rentals, here’s where our staff have gone this summer and how they’ve created makeshift office spaces wherever they are.

TPG’s Editor-At-Large, Zach Honig, was one of many that had major trips canceled — namely, to Ireland, Iceland, Alaska and Hawaii. Instead, he spent the first four months of quarantine with his dad’s family outside Philadelphia, helping care for his two half-siblings.

Determined to travel again, he filled July and August with road trips. He began his summer adventure with a week at Schroon Lake, NY, followed by a week at home in New York City, and then a week with his family in Cape Hatteras, NC. He quarantined in his apartment upon his return to NYC, per NY state law, before heading to Maine with a negative COVID-19 test, where he plans to spend the entire month of August at Acadia National Park.

While travel looks far from normal, especially with the mandatory quarantine in New York, he’s actually enjoyed vacationing closer to home.

“The biggest challenge for me has been unpredictable connectivity, but I’ve been able to make do by tethering to my phone,” said Honig.

For Maddie Tarr, a Client Support Specialist on the TPG App Development team, the new era of working remote lends itself to more frequent, socially distant vacations; Tarr has been taking advantage of her family’s cabin in Grants Pass, Oregon on the Rogue River. She worked there for about two months and has enjoyed the beautiful scenery for walks and other outdoor activities, such as river rafting and hiking. Rather than sit around being cooped up in her apartment all day, Tarr has used this time to make many positive changes in her lifestyle.

However, Tarr notes that internet connectivity can present challenges when away from home. In general, vacation rentals (especially in rural areas) don’t have the strongest Wi-Fi connection. Although her family owned this particular cabin — and they opted for the best internet package offered in the area — she still faced connectivity issues from time to time.

Finding the delicate balance between working from home and traveling is undoubtedly important. However, many TPG staff have been digital nomads for years, long before the coronavirus pandemic. Katie Genter, a reporter on the Points & Miles team, has been writing for TPG since 2015. She and her husband sold or donated most of their possessions, moved out of their apartment in Austin, TX and began working remotely and traveling ever since.

While this lifestyle is nothing new for her, the coronavirus pandemic did in fact slow down her travels quite a bit. While she returned home to quarantine with her family, she started her travels up again in mid-July. But this time — within the United States.

She spent a week in Denver and Rocky Mountain National Park, and then rented an RV for $1 a day for a six-night relocation from Los Angeles to Dallas. Along the way, she stopped at Grand Canyon National Park and Petrified Forest National Park.

Like many others, slow or unreliable internet, uncomfortable working conditions and time zone differences can make working away from home frustrating.

Her advice for working remotely? Accept that you’re not truly on vacation.

“Instead, you’re working remotely so you may not actually see much of your destination on work days,” Genter said. “I also recommend having a data plan with great coverage and reasonable pricing. For example, I rely on Google Fi’s unlimited plan for both domestic and international trips. And, it’s best to get ahead before travel days since these days sometimes become less productive than you planned.”

Weekend Editor, Jane Frye, was already working remotely 50% of the time before the pandemic. Based in New York City, she’s taken a couple of road trips so far to visit family in Dayton, OH, and Chicago.

“My best advice is to log on to all systems with plenty of time to work out any connection kinks before your first meeting of the day. Make sure you sync up time zones if you’re working ahead/behind, and don’t leave your work laptop where any young travel companions can accidentally hack onto your machine,” said Frye. “Also, if you’re going to be driving, taking work calls in the car is a great way to pass the time and means more time relaxing at your destination.”

A remote-working expert, TPG’s Senior Reporter on Cruise and Travel, Gene Sloan, has been exclusively working from home for over 20 years. As a travel writer specializing in cruising, he worked from ships or hotels all around the world for about 100 days per year, prior to the pandemic.

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But unlike other TPG staff on the road, he has actually paused travel altogether and has been working strictly from home since the pandemic. It’s given him much-needed time to slow down, enjoy life and reflect on what’s truly important to him. Not to mention the ability to reset his circadian rhythm — which is often off cycle due to his constant travels. When he’s ready, he’s looking forward to returning to his nomadic lifestyle again.

“I couldn’t imagine being stuck in the routine of going to an office every day,” said Sloan. “It seems so inefficient, for starters. But also so depressing. The same desk in the same building every day. I can be at 30,000 feet or out in the middle of the Atlantic on a bobbing ship or at Starbucks in Tokyo.”

The work-from-home movement may forever change the future of offices as you can, indeed, work from anywhere. While the coronavirus has upended all of our lives, it’s given our staff time to not only spend with their families, but to road trip and explore nearby destinations.

Photo courtesy of Alexander Spatari/Getty Images

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