As 2018 came to an end, I looked back at my play, purpose, and potential list from the year and felt really happy and accomplished that I had completed everything I wanted to do. Well, everything except one item: “Work from anywhere in the world”. I remembered what I had told the participants of the Total Motivation (ToMo) based workshops I had conducted throughout the year: “If you don’t tell people what you want, there is no way they can help you get there”.
I had always relished opportunities to combine my passion for travel with my love of my work in talent development. And I have had a couple of jobs where I traveled often internationally including a six month assignment in Mexico City. But I had always wanted to experiment with working remotely around the world for a more extended period of time and I hadn't been able to make that happen yet.
Now it was December 2018 and there was a organizational restructure at my company and I was told that I would now temporarily report to the CEO. He said he was going to reach out to me for our first 1:1 meeting and wanted to discuss innovative ideas regarding talent development for 2019. I had already been doing a ton of research on future work trends and the ways companies could create a competitive advantage by building future capabilities now. One of the biggest themes that kept coming up in my research was around remote workers. Not only were people wanting to work more remotely, but there was a growing group of companies where 100% of their employees are location independent. This means that these companies don’t even have an office - all employees work remotely, dispersed around the world. And on top of that, an article I read said that by the year 2020, 40% of the American workforce would consider itself freelancers or contractors. This means that more and more people are OK with not working for a single company in a single location. They want the flexibility and the freedom to work where they want and on the kind of work that motivates them - and would target companies that allowed them to do both. I identified as one of those people.
As I kept reading, my research took me to a program called Remote Year. Remote Year brings together a diverse group of motivated professionals from different industries and businesses and immerses them in new countries and cultures while helping them to maintain the highest level of productivity in their work. As part of the Remote Year fee, they provide housing arrangements, co-working spaces, and travel logistics and you bring a job that you can do remotely. By providing the infrastructure necessary to remain fully diligent and focused on work and a community of like minded professionals, Remote Year creates an environment that ensures knowledge sharing, collaboration, and an opportunity to learn and grow from one another, both personally and professionally over the course of a 12 month program or a 4 month program.
Amazing, right? It wasn’t the first time I had heard about this program, I had read about them 2 years prior in 2016 but the timing just wasn’t right then. As I did my “future of work” research, I realized that the future was now and the timing was exactly right for me professionally and personally to do this program. My company was growing more internationally, our senior leadership team was more open to innovative and out of the box thinking, our technological tools were more advanced making virtual collaboration easier than ever, I was responsible for talent development programs globally, and I was single without familial responsibilities that would impede me from going. I decided I had to do this program now no matter what.
After much consideration and the encouragement of my work sister, Netta Jenkins, I concluded that I would bring up this remote working trend at a high level with my CEO (among the other trends I would discuss). I would give him the data and facts and if he was generally open to the idea of these kinds of working arrangements, I would then bring up the example of the Remote Year program as a leader in this trend. And if he was impressed or enthusiastic about the idea of a program like this, I would then personalize it by sharing my interest in participating in the program.
The meeting went incredibly well. He was very open to the idea of Remote Year and clearly understood the benefits it could provide to both me and the company. He even added that my participation on the program could be a pilot and that if it was successful (and he added that it would be OK if it wasn’t), we could offer this as a benefit to other employees in the future, which could help to attract and retain top talent. I couldn’t have agreed more! I said to him “seriously though, if I bring to you a proper business case with all the details, would you really consider my participation?” He said “Absolutely”.
I left the meeting buzzing with excitement. I put a business case deck together for my CEO highlighting our company’s focus on global growth and innovation and how it aligns with Remote Year’s offerings. I shared that as my role expands to focus on these areas, I believe that I will be motivated to perform at my best with the inspiration of a community of like-minded innovators immersed in the “future of work” that are selected to participate in Remote Year. I added that this experience would deepen my global perspective needed to excel in my role and build on my ability to adapt and partner with people across different cultures and environments. I highlighted that I would share my learnings back with the company for our collective development. And I recommended that if we implement any new innovative programs within the company based on my learnings, that we could share our success externally to position our company as a leader in addressing the challenges that the future of work holds for organizations. I wrapped up my presentation with two slides listing out every potential concern or question the company could have about this program and how we could easily mitigate it.
A month later, in January 2019, I had CEO, Legal and HR approval to participate on the 1-year program starting in March 2019.
Wow. This is happening?? I get to keep my job that I enjoy while working around the world? I get to live my ToMo? I felt so lucky. Then I remembered one of my favorite quotes from a roman philosopher: “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity”. Amen.
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