A Frantic branded canvas tote on a beach in Thailand, with a family in the background.

Remote office with the family

Another group of Frantimones set off for our remote office in Thailand, and this time some of them also brought along their families. What was it like to work remotely from the tropics while being surrounded by your family? Our Business Analyst Kimmo Savolainen and Web developer Hannu Räisänen describe their experiences.

What are your general feelings after working remotely from Thailand with your family?

Kimmo:

Everything went well. A big benefit to traveling with a small baby is that food is “naturally” available at any time, and carrying her in a baby carrier worked well. Several families living together calls for flexibility and community spirit of course, especially regarding childcare. In addition, the older kids had some stomach problems, which obviously caused a bit of extra hassle. But nothing out of the ordinary, and everyone had plenty of space.

Hannu:

My feelings are a bit mixed. Mostly everything went well, everyone was pleased with the warmth and amount of light, and this experience was pretty much a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. On the other hand, many child-related matters would have been much easier to deal with in Finland.

What were your main concerns in advance?

Kimmo:

A new country is always a bit of a question mark, and how everything will go with a little baby. For her part we tried to prepare as well as we could, especially for the heat.

Hannu:

The safety of the house and its surroundings, how the kids would get used to the heat and scorching sun, logistics with two young children, and the different bacterial strain.

How did you prepare for the trip?

Kimmo:

For work I had to plan ahead for the upcoming weeks and projects a little more carefully. Regarding family, our preparations mainly focused on traveling with the baby: the long flight and Thailand’s climate. My wife and I have traveled quite a bit, so we didn’t really need to make any extra preparations.

Hannu:

We mapped out some of the area in advance, got extra vaccinations for the kids and geared up with everything from UV protective and floating swimwear to loads of entertainment for the flight. For work I tried to make sure that I wouldn’t have anything too time-critical to get done as soon as we’d arrive at the remote office.


What were your first impressions on arriving at the remote office?

Kimmo:

The warmth and the sun, as well as the cheerful Thai people immediately got our spirits up. Coming from Finland in the middle of November, the humid heat was a bit of a shock at first, but even that we got used to quickly.

Hannu:

The light and the warmth were definitely felt from the very first moments.

What was it like to work there?

Kimmo:

Really great. Waking up to sunshine in the morning gives you so much energy, and since I could pace my workday both according to my own rhythm as well as the Finnish workday (for meetings, etc.), I noticed I really got a lot done there.

Hannu:

The work itself was really the same as in Finland. Even the time difference wasn’t an issue – I hope our partners and colleagues back in Finland felt the same way. However, life with kids in an unfamiliar environment required the presence of both parents throughout the day in a way that unfortunately disrupted my work.

Did the kids’ presence distract you while working?

Kimmo:

I wouldn’t say that, as there was enough space for quiet work and the families did their best to take work needs into account. And kids will be kids. Taking care of my baby’s diaper changes and other small needs just offered nice breathers during the day.

Hannu:

Quite a bit unfortunately. I usually worked in a different space, so for example the kids playing wasn’t a problem, but family-related interruptions were considerably frequent.

Did you have any positive surprises?

Kimmo:

I felt like I was really able to focus on work, but at the same time I was also able to spend a lot of relaxed quality time with my family while being there.

Hannu:

I wondered about the quality of the internet connection and possible blackouts in advance, but both the connections and the electricity worked perfectly.

What about negative ones?

Kimmo:

Several families living together obviously requires lots of compromises and flexibility, and even small setbacks like a broken washing machine or a stomach bug may take an unusually large toll on everyone.

Hannu:

The Thai ideas of child-friendly and child-safe building methods and environment seem to be quite different from Finland, even in a modern house.

How did the kids like being at the remote office?

Kimmo:

It seems like the older kids liked it there, although some restrictions had to be placed on play areas like the pool’s surroundings, also for safety reasons. Whereas for babies it’s enough to just have all the basics in order.

Hannu:

Of course they also enjoyed the sudden summer in the midst of winter. Surprisingly they weren’t really homesick at all, actually. The limited number of play areas seemed to be a slight disappointment to our preschool-aged kids.

How about your spouses?

Kimmo:

The answer to this question probably depends on who you’re asking, meaning how much babysitting they did during the days. All in all everyone enjoyed their stay, and my wife was really pleased with how we were able to spend more time together without our usual daily routines.

Hannu:

Although childcare is time consuming in Finland too, certain differences in routines caused some extra work, which is why we weren’t able to relax or enjoy the activities Thailand had to offer as much as we would’ve liked.

Based on your experience, do you think it would be possible to work from abroad with your family over a longer period of time?

Kimmo:

I think so. Certainly you’d have to be even more thorough and systematic when you’re planning ahead for projects, and anticipate problems, but with the technology we have today there isn’t much that wouldn’t get done with our normal work.

Hannu:

Sure. In that case it would make sense to build teams that could collaborate on the same project while they’re at the remote office. If small children are coming along, special attention should be paid to choosing the destination and considering a place where the time and cultural differences would be smaller.

How would you prepare for next time?

Kimmo:

I would prioritize my projects even more explicitly and avoid a reactive approach to work as much as possible. Because of the time difference in relation to Finland, reacting to every request can easily break up your own work agenda, and the most important things might start to lag.

Hannu:

I would try to map out the remote office’s physical location and surroundings even better, and consider how suitable they are for my family’s needs.