Destination: Somewhere else
As work environments become more and more etherealized and digital production happen more and more over the internet, physical presence and location lose their significance as productivity factors in cloud-based projects. The location-independent trait of multisite project allows for geographical distances to be ignored almost completely, and reinterpreted creatively.
So reinterpret I did earlier this summer, by flying off to the Island of the Gods, as Bali is nicknamed, for a month’s stint of remote work. An experiment on shifting physical contexts while digitally keeping anchored to a working project 11000 km away in Finland. On Bali’s side of the rock, digital nomadism is hardly a new concept, as testified by the flourishing business of co-working spaces and community-based shared offices. It was a precious and fun experience, if only for the refreshing effect that comes along with simply moving places.
Longitudinal shift = time difference
Having the local work hours shifted back by five hours due to time zone difference with home base caused no real problems to me, with my nocturnally inclined productivity time range. Mornings took off on a leaner ramp, the afternoon heat and repeated visits to the shower kept me at full rev, sunsets provided a nice backdrop for the the swim breaks, then the evening colors softly landed me back on the state of chill. Amazing how certain changes in your daily surrounding completely rejuvenates your basic motivations, even for doing your day job. The initial need to adapt to new work schedules was nicely buffered by the two-week-sprint-based project management, where the predictable work amount for each fortnightly cycle means that tasks can easily be broken down and adjusted day by day.
Latitudinal shift = climate difference
The heat is something you notice immediately upon stepping out of the aircraft onto the tropical island. max temperatures pleasantly ranging within 25-35˚C year round, this isn’t going to be a stroll for the cooling systems, both my own and my laptop’s. The choice of basic lifestyle with minimum expenditure also meant that the workstation arrangement made use of bare minimum resources available. Not that it was hindering productivity at all. Quite the contrary, the use of natural and semi-natural shades on the open air terrace right by the garden resulted in an idyllic set up for creative work. A modest electric fan pointed at the laptop provided some extra cooling. Otherwise the ocean breeze seeped through for just enough ventilation. Every once in a while bursts of tropical rainstorm with thunders and water droplets the size of almonds would freshen things up.
One of the things you notice from life in the tropics is the bustling force of nature independent of season. Cycles noticeably seem shorter at both ends, the generation and decay of forms and colors in things within- and exposed to nature. Even in the city area where I was based, there was the feeling that nature was always immediately present, expressed in the sprouting flora and the crawling fauna. Sounds are also part of the experience, as rooster crows and dog barks easily slipped through Skype into the cloud meetings.
One morning I woke up to the sight of hundreds of ants crawling in and out of my MacBook Pro through its ventilation grill. A quick visit to the repair shop solved the problem and the laptop’s innards were cleared from the invasion, and luckily enough the incident had no further implications beyond a spontaneous shut down.
Digital life bustles even harder
Technologically speaking, Indonesia is doing a decent job in keeping up with the advances of digital connectivity. The power of 4G is starting to become constantly and reliably available. Although prices of mobile broadband appear rather misaligned with the local living costs, sheer demand only seems to continue to grow, as people are willing and eager to be actively involved in the multifaceted digital realm. Forget the Internet of Things for a while. We are not yet done expanding the Internet of human beings: everyone is connected in increasingly multiple ways, innovations abuzz, new economies boom. Indonesians are currently the biggest tweeting population in the world. Sharing economy concepts like Über has been replicated, rescaled, enhanced and diversified in their locally concocted and deployed variants. It has been fascinating to experience this mix between traditionalist, spiritual worldview with the courageous embracing of progressive digitalized lifestyle, where the heavens are inhabited peacefully together by ancient deities and cloud services alike.