In Pictures: Telecommuting from paradise

With the right boss and the right broadband, these tech workers relocated to paradise destinations

  • Nine years ago, Francie Tanner was working at a technology consulting company in Dallas. Today, she lives in Anguilla with her family and works as a consultant for Austria-based Panagenda, which sells software that help companies monitor, upgrade and manage their IBM collaboration tools. Here’s, she’s working from Gwen’s Reggae Bar in Shoal Bay.

  • HAVING GOOD BROADBAND IS IMPORTANT Luckily, when it came to the Internet, Anguilla was a late adopter, so the infrastructure was new and very good. Tanner got 4Mbps download speed when she first moved to Anguilla, and the connectivity has continued to improve since then.

  • A SUPPORTIVE BOSS HELPS, TOO “We at Panagenda are huge believers in telecommuting as it allows us to hire the highest quality people, without requiring relocation,” says Panagenda CEO Florian Vogler. The company uses IBM Notes 9, IBM Connect, Jira, Skype and GoToMeeting as its main collaboration tools, he says. The company also holds twice yearly in-person meetings. “There are some challenges telecommunication presents, especially as we grow, but the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks,” he adds.

  • CONSIDER THE VIRGIN ISLANDS If you’re looking to telecommute from an island paradise and want to avoid legal and paperwork hassles, consider the U.S. Virgin Islands. “It's part of the United States, so you don't even need a passport to go there – you just need a driver's license,” says Matt Bauer, co-founder and director of St. Croix-based and president of Virginia-based BetterWorld Telecom. Bauer splits his time between St. Croix and California. He points out that St. Croix is one of the ten most concentrated places for Internet traffic in the world.

  • THE ST. CROIX CONNECTION Officials in St. Croix are currently putting in about $300 million worth of new infrastructure to expand local connectivity. The main goal is to attract new businesses. But the infrastructure is also perfect for telecommuters. Another benefit for telecommuters is the region's two new co-working spaces. One is on St. Croix, and the other is on the neighboring island of St. Thomas. Telecommuters can get memberships to work in these broadband hubs. “And at 5 p.m. you walk out the front door and run off the pier and jump into the Caribbean,” Bauer says.

  • ONE-WAY TICKET TO PARADISE “I don't know if you've been to Seattle in the winter,” says Ted Lawrence. “It's pretty dreary. It starts raining in October and keeps raining through February. So I got in the habit of heading down to the Caribbean in January, February, and March.” Lawrence is a business manager for Bellevue, Wash.-based consulting firm Inviso Corp., managing operating expenses for Inviso's corporate clients. This year, he worked from St. Croix – and then decided to just stay.

  • Room with a view Lawrence adds that he bought a house with a view of the Caribbean. He starts work at noon each day, since there's a four-hour difference with Washington during the winter months. In the morning, he goes to the beach, or runs errands. One thing he doesn't do is work on the beach, he says. “I have to work with my computer, and beaches and computers just don't get along.” It's important to plan ahead for all contingencies, he says. The Internet can be slow or intermittent where he lives, so his backup plan is renting a desk for a day at ConnectSpace, so that he can work uninterrupted for a long stretch of time.

  • The reign in Spain Gibraltar-based e-learning company Tradimo is all about supporting remote employees in exotic locations, with half of its staff working remotely. “We chose to set up the company this way because it offers some significant human resources advantages and the people who telecommute love it,” says manager Mike Hofmaier.

  • Mühlhausen by proxy One of the workers who takes advantage of the company's telecommuting policies is translator Alexander Noethlich, who left the “gray, horrible weather” in his native Mühlhausen, in eastern Germany in favor of warm, sunny Cordoba in southern Spain. The Internet connectivity is generally the same in Cordoba as in Germany, he says.

  • Extreme telecommuting If you think working from an island paradise is a stretch, try working while on a year-long trip around the world. Cora Rodenbusch manages the employee website and online community for PGi, maker of iMeet and other collaboration products. She convinced her boss to let her telecommute from various locations around the world for an entire year. Here, she searches for Wi-Fi in Australia.

  • Running of the Ethernet The company has 1,800 employees in 25 countries, so this was an opportunity for Rodenbusch to visit some of the company offices in person. Over the course of the following year, the couple visited Frankfort, Munich, Zurich, Paris, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Bangalore, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Osaka, Kyoto, Tokyo, Melbourne, Brisbon, and Sidney. In rural India, locals helped by running 200 feet of Ethernet cable from a nearby office.

  • Heading to the office When working in cities where PGi had an office, Rodenbusch would put on a suit, and just go in for work. Elsewhere, it was a bit harder. “We worked in coffee shops, or libraries – wherever you can get an Internet connection,” she says. “You have to be pretty passionate to get your work done. The fact that iMeet had a mobile app made it easy for me, because even with the smallest Wi-Fi signal I could have my meeting. We operate on low bandwidth connections.” Here she works out of a café in France.

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