What is it like to work remotely and travel during the COVID-19 pandemic?

By Andrew Vinell

By Andrew Vinell

Here at AVTR, we’ve always worked remotely, with the team spread across the country and sometimes the world.  As digital nomads we’ve been able to adapt to the lockdown and the ‘new normal’ relatively easily. Digital nomads are those that travel around the globe, setting up wherever they fancy (as long as there’s good wi-fi!) and working from there.  Now that more people have discovered, through necessity, what it’s like to work remotely and more countries have begun to open up, it’s not a stretch to assume that numbers of digital nomads will increase. 

Countries like Barbados, Estonia and Georgia are even providing incentives to people working remotely, including offering special visas to attract more workers. 

I’ve worked remotely for the last four years and it’s been the best decision both personally and professionally. For me, the opportunity to be based from whichever city my clients need me in is invaluable.  I’m currently writing this while on a train between Amsterdam and Berlin on my first international trip since lockdown eased.

I’ve always loved travel and exploring new cultures. There’s so much you can learn from it and so many amazing people to meet along the way.  People question if traveling so much while working is as productive as being based in the office but I find it so much easier to get things done. It means I have a global presence so if clients and candidates want to meet in Dubai or Australia, I can be there.

I also work on the train or plane. Many aeroplanes now have good wi-fi, as do most trains. For me, the time in transit is uninterrupted work time.  It’s one of the few times when I don’t have calls scheduled so I can concentrate on working on my shortlists, my business development work, or whatever else needs to be done: tasks I usually have no time for when on conference calls or the like.

The first continent I chose to travel around post-lockdown easing was Europe. Not only is its proximity convenient, it’s also less of a risk as European countries make up the majority of the ‘safe’ countries to visit according to the FCO. Furthermore, there’s no need to quarantine on return to the UK from most European countries.

The current trip I’m on was originally going to involve visiting Brussels, Amsterdam, Berlin, Vienna, Nice, Barcelona and Madrid.  Bratislava replaced Vienna once I found out I needed to go through the expense and complexity of obtaining a new, negative COVID-19 certificate to enter Austria.  Additionally, at the time of writing, Spain has been taken off the list of countries that are exempted from quarantine. Instead, I’m thinking of returning to Berlin and Amsterdam at the end of the trip as traditionally there are a lot of tax roles in these cities and we’ve been very successful at placing candidates in these two European capitals. 

Currently top of the wish list of places for myself and the AVTR team to travel to is the Middle East: last year we visited Dubai 11 times, as well as several trips to Abu Dhabi, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.  The whole team flew out for a conference in March 2020 which was the last time we left the country for business until this European trip. 

If you’re interested in traveling for business or pleasure, check this website for daily updates on the full list of countries you can travel to: https://www.wanderlust.co.uk/content/coronavirus-travel-updates/

The biggest concern with travel right now is safety: Is it safe to fly during the pandemic? The good news is that most airlines have developed stringent methods of cleaning and disinfecting and the air quality on planes is surprisingly good because of HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters. These filters recycle and refresh air every two to three minutes, so you are unlikely to catch the virus from the air. The danger is much the same as it is on land; being in close proximity to people you don’t know very well and the risks of poor hand hygiene.

If you are planning on travelling for business, here are some ways in which you can stay safe:

  1. Read all COVID-19 measures and rules that your destination has put in place.
  2. Ensure you have travel insurance that will cover a sudden change in legislation as a result of the pandemic.
  3. Carry alcohol-based hand sanitiser or disinfectant wipes and wipe down your seat, tray, screen, remotes and window as soon as you board. 
  4. Wash or disinfect your hands regularly and avoid touching your face.
  5. Wear a surgical mask. 
  6. Avoid long conversations with other passengers/flight attendants. 
  7. Avoid shaking hands with clients or colleagues (difficult in a business setting, but better for safety).
  8. Pay with contactless or credit cards where possible.
  9. Pack some basic flu medication so you don’t have to try and locate a pharmacy if you do feel unwell.
  10. Try to rest as much as possible, drink lots of water and steer clear of large crowds. 

If you’re planning to travel, please note that some places require a recent (72 hours or less) negative COVID-19 test. If you do not have one, you will need to pay for testing at the airport and be subject to a 14-day quarantine. Make sure that you research carefully before buying tickets as the rules change frequently. 

We can’t wait for the world to get back to normal, and I’m so thankful that we managed to pack in a number of exciting business trips before lockdown started in March.  In January and February alone we’d travelled to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Berlin, Japan, Dubai (twice!), Abu Dhabi, Melbourne, and Sydney.  Now the world is gradually re-opening, we hope to return to some of our favourite destinations and continue to place fantastic tax professionals into our global client base around the world.

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