Never mind the WFH – try to work from Heaven instead
If all a remote worker needs is a laptop and a decent Wi-Fi connection, why can’t you work from a location where you can get to the beach before work and have lunch while the sun warms your shoulders?
Well, thousands of people made that dream come true during the lockdown, trading their makeshift home office for a life where they can end the workday by jumping into the Caribbean Sea.
Before Covid, it would have been hard to believe that so many employers would embrace the remote working model. But even now, as offices reopen, a growing number of permanent flexible work policies are emerging as companies like Google and Facebook realize that people can truly work from anywhere.
And it’s not just workers and their employers – many countries have embraced these digital nomads with open arms. Many places that were previously only accessible for short stays have launched visas and permits to attract remote workers who want to change their lifestyle. Costa Rica is one of the latest to do so, with the recent passing of a law to attract international workers and remote service providers, which allows remote workers to stay for up to two years.
Programs like this originally appeared when international travel was not an option. Faced with the reality of a world without tourists, many governments have recognized that digital nomads would be a boost to a rapidly declining economy.
Soon they were tripping over themselves to offer visas that would allow people to stay longer and spend their hard-earned money in the country. In turn, even the fanciest of the resorts lowered their rates to attract international visitors as they were eager to see long-term guests replace the usual rotation of incoming tourists.
Barbados was one of the first countries to launch a visa for remote workers. In July 2020, the island announced its Welcome Stamp program, which allowed people to live and work on the island for up to one year. So far, more than 5,000 people have applied for the Barbados welcome stamp, with Ireland ranking fifth in terms of volume of applicants.
It’s a scheme that has seemed more than appealing to Laura Bonner, managing director of the Muff Liquor Company (themuffliquorcompany.com). When many friends sent her the link to the Barbados program, she jumped at the opportunity to spend a year in the Caribbean.
“I’m really motivated and focused, but when the first lockdown happened it really started to affect me,” says Laura. “The Caribbean was Covid-free and we have business contacts there. It was perfect timing.
She works Irish hours, getting up before dawn to organize her daily meetings before ending the day at lunchtime. Oddly enough, sticking to a more rigid structure has paid dividends for his professional life.
“Previously, I would have taken meetings anytime, any day. But in Barbados I make my appointments from 5 am to noon and then I have the rest of the day to go to the beach, learn to surf and go out with my friends. I manage my time so much better now.
Even when curfews were introduced to tackle rising Covid numbers, Barbados has never been in as tight a lockdown as Ireland’s. And when you gaze at a sparkling turquoise ocean, it’s easier to feel further removed from the grim reality of the pandemic.
“It wasn’t that I was oblivious to what was going on in the world. But when it’s not right in front of you, you can live your life normally, ”says Laura.
“I’m a really positive and really engaged person with my team, but the stress of being at home wasn’t the best for any of us.
“When they had a call with me when I was in Barbados, they could instantly see the difference.
“I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to go there. It was the best decision for me and my business.
Her year is almost over, but the opportunity to extend her stay by another six months, Laura could stay a little longer in Barbados.
It is safe to say that she is a strong supporter of the concept of “workations”. “I would 100pc recommend it to anyone. It is an incredible opportunity. It just gives you a reboot… so you can swim in the ocean every day and do yoga at sunset. It’s an amazing experience.
Barbados may have been one of the first to launch such a program, but it’s not the only Caribbean island to attract remote workers – you can find similar opportunities in Bermuda, the Dominican Republic, Anguilla and Antigua to name a few.
But all is not as easy as it seems. Most countries have a strict entry protocol that includes a minimum amount of annual income and a guarantee that your income will come from outside their own country. There are also application fees of up to thousands of dollars.
While the allure of moving abroad now looks very appealing, keep in mind that ever-changing travel restrictions could make it harder to get home in the blink of an eye.
The logistics of such a large move can also be a bit confusing, with so many practicalities to consider. This is where a website like Nomad List (nomadlist.com) comes in handy. By working on the continuous data provided by digital nomads around the world, you can easily access facts and figures in one place, from the price of a pint in Penang to the average rent in Lisbon. You can also search for co-working spaces, meet other digital nomads, and search by climate if you want guaranteed sunshine.
As we watch the barrel of another Irish winter, the idea of trading Sligo for Saint Lucia has never looked so appealing. Play your cards right, and soon your Zoom background will no longer be a dented bookshelf or an unmade bed, but a tropical backdrop that will be the envy of all your colleagues.
Five to try
1 Costa Rica
The cost of living is quite cheap in Costa Rica. In the middle of San José, you can expect to pay around € 420 per month for a one bedroom apartment (take that, Dublin). Get out of the capital and you’ll pay even less. Once you’ve got a spot sorted out, you can fuel your workday with one of the world’s best cafes and then spend your free time surfing world-class waves or hiking volcanic peaks. Or you can take things at a more leisurely pace, taking inspiration from the country’s national symbol, the sloth.
The Barbados Welcome Stamp application process is competitive yet straightforward – all you need to do is prove that you have an annual income (or savings) of $ 50,000 (approximately € 43,000) as well as health insurance. The stamp processing fee is $ 2,000 (€ 1,700). Once there, you can rent a one-bedroom apartment for around € 560, but you’ll spend more for a place near the beach.
If you don’t want to commit to a move across the world, how about looking a little closer to home? The Algarve has winter temperatures of around 20 ° C and is only a short walk away. The Four Seasons Fairways offers a dedicated “Workation” package, with seven nights in a villa or apartment with two or three beds with swimming pool or jacuzzi from € 1,200 rental. Fiber optic broadband is fast and there are smart TVs for you to connect your laptop to Zoom.
Fancy a real taste of paradise? Fly to Mauritius where the government launched a premium travel visa in October 2020. The visa allows individuals (and their families) to stay in Mauritius for one year, although it is also renewable. Interestingly, it’s also open to retirees and tourists as well as those who will be working remotely. As with the majority of similar visas, you must prove that your income will come from outside the country throughout your stay.
One of the most beautiful small islands in the Caribbean, Anguilla jumped on the digital nomad band last year. You can stay for a period of 91 days to a year and make the most of this laid back and perfect island. Long-term accommodation is relatively easy to find, although you may find it easier to make the most of tourist options that offer discounts for even longer stays. The Hummingbird Studio starts at € 66 a night, with a 10pc discount if you stay longer than a week – find it on Airbnb.