Friday, January 13, 2012

Could You Telecommute From Italy?

Sometimes the highlight of my day is meeting the new UPS driver. Or cleaning out my keyboard that has become gummed up with peanut butter (the hazards of eating at your desk.) That's why I was intrigued to talk to someone who broke away from the mundane working world and set himself up to work from a truly fabulous place. Read this latest story I did for Gannett/

If you think you have a pretty sweet deal because you're allowed to work from home one or two days a week, consider the arrangement Barry Frangipane managed to make with his employer.

He worked for 13 months telecommuting from Venic -- no, not Venice, Calif., Venice Italy, the stie of glorious architecture, canals and historic treasures.

Frangipane says his was a work arrangement that many can emulate.

He argues that if you can telecommute five or 25 miles from your office, why can't you telecommute from another part of the world? And even though he lived in Venice in 2004 to 2005, he says what he did is still possible today.

"When I returned to my job in the U.S., I had a renewed sense of vitality toward my job and my life," he says. "When you experience life outside the U.S., you get to look at life from a different lens. You then realize that you can look at everything differently. I even came back and looked at problems at work differently."

So at a time when many Americans feel overworked and stressed, could telecommuting from Venice — or another desired location — be possible?

First you have to do a little planning. Frangipane's advice:

• Start slowly. Frangipane had been working for a software company where he is still employed five miles from his home in Florida.

He began telecommuting one day a week then eventually increased that to full time. His productivity increased, and he kept in touch via email, phone and teleconferencing.

That helped convince his bosses that a full-time telecommuting arrangement wouldn't hurt his work.

"Except for the Christmas party, I didn't miss a meeting or event," he says. "I had my tools in place to show it could work."

• Deal with questions as they arise. For every issue that might be a roadblock to working in Italy, Frangipane was able to come up with an answer.

For example, he worked 2 to 11 p.m. in Italy so he was putting in the same hours as his employer's East Coast workers, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST.

• Set a departure date. If you don't set a timetable, you'll continue to put it off, Frangipane says.

As the date neared for Frangipane and his wife to leave for Italy, they took care of items such as renting their furnished home and selling their cars. With the money they received from the cars and rent, they were able to get an apartment in Venice and make up for the salary lost when his wife quit her job.

• Be realistic. Frangipane's wife quit her job as an administrative assistant and knew it would be nearly impossible to find another job in Italy.

Frangipane says his wife found much more discrimination than in the United States; most employers won't hire non-Italians. Months before returning to this country, Frangipane's wife applied for jobs online and had another position lined up when she returned.

• Understand technology overseas. It took a while for Frangipane to figure out that the main government provider of Internet service was unreliable, so he finally contracted with a private company.

He also discovered that cell-phone service was much more widely available and reliable than land lines.

• Understand the language. Frangipane and his wife took Italian classes while they were there.

"When you know the language, you become a part of the society because you can have real conversations instead of just being able to ask where the bathroom is," he says.

Frangipane, who still visits Venice yearly, believes that his experience made him a better worker and a happier person and that others shouldn't dismiss such an idea as impossible.

"Venice is a family. Your friends and relationships become much more important, and you're less likely when you come home to live in a cocoon," he says. "It's given me a renewed interest in my work and in relationships."

Where would be your dream place to telecommute from?


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