The Remote Working Diary: Singapore to Seattle  

Is remote work for everyone? Is it productive? Should companies continue to offer this option to staff or should we just resume work traditionally?

Remote work has been a hot workplace topic in recent years. But can a routine person succeed in work remotely?  

It all started in February when I received a wedding invite to San Francisco in August by a schoolmate. I had deliberated for a month before asking my report-in manager, Chris Frost, who is a co-founder and Cogs Asia’s CEO if I could take my leave and extend my stay while I was there. 

Was I being too bold or greedy as an employee in my first year to make a request like this?  

I was in for a surprise when Chris’s responded along the lines of ‘as long as you get your work done, it doesn’t matter where you are’. 

Chris pointed out how he was managing me remotely too, having relocated his family to Japan last August after 5 years in Singapore. I’m full of gratitude for the trust he has in me to agree to this 6-week-long arrangement.  

I’ve been in marketing for most of my career after finishing my undergraduate studies. Marketing is mostly desk-bound with the exception of meetings, events or fieldwork. This August would be the longest time I’ve ever been apart from my physical desk at work.

The thought of it made me antsy rather than excited. Would my productivity be affected without my usual desk set up and the routines I was used to? 

I’m in the last 2 weeks of my remote working stint and I decided to share my experience with other professionals who are working remotely or thinking of taking the step to. Here are my learning points…

Collaboration is enhanced by supportive colleagues  

Before I left for my trip, I had updated my Asia country managers that I speak to on a weekly basis. For I’ll be 15 hours behind them, we have to agree on mutually convenient times to schedule our weekly calls
It’s decided I would ring them either before my bedtime (lunchtime in Asia) or in the evening (dawn for me).  

This actually worked out better than I expected, and we were all in our optimal speaking modes during those time slots. 

Effectiveness of the remote working arrangement is hinged on the support of colleagues. If cooperativeness ceases to exist, then you can forget about being productive in your time away from the office.  

A conducive environment boosts your work output 

Remote work can work for you (despite what some detractors say). And it’s your responsibility to create an environment that helps you work well.   

Here’s my desk:

I have gigabyte speed internet, a proper surface, chair, power outlets nearby… It was almost like being in my office in Singapore.  

Thanks to my partner who set up space for me as I crashed in his apartment in Bellevue.  

I couldn’t bring myself to work outside in a trendy cafe with my laptop as it meant that I would have to spend some money at an establishment to take up the seat in their venue. Also, as an introvert, I get overwhelmed by the sounds and human interactions in the open space, it takes away my calm and focusing become a greater challenge than it borderlines exhaustion. So, the setup at home is ideal for me.    

However, for some remote workers, being isolated is one of the biggest downsides to the flexible work arrangement. Unlike permanent remote workers, I’ve the choice to go back to a physical office back in Singapore or Hong Kong when I’ve to travel to the other office(s)

I can see how some companies wind down the option to remote work as it leads to possible disengagement of employees who have been ‘isolated’ while working.  

I know remote is not for everyone, but it’s a nice option to offer your staff the freedom of choice.

Change can be good

I’m near the close of this sharing and even my stay here in Washington. I’ve made the most of my time here in the Evergreen state and the city of high tech. I even had the opportunity to attend the Seattle Design Festival where I was impressed by the inclusiveness of the projects and the accessibility of design to people from all walks of life. 

My month away from my desk has been a real eye-opener for me. As a creature of habits, I often view change to my routine as a burden. Now, I feel like I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone and stepped up in personal growth.  


If you are looking for a job that pushes you to step out of your comfort zone and enables personal growth like what I did, check out all of Cogs’s open roles here.  


About Vanessa

Vanessa is currently the Marketing Manager for Asia at Cogs. She loves all things digital and finds her job at Cogs complimentary with her interest. In her past time, Vanessa enjoys putting herself through fitness classes and boot camps. She likes reading non-fiction books especially about the innovation, creativity and the marketplace.




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