June 21, 2021

Digital Nomad: Cape Town

Digital Nomad: Cape Town

Breathtaking views, penguins, wine, and Teams calls

Ryan shares his experience balancing work and leisure on a recent trip to Cape Town.


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Ryan Purvis  0:00  
Hello, and welcome to the digital workspace works podcast. I'm Ryan Purvis, your host supported by producer Heather Bicknell. In this series, you'll hear stories and opinions from experts in the field story from the frontlines, the problems they face and how they solve them. The years they're focused on from technology, people and processes to the approaches they took, they will help you to get to grips with the digital workspace inner workings.

Heather Bicknell  0:31  
So did you want to talk about one of those digital nomad locations in South Africa today? Or did you have another idea?

Ryan Purvis  0:40  
No, let's go through it again. We've also been trading links as well backwards and forwards this week. So there's a couple couple things they may be as well I haven't had a question on let's start with the one that you said which was the the overwork killed more than 745,000 people in a year who study finance. And I think that kind of ties in with with with the Nomad thing. I actually had a chat with someone this week, and, and they did something which I thought was the same as we all thought, but they actually stuck to it. So when when the lockdowns all started, we all thought that we had extra time. Because now you're not commuting. But actually what happens is you have less time. Because you don't have those buffers, that the community gives you to do other things that you get that you've got news to like, listen to, you know, listen to a podcast or audiobook or, or watching your favorite series, or whatever it is. Because now put now because you're at home, everything gets jammed in into that free time as well. You know, he kept, he used the time to write his book, which is what we were discussing on Monday. But when you send me this article, I was just thinking about how overwork is something that's it's not necessarily disease, I don't want to call it that. But it's very easy to overwork when you're when you're always at home. Because the work is always there. You're never in a credit boundary.

Heather Bicknell  2:01  
Mm hmm. Yeah, I think what was it like heart disease, heart attacks, sort of those stress related, you know, those, those conditions that can be exacerbated by stress, I think are what contributed to those excess deaths. And yeah, I mean, I think you're completely right, that is so much of it is how you're able to take control of your own time. So I think a lot of people have replaced the commute with more working hours. And others have been able to, you know, pick up side hustles or write, you know, write their books, which maybe gives you a bit of differentiation, but it's still, you know, it's still work. It's still productivity. So maybe it feels a little bit less draining, because it's not as monotonous. But I wonder, I guess health implication, wise, if that's always you know, how much better that is? Really?

Unknown Speaker  3:02  

Ryan Purvis  3:03  
yeah, well, so I'm looking at the paragraph that that said, people working 55 hours or more face an estimated 35%, higher risk of stroke, and a 70% higher risk of dying from heart disease, compared to people following the 35 to 40 hours a week, which is considered normal. So the only thing that I didn't really which, which you never know, these things, when they can sit when they say work, do they mean your single occupation. So the one that's that you cite, like a, you know, for most people, that's their job, or are less talking about people that are sitting behind a computer doing 55 hours of sitting behind a computer where this issue arises? Because I think if you could break it up into other things, your creative passion versus the slug of work, let's say on that scale, maybe it's not as bad. But I think the key thing to it is you've got to have activities that take you away from your work, like going for a walk, you know, going for exercise, you know, not always, you know, screen you know, those sorts of things.

Heather Bicknell  4:09  
Yeah, it's not very good for you know, blood flow if you're sitting at your desk, in an office chair for 12 hours or whatnot.

Ryan Purvis  4:22  
Yeah, that kind of leads me into, you know, the sort of my, my week of working in Cape Town well as as a as a, as a place to go so we were in a at a wind farm, as I mentioned last time, at spear which I recommend again, but what was really nice about it, is the scenery around you're surrounded by mountains. And you know, on your because you're in a wind farm. It is it is a little bit built up around just like completely, you know, just fields and, and vineyards. But everywhere you look it's green. It's nature. Even though Tell as much as it's built is not built to to obscure the nature. So you can look around 360. And you can see the buildings and other buildings, the mountains, and the buildings are sort of one or two storeys, tall, they're not that aren't imposing on you. And if you're in that kind of environment, yes, you got work to do. But it takes a lot off, when you're sitting down, you know, the weather is good. You're sitting at a restaurant in the restaurant there, you look outside and you see this beautiful scenery, then you look back into the screen, you do a bit of work, then you look back at the beautiful scenery, and then you look back at your screen. And that takes the whole edge of, you know, the work you're doing. We joke about Cape Town being the mother city. That's not for any other reason, it takes nine months to do anything. So it's a bit of a South African joke, I guess. But what what, for me working in that, you know, because we're timezone kind of works for us here in South Africa, with the UK, it's only a one hour two hour difference, you know, the mornings can be very productive in the sense that you can go do a lot of stuff, that's not work related, because by 1130, which is sort of 930 UK time, when everyone else is coming online. You know, you've already done you've gone for a hike, you've gone for a run, you've gone for gym, you know, got to make on a wine to Leticia do that in the morning for breakfast, but you could do that. And then of course, that obviously feeds into the evening as well. So you know, you end up working a bit bit longer. But you know, we were staying in a hotel for a week, it was quite easy to to have the kids bath and whatever, during the break, finish up some calls guy for dinner night and a beautiful scenery for dinner. And, and you're enjoying that, you know, you can always put the put the work away, because now you have this natural environment that takes you away from work. Fast, you know, everyone's in a good mood, because, you know, it's it's, you know, it's a nice summer's night. That's nice and warm, everyone's in a good, everyone's comfortable, that sort of thing. The other things that we that we do, and you know you can tour so we turned down to we rented a car for the whole time were there. So you know, we sort of drove an hour each direction and did stuff that you do in Cape Town. What is the western province, which is the potential boundary lines, were down to the southern tip of Africa, which is a beautiful Game Reserve. A lot of game like Big Five, which is sort of the Big Five man killers, or lions and hippos and Buffalo and all that elephant. But it's more the like back, birds, that sort of thing. But, but when you drive down into this nature reserve, it's more of an entrance into the game. It's it's absolutely stunning. I mean, I've seen photos of it. And Funny enough, it came up in a book that I was reading that this guy of animals American, I think had gone down to the same point. And I said to my wife, because it was just for a job. I said I really want to go down there. And then again, while I was listening to this, this book, I was reading, listen to this last week, the audit director giving a fuck Mark, Mark Manson, he said the same thing he said on the on the on the cliff. Now you go down to the night, as you drive into the Nature Park, you're driving through a lot of very beautiful grasslands, and bed and cape bush. But on one side, you see one ocean, which is the Atlantic on the other side, you see think it's the Indian Ocean. And they're two different colors.

So they're different colors of of green and blue. And then what happens is as you go as you get to the sort of facility with it's like a restaurant and then a cable car system, it takes you up to the top of the point, you can actually see the two oceans joined together. So you see these two different blues hit each other. And it's not so like waves crashing together. But you can actually just see them blending that now there are waves that are hitting the rocks and stuff. But it's absolutely stunning. And it just changes your perception of the world. Because you know you're on the set, you know, you're the most not the most on top because its capabilities is the most southern, but there's no other land barring Antarctica, which you can actually see on a clear day I've heard from Cape Town. Not that I believe that but it's probably possible with a telescope or something. But yeah, it's it changes your let's say your proposition and that sort of drive back. There's penguin is a big penguin hatch on one side, and then they've got a number one along the way. And these are like famous speeches, you can go to this and it's very calming, to have these little points that you need to stop and we're and if you and if you're working like I calls to make esophagectomy which After the one restaurant, that, you know, I set into the call quickly, and the family had lunch on that. So it's a bit stressful trying to find a place to do the call and be connected, all that kind of stuff. But the value of the kids having an opportunity to see penguins and play the beach and all that kind of stuff, you know, find ways in his stress that I was having about birth the call? Yeah, so it's definitely worth a visit.

Heather Bicknell  10:28  
Sounds like a very nice place. So I guess, did you in terms of your, your working time there? having that sort of, you know, beautiful scenery in the background and the calm environment? did that affect the quality of your work? Or did you sort of notice any differences in how and how you did your work versus if you spend back at your home office.

Ryan Purvis  10:57  
So I find when you do the travel, you become a lot more focused on your productivity. So you've got less time to do stuff. So as I say, you know, you're gonna do some stuff in the morning, then you got to do calls and stuff, then you're gonna do stuff in the evening, you you become a lot more ruthless around, what do I focus on? You know, because I would usually I've got a team that I'm worried about what they're doing, I usually prioritize the work that I need to do to keep that keep them going first. And then do the stuff that I need to do this, that's usually you know, independent stuff. So for example, would be rolling out a new user interface. So So checking all the user interface stuff that the team's waiting for, for decisions on, that gets done first. And if I need to write a document, or board presentation, or whatever it is, I do that, you know, when they're not when they're not available online. But as I say, become a lot more ruthless. And actually, I was, I was listening to something other day where, where a guy implemented something in his office where you worked from 830 to 530, if you stayed over time, that took away from your desk away from your bonus pool, she actually earned less bonus. And he thought that by doing that he would improve the family relationships of his service workers, which he did. But also because it was a constrained amount of time available to work, people worked a lot more quicker. Delivery was improved. Because if you've got the whole day you take the whole day, if you've only got two hours to write something you take, you know, you'll do focus on for two hours at a higher intensity, knowing that you have a nice break off towards, you know, a nice lunch somewhere or whatever it is. So yeah, time to question, I definitely noticed that there's improvements and doing it. Where it can cause problems, obviously, is that, you know, you're sitting on the coasts looking at a harbor, and everyone else is stuck in the houses and they can't go anywhere, which has happened now, you know, we, you know, get everyone in India that's locked down, because they obviously need the issues having their you feel bad about saying, Well, actually, I've just gone for around the beach, I've got a watch on my complex for 20 minutes, you know, I don't try to try not to make a big deal of it. But when we're pre COVID, you know, I was doing like when Croatia I was setting up to come and sitting in a harbor in Croatia watching the boat strike now. You know, I can send you I can turn my camera on, you can see it. So everyone sees where I am. And then I go back to bigger way to work, but at least breaks the ice a bit. And people you know, know what's going on in your head and where you are?

Heather Bicknell  13:28  
Yeah, I don't mind. You know, depending on the circumstance, living vicariously through someone else's nice searing scenery, especially if they turn the thing around and show you. I wonder too, if, you know, you mentioned sort of sitting there and every few, you know, minutes or whatever, looking off, you know how you're supposed to only look at your screen for so long for eyestrain, you're supposed to kind of like force yourself to look at a point, you know, but I'm staring at a white wall. So there's not a lot of motivation in front of me to like, naturally kind of pick my head up and look off. And I wonder if that has any sort of, you know, subtle effect to when you're working from, you know, even if I if I took my laptop outside, I don't know how my Wi Fi situation would be. But I've seen a few people do that. Just for calls and stuff or like feel like some people are doing sort of walking meetings, I think, you know, you can you can do little bits and pieces of that even from home.

Ryan Purvis  14:34  
That's why I say you know, we talk about the sort of location based ones but I think you're totally right, I mean, I now enter to your point about staring at a blank wall. So I've got a whiteboard on my right, you know, I'm looking into the corner of the room because I've set up my study that way. So if I look up away from the screen, I'm looking into the corner of the room, it's nothing to look at that. So I do go outside for a walk and I usually go for a walk about two to three laps around the complex which is about half an hour. Walk. But while I'm doing that walk, I'm either listening to something, or I'm phoning someone to catch up. wish I would have found them typically on a team school. But now I've got them on my headphones, and I'm walking around. So So and I think that's, that's kept my mood quite good. And I think that's the other point, because you sitting in a, you know, if I'm sitting in the restaurant, even if, even if I'm in a bad mood, I'm less likely to snap at a team member or something because of my mood, because I'm now in a public place, and I'll check myself. Whereas a funeral study, it's very easy to just to let that bad mood take over. And again, you know, say somebody said, when he actually didn't mean to be thinking that this is my personal emotional immaturity. But it's, I find that having the different circumstances works better. And you've got a nice Starbucks there. In our in our bar, which I've said it a few times, and I've done calls, that it's quite enough, you can do calls there, and you can watch the road and all the rest of it. And I think that's, you know, it's, there's nothing wrong with it. And I think it's, well, I mean, it's a very common thing in South Africa for you to join a call with someone, and they're driving somewhere. So it's not, you know, if someone's driving, and we don't even think about it, as South Africans, whereas I know, in the UK, guys will always apologize to be driving while they're doing a phone call. Sorry, I'm on the phone, I should be at my desk. But actually, as long as I can hear you, I, you know, I'd like to be faced and be driving and concentrating on something else. But it's kind of okay, if you're just listening in to just know what's going on. Because that's what as long as your hands free and legal. Why not? Yeah, be productive?

Heather Bicknell  16:43  
Yeah, no, I think, you know, I think what you said about the mood thing resonates. And get can be hard. Anything offices kind of fall into this trap. And maybe a downside to the office is that you kind of lose perspective of, you know, your life and the world outside of work and everything can become so, you know, you kind of have your blinders on. And it can be if you have, like, if someone you know, makes a mistake, or something like the emotional, it's so it is a lot easier, I think I find to have an emotional reaction versus if you're, you know, you've just come back from a vacation, right? Like, that's why we take, you know, that's why we have vacations, in part, like, you come back refreshed, and you know, you've regained some perspective. But a lot of the times, that's not, you know, we take two, three weeks vacation a year in the US, maybe, depending on what you get, if you get any, because there's no, you don't have to get vacation time. Yeah, and that, you know, I think, in terms of the coming back to the stress, that of overwork, and it being, you know, unhealthy, I think part of it is just losing that, yeah, losing that ability to regulate your emotions, because you're kind of trapped.

Ryan Purvis  18:04  
Not and I think, as you say that I'm thinking of a couple things. So the one thing that I was thinking about is to go and work somewhere else is a stress of its own, you got to do it, you got to travel, there also makes it it makes it become, you have to optimize that travel. So you have to pack the right things, you have to get enough off your plate that you feel comfortable traveling. I mean, I didn't work the whole time we're in Cape Town, it worked a little bit. But at least, you know, I'd focus enough to get stuff out. And then when I when I did have to work I was you know, it wasn't the major thing that was really the minor things to the most part. But the other thing is, is their stress factor because you're now in a different place. Your ability to your your old habits are broken because you're in a new place. So you know you have to be you have to almost reset them naturally because you're in a new place. So I can say you don't get you don't get as agitated maybe as you would have got because it's the same boring call every week. But now you're sitting in a beautiful place. You're like yeah, I've seen this beautiful place now let's have the call so you're in a better mood who makes everyone else in a better mood and or maybe you perceive her losses moods, but I mean, the what the one thing I remember we were sitting there was a Friday afternoon. I just finished a call about something which was it was a tough call. And we went it was three o'clock in the afternoon. So we ended early when for wine tasting. Now if I was back in Joburg, about at my desk, or even in the UK by my desk, you will have ended a call, you might go downstairs and had a cup of coffee, come back up again and just carry on working. And you just sort of perpetuated that their frame of reference for your mind. Whereas by going to do something else, because you're a different place, you're more open to do that other thing you got with wine tasting, then you think back to the thing you actually know it's not that bad. And you send a text you say look, you know, good No, no issues there, carry on. So your your mindset shift is it becomes becomes more manageable. And I think can become a bit a bit of worker because you experience the things now, there's a piece of this where you've got to trust the people if they traveling and working to actually still do the work, not just be there to, to do all the good things experience all the tourism stuff that should be blocked on your diaries. And, you know, yeah, some personal time off as well.

Heather Bicknell  20:26  
Yeah, and I think, you know, I'm sure it works for some people, and other people would find it too distracting. So you kind of have to know, yourself and what degree you think it could really get anything done, you know, depending on where you are. So

Ryan Purvis  20:45  
what and I think that comes down to the environment you're in or the business you're in, at least the state of life, I think that's why independent contractors tend to, to be able to get away that more. Because I get to say, Look, I'm working on your project, but I'm sitting in my beach house in Cape Town and Durban or wherever or, you know, wherever they look wherever they have it. But you know, you're getting paid to do a job paid to do it output not so much to get paid to to do a job. And I think there's a level of experience and skill that has to go with it to have you got the skills and experience to deliver stuff in that manner. I wouldn't necessarily push it on on a person who's got that their first job. You'd want them to have the coaching the mentoring, because that's that's the other piece of this is the social aspects. You know, I find because I'm usually because now we're all remote all the time that I've had to double up on my on my sort of talking to each team member. Because he's not seen them in the passage or at their desks, you know? Yeah, they're sort of for all far away from each other.

Heather Bicknell  21:50  
Yeah, I can get disconnected. From what else from what other people are doing so easily. For sure. Oh, great. Sounds like a lovely place to visit. Hope I can make it one day.

Ryan Purvis  22:05  
Well, if you'd like red wine, and you're like steak.

Unknown Speaker  22:10  
Why do you want a wine

Heather Bicknell  22:11  
sounds lovely, so nothing wrong with that. So. Alright, cool. It's probably there for today. Yeah. Super.

Ryan Purvis  22:27  
Thank you for listening. Today's episode. Hey, the big news app producer, editor. Thank you, Heather. for your hard work on this episode. Please subscribe to the series and rate us on iTunes or the Google Play Store. Follow us on Twitter at the DW w podcast. The show notes and transcripts will be available on the website WWW dot digital workspace that works. Please also visit our website www dot digital workspace that works and subscribe to our newsletter. And lastly, if you found this episode useful, please share with your friends or colleagues.

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