Travail à distance – Working remotely from France

Since the beginning of August, I have been working remotely from Lyon, France and in this post, I decided to share some of my experiences from this time and the planning phase of the trip.

The initial idea of working remotely from France had been looming in the back of my head for a while and in February this year, I finally raised the topic with my managing director and our HR department. Although remote work had long been widely adopted and supported at Bilot, there was no policy for remote work from abroad at the time. Fortunately, the management and HR were willing and flexible enough to start creating the policy soon after my request, and in the beginning of April I received the go-ahead and initial contract, which allowed me to take the planning and arrangements further, and finally make the big decision to spend three months working remotely from France.

My main motivation for choosing France was to spend more time with the French half of my family and relatives, and also to improve my French skills. I chose Lyon as my city, because it is close to where my family lives and it has good connections for traveling. Furthermore, Lyon is not as expensive as Paris, but it is still the 2nd largest metropolitan in France.

After getting the go-ahead from Bilot, the next and most important step was obviously to find an apartment in Lyon. After some careful browsing through different rental websites, I found my match via Airbnb – a nice 40m2 top floor studio in the 6th arrondissement of Lyon with walking distance to Hôtel de Ville and Part-Dieu railway station. The apartment also had a fast and reliable internet connection, which was of course crucial for remote work.

As for all the other arrangements, everything else went pretty smoothly, but there was still one challenge to be figured out. My work involves a lot of visual design, and I prefer to use a large display with good picture and color quality. Back at home I had a 27 inch display, and my options were either to pack it, ship it or forget it. Although I was fully aware of how rough the airline baggage handling can be, I still decided to pack the display into a sturdy flight case and bring it with me as a checked baggage. I am happy to tell that the display arrived safe and sound in Lyon. I only hope my luck lasts also for the return trip.

I arrived in Lyon already in the end of July while still on my summer vacation. I had more than a week to settle in, relax and get to know the city. My apartment was actually even better than I expected, and my landlord was very friendly and showed me around the arrondissement. Lyon is a wonderful city with tons of things to do and see. The city is also known as the French capital of gastronomy, and the amount of restaurants and bars is just overwhelming.

A bit over a week after my arrival in Lyon, it was time to start working again. Normally, the one hour time difference is barely noticeable, but it becomes a big deal when you need to wake up one hour earlier on the first Monday morning after four weeks of vacation. After the first shock, everything started to roll as usual, and with Lync and VPN I was practically at home.

There have been times however, when working remotely has not been too easy. There was one week, during which the internet connection was slow and breaking up all the time, which made it almost impossible to do any work using remote desktops. Later I learned from my landlord that this was due to a certain monsieur next door, who was apparently using all the bandwidth for some peer-to-peer activities. One time I also found myself trying to work, while two guys were drilling the wall from outside, the cleaning lady was blasting away with her vacuum cleaner in the apartment, and the dogs next door were barking.

The biggest change in my daily routines has been the lunch break. Most of the people at our office in Helsinki have their lunch between 11am and 12pm. In French time this is between 10am and 11am. The French lunch break starts at 12pm, and there is no place serving lunch before that. While the Finnish lunch break typically lasts for 30 minutes, the French one lasts from one and a half to two hours. As the French are very serious about food, it is difficult and even embarrassing to finish your lunch in 20 minutes at a restaurant and make it back to work in 30.

At the time of writing this post, I have one week left in Lyon before my return to Finland. It has been truly an amazing experience, and it feels a bit sad to go back just after having settled in. I have had a great time seeing my family, meeting new people and learning the language and culture. At the same time I am looking forward to get back to the office to see my colleagues, have some face-to-face meetings, play some serious foosball and hear some coffee table gossips.


Blog writer is Thomas Tunkkari, User Experience Consultant at Bilot.


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