Serving as a CEO can prove immensely rewarding. For many, it’s the pinnacle of their careers. It’s incredibly gratifying to know that you have had a direct impact on the company’s successes and breakthroughs.
But it’s not all pride and glory. As any CEO can attest, closing deals and managing a team while driving continuous product innovation and balancing a personal life can seem impossible. These are daunting endeavors. Add the challenges of working in a globalized economy with increasingly geographically dispersed workforces, which results in more CEOs having to work remotely. As the CEO of Israel-based Tactile Mobility, which is a 15-hour flight from my home in California, I’m no stranger to this new reality.
I’m not going to gloss over the fact that this is a difficult situation. But I have learned that there are many ways to not only survive but also thrive within these challenges. Here are five tips from my own experience that I hope can help other remote CEOs keep their sanity.
1. Don’t fight your body on flights
When I worked at the Boston Consulting Group, my colleagues and I maintained the hectic travel schedules typical among management consultants. So I often tried to stay awake as a way to “game” the shifting time zones. By the time I landed in the evening, I’d be so tired that I’d quickly hit the sack and try to beat the jet lag.
But when I joined Tactile Mobility, my frequent flights became long-haul. You may think that a 15-hour San Francisco to Tel Aviv flight that departs at 9:30 p.m. Pacific time and lands at Ben Gurion airport at 9:30 p.m. the next day is ideal for implementing my old “gaming” strategy, but you’d be wrong. I learned the hard way that any work you do on long flights is usually sub-optimal. More often than not, my plan would backfire, and I’d have difficulty sleeping upon arrival (despite staying awake for long hours). Also, long-distance travel takes a considerable toll on the body, and even more so when it becomes a routine.
Regular 7,400-mile journeys aren’t part of every remote CEO’s job description. But whether you’re traversing continents or making frequent hops from city to city, learn from my mistake: Listen to your body, and make the most of opportunities for rest. Trying to fight it will only work against you and ruin your productivity.
2. Maximize face time
Slack conversations and Zoom conference calls are great for connecting teams across the globe, but they still can’t replace face-to-face contact when it comes to building a dynamic company.
Before a recent flight to Israel, I needed to decide between two competing visions from my Israel-based managers regarding a significant project. Both made compelling arguments via screen share, but it wasn’t until I was back at the office and had the opportunity to sit down with them that I realized how much context and critical engagement matters.
There is a sense of clarity that comes with face-to-face interactions and water-cooler conversations that fosters deep personal bonds in the workplace. This kind of environment creates a fertile ground for collaboration, new ideas, and breakthroughs. Traveling across the world might seem like an inconvenience, but I can assure you from experience that it’s well worth it.
3. Make your company brand visible
Strutting your company’s stuff is about far more than just raising brand awareness. When you’re traveling to a tech or industrial hub that’s vital to your company, it can also help the bottom line.
I see many tech CEOs and executives on the flights that I take between San Francisco and Tel Aviv. I can’t even count the number of times that potential partners and investors initiated conversations with me after seeing my Tactile Mobility T-shirt or sweatshirt. It’s free, targeted advertising to an important audience.
4. Make your “other” home feel like home too
When you’re frequently traveling back and forth for work, it can often feel that you’re neither here nor there. That’s why it’s essential to make sure that you spend enough time in each “home” to build your company and nurture your business relationships without sacrificing your relationships with your family and friends.
This may mean splitting your time in each location so you can build a somewhat equal presence in both places, i.e., spending three weeks at home and one week at your “other” home if you’re more tied down, or vice versa. For me, renting an apartment in Israel long-term, rather than booking a hotel room or checking into an Airbnb every visit, has helped make my ‘other home’ feel more like home. It may sound marginal, but it makes a massive difference for me–physically and mentally—to know that I have a comfortable, personalized space always waiting for me, no matter where I am. When I feel more rooted in my second home, I am more productive and much more fully integrated with the rest of the Tactile Mobility team.
5. Recruit the right people to lead your company
Lebron James might be the best basketball player on the planet, but it takes more than one player to win a championship. When you’re a remote CEO, it’s critical to hire team leaders you can trust to act independently, keep you informed, and execute effectively, even when you’re not around. Building a solid team is a no-brainer for any CEO, but it’s all the more critical when you’re working remotely.
No one agrees to take on a CEO role because it will be easy. Throw in the stress, fatigue, and corporate challenges of being a remote CEO, and it can seem all the more vexing. But with the right amount of self-care, face time, strategic planning, and company swag, remote CEOs can overcome their toughest challenges and take their company to new heights.
Amit Nisenbaum is the CEO of Tactile Mobility.