Working in Costa Rica – my third year…

cyber security

As snow birds to a small beach town in Costa Rica from our small mountain town in Colorado I have enjoyed this perk with an internet job.  Each year working online in Costa Rica has gotten easier. Last year the electric company, ICE (pronounced EE-say) installed fiber optic cable with very reliable high speed internet and the electricity flickers off much less frequently. Conveniences like e-sign, video conferencing and online meeting platforms have become universal and easy to use.  From a day to day standpoint my actual work goes as smoothly here as it does in Colorado.

At the same time, however, each year increased layers of security have been implemented to meet the compliance requirements of client information. In February I switched to another employer with an international footprint.  Prior to hire and many times in the few weeks after hire they assured me that I could work from Costa Rica.  Surprise!!  Three weeks after I was hired I received a call and an apology telling me to stop work immediately while in Costa Rica. The CEO and IT decided that effective immediately no employee can  access client information while outside of the US.  Since my whole job involves being completely in client data…I suddenly was faced with a big dilemma.  My boss and HR both told me they would try to find a solution which would allow me to continue to work for them but no one was optimistic.  They gave me a week to fly back to the US to continue my job.

If you are IT savvy you are rolling your eyes, I think.  And, I am no expert.  But, even with VPNs, RDPs, verification keys, passwords, etc., my company did not feel they could verify the security of my internet enough to satisfy their compliance concerns.

Based on the initial understanding with my new employer that I could work from both our homes we began a big expansion of our home here in CR, family planned visits, and we even considered renting out our home in Colorado and living here full time!!! That phone call put a sudden and shocking stop to our comfort and peace of mind and our plans.

After much discussion, prayer and consideration my DH and I decided we would follow our plan to stay in Costa Rica regardless of what my company was able to do.  We felt we had too much invested in CR to change course now.   I told my company that I earnestly hoped a resolution would be found so I could continue to work for them, but that DH and I had decided to continue our plans and remain in Costa Rica.  If I couldn’t work for them, I would take a sabbatical year.  (I’m not gonna lie, that sounded great to me!!)

It took three weeks, but my company came through!  They found a job for me in developing / editing educational materials while I am in Costa Rica.  And, when I am in the states I will do my original job as planned.  I feel pretty lucky to have landed with this company.  Most employers might not go to so much trouble to accommodate my two country lifestyle.

So, back when we were first planning our snowbird life, I naively thought the internet was the internet and with an online job I would be able to work from anywhere in the world.  That is true, but…  If you are planning to work in Costa Rica be upfront with your employer.  Talk with IT (IT will know where you are.  Believe me.  They track IP addresses).  Talk with HR.  This planning and conversation may save you a lot of stress and surprises.  Every department in my company became involved with this issue.  They even wrote their first international IT policy…all my fault.  😉