Photo: Kelly Murtagh (Vilamoura) and Baptiste Prost (Lisbon)

Can you remote work from Portugal?

For Kelly Murtagh and Baptiste Prost, the answer is a resounding YES. While they don’t know each other, live in the same regions or even work in the same occupational sectors, they share one commonality … Portugal!

Portugal is one of the most attractive European countries. More than its established touristic offer, the country is becoming a business hotspot.

Many companies are moving to Portugal, opening new offices and discovering what remote workers have known and experienced for several years. Portugal delivers a quality of life, along with an entrepreneurial and innovative vibe for business. For many, the only decision is finding the perfect place, based on the desired work-life balance.

No matter if you are a freelancer; a start-up owner or run an established business; if you “walk alone” or have a big family; Kelly and Baptiste’s perspectives may just spotlight the perfect Portuguese location.

How would you describe yourself?
Baptiste: I’m a 30-year-old French young intrapreneur living in Lisbon. I’m passionate about meeting people and discovering new places in the world. After studying in France, Mexico and China, I settled in Paris to begin my career in IT consulting. I’ve always been attracted by the oceanic lifestyle, food and travel.
I’ve been working for EXTIA – a French IT digital and consulting company employing 2,000 people – for four years and since June 2019, I’m director of our subsidiary in Portugal, which I proposed as an intrapreneurial project.

Kelly: My name is Kelly Murtagh, I’m 42 years old, Irish, and run my own Art and Interior Design Studio (Omey Projects) in Vilamoura. My main interests include anything cultural, all outdoor activities, running, walking, hiking, swimming and cycling. And my three children.

Was it Portugal that seduced you to move?
Baptiste: Definitely yes! It was love at first sight when I came to Lisbon on holiday in July 2017. The global ambiance of the city, the beauty of it, all the restaurants, bars, festivals, the good weather, outdoor life and the kindness of its people made it clear to me that Portugal would represent the best place to live in Europe.

Kelly: Portugal, and Vilamoura, is a very special place – we have a wide and varied lifestyle that suits both adults and children. It facilitates and promotes a healthy way of life. Our children play outside almost all year round, and all three children go to the local international school that has both bilingual sections for us to choose from. We have everything we need here, an award-winning marina which always has international sporting events to enjoy and absolutely everything here is child friendly. The beaches are quite unique and, of course, the local people make me feel like I am right at home here.

What does Lisbon/Vilamoura have that made you choose it over any other destination in the world?
Baptiste: Well, I had the opportunity to attend Web Summit Lisbon in 2017 for the Alpha Startup programme with two friends, for a Sport app that we created back then. This event opened my eyes to the innovation, start-up, corporate environment that Portugal and Lisbon represent. Even though I was fluent in Spanish, I proposed to EXTIA to settle in Portugal rather than Spain for all the good reasons I described.
Kelly: Living in Vilamoura, I have the best of both worlds – I would consider that my family have the balance between the more relaxed vibe of the Algarve and, with Lisbon only two hours away, both Faro and Lisbon airports offer all the international flights needed to carry out business trips. In the current challenging environment, the technology and Wi-Fi offered by Lazer Telecom is well and truly way ahead of the game. Having this available in Vilamoura leaves no room for any technological headaches, which is very important.

Do you consider you have a better work-life balance living there?
Baptiste: I’m still very busy at work! But here in Lisbon (and in any place in Portugal), I feel more kindness, order, and positivity in the society. The weather is very temperate and I’m going to the beach every weekend, sometimes even before starting my workday for a surf session. So yes: my work-life balance is much more pleasant.

Kelly: Yes, I have a work-life balance here that I have not found anywhere else. I spend more time with my kids in the evenings and I owe this to a vast array of outdoor activities that we can all enjoy. It really all boils down to having more time, less stress, less noise, less time in the car getting from A to B. Productivity in my business here has increased as we have the space to create very special projects, which is important for my design business. My clients get more time and consideration because of the calm environment.

How’s it like to make business from Lisbon/Vilamoura?
Baptiste: Very interesting! The implementation here has been pretty fast. I’ve done benchmarking for lawyers’ offices, hired people, found suppliers and accountants very quickly. Lisbon has a lot to offer in terms of networking and skilled people, even in terms of coworking spaces. We are working from IDEA Spaces (coworking space), which I chose because of its location, the building itself, the flexibility of the staff, the ability to welcome candidates for interviews, but mostly because of the general mindset and support when we have to organise events and meetups. The community here is totally in line with EXTIA’s values and our desire to keep on improving. Also, we will in future be working on the European market and Lisbon is perfectly located, but for now we are focusing much more on the Portuguese market and the start has been pretty great: first contract signed in October 2019, and a year later we have 15 people working in the company.

Kelly: I find that most of my business is made from my office here in Vilamoura and I go to Lisbon to meet clients on a regular basis. Everything has now moved online so to be connected is 100% a priority for me and my team – we are able to communicate to clients easily and they are always envious of how easy that is and, of course, of the blue sky. Our work ethic is very much a city work ethic and we work at this pace with all the benefits of Algarve – no long traffic jams, commutes and straight from my desk to my home. I would comfortably say I have four extra hours in my day for me – to split between family and my own interests.

Because of the current pandemic – I have moved the art section of our business online – so people can easily access and purchase art directly from their homes – the production facilities will be based in Vilamoura and we aim to supply to the European and international markets – we have excellent courier service providers here with companies such as UPS, DPD and DHL all having depots nearby.

Any advice to whomever might be considering remote work from Lisbon/Vilamoura?
Baptiste: Just do it! I think Lisbon adapted extremely fast to the COVID situation. And coworking spaces like IDEA implemented all the necessary measures so we can safely return to some “normality”. Remote working is now easily justified and, to me, there is not much more to say other than “test and learn”. Just start by taking a holiday to see how the city treats you.

Kelly: I would say it’s important to have good support from a local Portuguese-speaking accountant, lawyer and your local embassy. Portuguese and expats alike are very helpful and forthcoming with advice and information. Wi-fi connection here is excellent in order to facilitate zoom and skype calls. Once you have this in place, Vilamoura, Lisbon and Portugal does not need much persuasion – you just have to see and understand that life really does have balance here – we work but we also live.