It doesn’t really matter how much you like your job, everyone, at least once in their working life, has wondered why they need to spend a big chunk of their life in an office, in front of a computer, somewhere inside an office.
Most of us face the reality that this is what we need to do to survive; to pay the bills; and be somewhat within the scheme of our society. However, and I wonder this on a daily basis especially during winter, what if we didn’t have to do this. What if we could just break free; work from wherever we want; be productive from a beach rather an office?
Working from home is nowadays more accepted than a couple of decades ago. There are definitely more freelancers who try to make a life at their own pace, working from a cafe (or at home) with their latte macchiato, rather than in an office listening to their boss all day.
Younger generations are embracing this trend more naturally; however, they might be driven by a sense of emptiness in working 40 years to enjoy a miserable pension.
In between freelancers and unsatisfied millennials, there are digital nomads. These are professionals who work remotely for companies, who are able to produce as much (if not more) from somewhere that is more suitable to their lifestyle.
Travelling and working at the same time, today, is more accessible than ever. We are always connected, regardless of where we are. We are all digital nomads (theoretically), instead of travelling around the world, we simply travel through the city and keep working in the same exact way as we would do in the office.
Few years ago, it could have been tougher to embrace this lifestyle, due to infrastructure limitations and connection problems. However, today, we see popping up tons of co-working spaces, literally everywhere, with decent enough internet connection and a vibrant community of entrepreneurs.
Startup founders sometimes forget that becoming digital nomads could actually help their startup surviving longer and get the right traction in local (and less competitive) markets. Cost of leaving in San Francisco or London are 10x higher (if not more) than those in Bali or Thailand. We, as startup founders, might think is better (or cooler) to live in bigger cities because of events, meet-ups, access to potential VCs, without realising that burn rate and employment competitiveness are considerably higher.
Startup founders need to understand where their startup is at and what they need, then take a decision. A digital nomad life is not for everyone and not all entrepreneurs are cut for this. The below infographic analyses this major trend and shows some interesting statistic about this lifestyle:
Made by: BargainFox
It’s easy to see the appeal. While some people love their jobs, the opportunity to travel anywhere in the world or spend more time with friends and family, is not something you’re likely to pass up. Surveys suggest the nomadic lifestyle improves health, relationships and overall happiness. When somebody is happy they are more productive and creative.
This is a key factor in companies and employers embracing the concept. The team behind the Firefox web browser is 60% remote. All 400 plus employees of Automattic, who develop the WordPress blog platform are digital nomads.
It also allows employers to choose from a much wider talent pool when the candidates do not have to live within commuting distance of the office.
“This has been amazing for the company in that we can attract and retain the best talent without them having to be in New York or San Francisco or one of the traditional tech centers,” echoes Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg.
There’s also a financial incentive. If you don’t have an office then you obviously don’t have to pay for office space, electricity and daily amenities, and perhaps even computer equipment (though many larger firms do provide this for their remote workers). These savings can then be passed on in various ways.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t hurdles to overcome with a digital nomad lifestyle. Some people simply work better in a more authoritative environment. The freedom to be your own boss can slip too far the wrong way an effect productivity. Furthermore some people just aren’t inclined to travel and take on the adventurous side of the lifestyle. Working remotely without the natural impetus to get out and live can negatively impact people emotionally. Socializing is an in-built part of the office.
From an employer’s standpoint going partially or fully distributed is a huge step and cannot be taken lightly. This itself is enough to put people off. Office culture can also take a hit. Emails, messaging and Skype still do not fully replicate the bonding of face to face interaction and the speed at which information and ideas can be conveyed.
Just as technology gave birth to the digital nomads, some of the hurdles facing them are being overcome with further advances. Apps like Timedoctor and Slack can help boost productivity and time management. Specialized chat systems like Sqwiggle and Horn aid communication, and Caravanerai and Nomadlist help nomads sort out co-living and travel destinations.
Co-working spaces are also helping to solve the problem of productivity for those that cannot always focus by themselves. These specially designed environments are vibrant, fun and comfortable, and allows disparate nomads to come together and share ideas.
Technology making our lives easier is not just a cliché. The digital nomads are living examples of how we’ve come far enough that even work is being rethought.