Do you enjoy going to work everyday at the office? If so, you may be in a minority. Only 13% of workers in the world are happy with their job according to a 2013 poll by Gallup. In general people are unfulfilled, lack motivation and would rather be doing something else than putting on that uncomfortable tie and hitting the gridlock or fighting for a spot on the train.
But what’s making us so unhappy? Is it the job or the environment itself? Interestingly the majority of those surveyed in August by FlexJobs, said they prefer to complete important tasks in environments outside of the office. It seems we are more productive and creative in our work, when we’re not actually “at work.”
FlexJobs also discovered that when remote work and flexible hours are an option, people believe their personal relationships and health improve.
Perhaps our traditional approach to work is simply not working?
The work by SavvyBeaver Canada and BargainFox explore this further in a new infographic called “Digital Nomads and the Remote Work Revolution.”
When you actually look at the history of the office environment and the rise of technology, whenever something came along that allowed people to work remotely, they took it. Terminals and primitive computer networks allowed employees to work from branch offices and other locations in the late 70s and 80s. When the 90s rolled around personal computers with email and the internet could be purchased by the average person, and more employees began doing their work from home offices instead.
At the same time, those with particularly sought after skills often took pay cuts to become freelancers, offering their services on a temporary basis to multiple companies from the comfort of their own homes, often never having to go to the workplace more than once.
Roughly 5% of the US population were considered freelancers in this context in 1990. By the new millennium, this had jumped to 15%. Today 30% of US are freelancers. It’s no secret that during this time home computing and the internet has become cheaper and more powerful.
Ultimately what this trend suggests is that most of us don’t want to “go to work” and when we don’t, we’re happier for it.
Of course, today it’s not uncommon for companies to permit flexible hours or let you work from home when it’s convenient. In the last decade teleworking has risen by over 100%. Yet this still isn’t satisfying enough for a subculture within the remote work community and some businesses, mainly in the web and tech based industries, are now embracing remote work as a key part of their business strategy.
The infographic points to the likes of social news site BuzzFeed and accommodation service AirBNB as examples of companies that employ half of their workforce outside of the office environment. In fact, all 400 employees of Automattic, the firm behind the WordPress blogging system, are remote workers. Their office has been replaced by online communication through Google Hangouts and their own network. This is called a “fully distributed” team and it provides a number of advantages.
“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,” said company CEO Matt Mullenweg in an interview with Glenn Leibowitz.
He also quipped to Forbes: “All of the money we save on office space, we blow on travel costs.”
It is this aspect of the remote work lifestyle that defines a digital nomad. They are able to travel all over the world because their job can mostly be carried out on a laptop or tablet with an internet connection. They’re not just evolving out of the office, but they’re moving on from their home as well.
Despite the collective term there is no set digital nomad path. In fact some even dislike the label. You’ll find freelance artists and writers living at the bottom of the rung in Thailand or Indonesia, making use of the low living costs to make their earnings and savings go further. You’ll also find entrepreneurs developing their startups, keeping costs low in the beginning by couchsurfing and co-living, before upgrading their lifestyle when things take off. Even high-rolling business owners may class themselves as digital nomads if they can run the day to day operations on their iPad while networking and relaxing with like minded people across the world.
What they all have in common is a lust for adventure and culture, with technology helping them attain it.
- Hubud Co-working Space in Bali
By 2035 pioneering digital nomad Pieter Levels predicts that there will be 1 billion people on the planet adopting a nomadic lifestyle due to advances in technology and travel. The office and even the home may be things of the past.
Data certainly suggests that flying will cost less and take less time. Then we have entirely new modes of transport like driverless cars and Elon Musk’s Hyperloop, that will be so fast you’ll think trains are the horse and cart.
Recognizing this shift many firms are creating applications and resources to aid nomads on their travels. For productivity Slack and Timedoctor help you meet goals and remain focussed. Sqwiggle and Horn are the new generation of remote team communication. And Teleport and Nomadlist are perfect for helping you choose the best cities and destinations that suit your circumstances. There’s now also a Reddit community where nomad’s share tips and experiences.
We’re also seeing a natural convergence between the sharing economy and the digital nomad community. While nobody wants to go to the dull office cubicle everyday, during their travels it is still handy to check in at a co-working space that has charging ports and tech, like-minded people, and perhaps equally as important – entertainment. Whether it’s bamboo built complexes next to the surf in Bali, or the “socially conscious” Hub in New York City, nomads are creating the kind of work environments they themselves feel most comfortable and productive in.
The next step after co-working is co-living. Travellers have always looked for a friendly place with like-minded people to hang their hat. Startup Caravanserai hopes to create the go-to hub for these locations, where nomads will maintain things together instead of charging commercial fees for a room.
It seems things are evolving fast and maybe sometime soon most of us will actually enjoy “going to work.”
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