The digital nomad lifestyle is a culture, and its here to stay
In 2007, well before 2019, and the COVID19 pandemic, an interesting
little book was published by a 29 year old solopreneur that challenged the way we view work, and encouraged readers to prioritize living life on their own terms. The book was The 4 Hour Work Week, and it resonated widely evidenced by the 6+ years it spent on the New York Times Best Sellers list, the over 40+ languages it has been translated to, and 2 million plus copies sold to date!
The book was a harbinger of what was yet to come, but what some of us were already feeling. The time in history when our grandparents, and parents worked 40+ years at the same company received a gold watch and a pension are just a footnote in the annals of time. Our 21 century job market is characterized by rapid technological advancements, evolving industries, and changing skill requirements. At the end of 40 years you can buy your own watch, and it probably will look a lot nicer too..
As we've seen especially lately, having tenure at a company doesn't spare you from the chopping block. And you really cannot count on loyalty reciprocity from employers as they increasingly prioritize adaptability, and a return on investment for their shareholders. This past year, the companies conducting "first time" layoffs, and the continued thinning of the herd is unprecedented, and has brought the nonreciprocal loyalty point home further eroding employee trust and confidence often leading to quiet quitting.
In light of the unfortunate sequence of layoff events, global economic uncertainty, and reprioritizing, employees are now seeking greater flexibility, personal growth, and work-life balance in their careers rather than adhering to traditional notions of stability. The 4 Hour Work Week tapped into the general unhappiness with the status quo and the need for something new. The COVID19 pandemic only exacerbated the issue and brought work as we knew it to its knees. Generally speaking, we are never going back to pre pandemic levels in onsite employment ever again.
Recent peer reviewed research suggests that nearly 50% of all workers in the U.S. work remotely. Its important to understand that remote work has been with us since the beginning of civilization. Think about the hunting-gathering stage of the world's economic development. The 1970's saw the remote option grow exponentially as a response to high gas prices. In other words, remote work is not a new way to engage in meaningful employment, it has just become more available, and popular.
Where WFH (Work From Home) was the chanted mantra throughout the pandemic, WFA (Work From Anywhere) is the emerging pivot now. There are several reasons for this that hinge on the technological advancements that facilitate broader work arrangements. For example, Apple's MacBook Air has a battery life of 18 hours which means you can set up at a beach or cafe for the day and work uninterrupted.
WiFi? Most public places have WiFi, and if you are traveling you can leverage your hotel's internet access. Recent reports share that over half of the population has connected via public WiFi in their lifetime. Not to mention that most mobile phone providers offer Hot Spot Wi-Fi which means you can connect from anywhere privately.
There is also an exponential benefit to recruiting candidates from anywhere. With the current middle market slump, attracting talent across geographic lines can be a huge boost to recruitment efforts. As a Time Magazine piece confirms companies that require full-time onsite work are struggling in attracting new employees.
A recent Wall Street Journal story offered a fresh perspective on the Work From Anywhere phenomenon. In the article it shared how the Smuckers brand have found a happy median to WFA. You can work from anywhere, but are expected to commit to being onsite during core weeks. One of their executives makes the commute from the Bay Area to corporate in Orville, Ohio without a problem. The time onsite is prearranged, highly leveraged, and very productive.
WFA is also the result of our workforce gradually transforming into a global environment. The increasing interconnectedness across countries has facilitated collaboration and cohesiveness in various industries. Nowadays, it is not uncommon for a team to be composed of individuals living in different countries who work synchronously towards a common goal.
This transformation can be observed in sectors such as information technology, consulting, manufacturing, and customer service. For instance, multinational corporations like Microsoft often have employees working remotely from different parts of the world on projects that require round-the-clock coordination.
Furthermore, international consulting firms such as McKinsey & Company deploy teams with expertise from multiple countries to serve clients with global operations. Thus, the shift towards a global workforce has become pervasive across industries and is another example of how WFA is activated.
As of 2023, several companies are fully remote such as GitLab, Zapier, and DropBox. Additionally, almost every major company provides opportunities for offsite work. There are some adjustments and managerial creativity needed to bolster cohesiveness, and general camaraderie in this new norm in order to achieve continual success.
A recent Forbes article shared how creating a clearly defined company wide vision and a determined focus on the quality of work can provide a solid foundation when recalibrating work environments.
Just as important is increasing touch points, and being intentional about your communications with employees. In The Harvard Business Review's WFM Doesn't Have To Dilute Your Corporate Culture point to how culture is transcending established normatives.
Organizations should approach the changing work environment with a longterm shift in plan not a business as usual mindset. Creative leadership is needed which entails incorporating new ways of engaging your workers.
Working From Anywhere is a culture. This culture is characterized by a shift in mindset as individuals prioritize flexibility and autonomy in their work lives. Millennials comprise a slight majority in the workforce at 56 million workers, and Gen X is at 53 Million. Both groups value freedom and flexibility.
Baby Boomers that are engaged, and thriving are rejecting retirement and choosing to continue adding value to the organizations they work for, and with. Working From Anywhere fosters the values mentioned as well as the values of trust, accountability, and empowerment. In the work realm empowering employees to manage their own schedules and locations is a WFA staple.
Furthermore, this culture promotes a global perspective, as individuals can collaborate with coworkers and clients from different geographic locations seamlessly. It also encourages continuous learning and self-improvement, as professionals must adapt to new technologies and communication tools to effectively work from anywhere. Embracing the working from anywhere culture boosts productivity and job satisfaction, while enabling better work-life balance for professionals striving to integrate personal commitments with their careers.
Here are a few keys that unlock the door to success in a Work From Anywhere company:
Ongoing and intentional communications
Clearly defined and written expectations for projects/roles
A go-to established communications platform for workers
Weekly Check-ins w/ a detailed, but flexible agenda
Video/In person syncs: Monthly, quarterly or yearly, you decide
Planned corporate calendar of events
Easily accessible complaint process/protocol
Anonymous feedback channel
Coworking space option
One of the biggest challenges with Work From Anywhere is managerial communications. A good way for Leaders to correct errors is to establish clear and consistent channels of communication. This can be achieved through regular video conferences, emails, and chat platforms that enable real-time conversations.
It is important for both the manager and their employees to actively participate in these communication channels, ensuring messages are properly received and understood. If there is a misunderstanding or error, it should be addressed promptly and openly between all parties involved. It can also be useful to encourage feedback during meetings or through anonymous surveys to give employees an opportunity to voice any concerns or confusion they may have regarding instructions or expectations.
Additionally, providing detailed written documentation of projects, tasks, and goals can help minimize miscommunications and provide a point of reference for clarity. By establishing effective communication strategies and maintaining an open line of dialogue, remote managers can significantly reduce the occurrence of communication errors within their teams.
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