Digital nomads are on the rise. We've got mad organizational skills, we know our way around technology and we know how to get things done in really cool places.
Working remotely is nothing new, but in recent years, it has become easier than ever to take your work on the road with you. Technology is fun like that.
Bloggers, programmers, designers and writers (to name a few) are choosing a different form of work-life balance.
I’ve been working for five years as a location-independent writer, and I have many friends who also do so. I have other nomadic friends who work remotely full time for a company, and they thrive doing so.
Some companies even encourage working remotely. They're practically pushing their employees out the door, yelling, “Get out of here. Stop using up all the office's air.” (That's an exaggeration, but you get the point.)
Some studies suggest that 43 percent of America's workforce will go the telecommuting route by 2016.
I've been doing it for five years, and I'll never go back to that soul-sucking, cubicle maze of tedium and harsh lighting. (Although, I do sometimes miss my co-workers and free donuts in the kitchen.)
So, why the change in attitude? Why now?
1. Millennials have different values.
There has been a life formula handed down over the past several decades.
You should do well in school, be a model citizen, go to university, screw yourself into debt, get a good job, find a partner, have babies, work so hard you rarely take a vacation and enjoy retirement briefly.
If that’s what you're into, fine. Do whatever makes you happy.
But that's not the life for me, and it's not the life for many others as well. So, what does Gen-Y care about?
Millennials mostly care about doing good in the world, even if that means suffering a pay cut. Most of us also want flexible work schedules.
Big companies recognize this. My friends at a marketing company in Boston get “unlimited vacation.” As long as they get sh*t done, they're good to go. Amazingly, it works.
Employees are more engaged, and loyalty is high. People who take advantage are quickly removed. C'est la vie.
2. Offices don't inspire.
Good God, has there ever been a more ineffective method for getting work done than being in a gray, humorless, depressing office?
I mean, if your style is more like “Suits” and your office world consists of non-stop witty banter and periodic pauses for whiskey, then yeah. You probably have a pretty awesome office.
But, creative souls die in offices, my friends. However, it’s true some jobs can't be done outside the office. If you work full time for a company, you'll likely have to put in an appearance every now and then.
Most companies and freelance employers, however, recognize the need for people to work when and where they're at their most productive. For me, inspiration doesn't strike until the afternoon. This is usually after two cups of coffee.
3. We can do exactly the same work on the road.
There is absolutely no need for me to be sitting at a desk for eight hours a day while I'm writing copy, especially when — most of the time — I'll be communicating via email anyway. It's called “cloud computing,” and it's a wonderful thing.
Since I freelance, I have less contact with my clients than other digital nomads might. My friend, Adam, for example, works full time for a software company in New York.
He often travels around, but he must have his daily work hours overlap for at least four hours a day with his office's hours.
Like I said, I do miss the old water cooler office gossip sometimes. I liked hearing about Jenna’s hookup with Bob, or the way our boss botched up at the last company meetup.
But, the benefits of working remotely far outweigh the negative to me. These include sleeping in until 10 am and getting drunk on a Monday night. (Why not?)
4. It's better for the company.
The most important benefit of working remotely for employers is their employees tend to be less stressed out. Imagine: No more hour-long morning commutes in heavy traffic.
As I write this, I'm sitting in my apartment in fleece pajamas, drinking tea. Stress is irrelevant.
Non-stressed employees equal happy employees. Happy employees equal healthy employees.
Also, working remotely means much less spending for employers. They can say goodbye to expensive property rentals.
As for myself and other freelancers? Well, at some point or another, we've all agreed we'd happily go back to the 9-to-5 if the 9-to-5 meant doing it from 11-to-7 sometimes.
We crave stability. But, we also need flexibility, and we're vehemently loyal to those who can provide it.
5. It's often cheaper to live abroad.
I'm in Berlin. My rent is about €480 a month for a swanky room in a kickass shared apartment with my German roommate. That's about $530.
A gym membership at a good gym is only €20 per month. Beers at the corner store are less than €1 each. They're good beers, none of that watered-down crap.
It's not just Berlin, either. When you compare living costs to big North American cities — say, New York — the differences are outrageous. If you're getting a regular salary, but living in a cheaper place, imagine the money you'll pocket.
6. The world is setting up for digital nomads.
We're taking over the world. OK, not really, but digital nomadism has become easy.
Most cities with creative influences have plenty of co-working spaces, where you can pay a membership fee for office space. Often, they'll have part-time packages for people on the move.
There's even a co-working boat out there that sails around the world. Not only that, but some of the quickest Internet speeds in the world are in some pretty obscure places, like Latvia. Even Romania has higher Internet speeds than the United States.
It’s even better if you're into the start-up scene. Countries like Estonia make it so easy for foreigners to start up businesses. You can literally register and have a bank account within a day.
If you’re thinking about switching to the digital nomad lifestyle, you have to build your employer’s trust first. Prove yourself, and prove that you’re able to work independently.
Annoy the sh*t out of your boss so much while you demonstrate your mad talents. He or she will recognize that your presence is intolerable, but your work ethic is valuable. (Don’t really do that last bit, by the way.)
If you’re looking to make the freelance jump, be sure you have some cash saved in advance. You’ll need it while you’re fumbling your way through the first few months.
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