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Carpet-Bombing the Cube Farm: Rise of the Digital Nomad

Thursday, October 13, 2016 12:04
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--Imagine if everyone in the world worked from wherever, whenever and with whoever they wanted.

Imagine, too, that anyone who wants a job can be hired by borderless, frictionless, decentralized entities. Imagine, stretching those neurons a little further, that these entities are free of onerous taxes, arbitrary regulations, mind-splitting bureaucracy and office politics.

Maybe that’s looking too far into the future. Maybe not.

All we know, based on our experience alone, as we type this missive to you from yet another coffee shop in yet another city, is that the way the world works is going through a massive, and much needed, transformation.

In San Diego, for example, I met Tim. He picked me up through the Uber app. Tim had travelled, I’d learned, from Florida and was headed to Portland. With Uber, amazingly, Tim could travel the States and work whenever, and wherever, he wanted.

“Interested, I just tried Uber out in my hometown in Florida,” he told me. “When I realized I could go to any city in the U.S. and do this, my life was instantly changed. I was gone the next week. That was four months ago. It’s been an amazing journey so far.”

Tim is what mostly only digital nomads call a “digital nomad.”

And he’s not alone.

Susi K. is, as I type this, helping me transcribe something on the Fiverr app from a coffee shop in Budapest. Shakti, whom I met on Taskrabbit helped me design a t-shirt last month from his living room. Paul, a friend I met in Prague, runs a successful English training website for foreigners who want to work in the United States. And Robert, a new friend I met in New York, runs a multi-million dollar company from his kitchen table.

Psymposia’s Mike Margolies, who I traveled with for over a month just recently, currently leverages income from his home in Houston. He works full-time as a nomadic activist-entrepreneur (activipreneur? entreprivist?), while renting his house through Airbnb.

Yours truly hasn’t sat in a computer chair for 6 months and counting.

In short, remote jobs are on the rise.

According to a recent poll from Gallup called State of the American Workplace, nearly 4 out 10 (39%) companies currently let some employees work remotely.

“Remote work seems to be the wave of the future,” Laura Vanderkam writes in Fast Company. “A recent survey of business leaders at the Global Leadership Summit in London found that 34% said more than half their company’s full-time workforce would be working remotely by 2020. A full 25% said more than three-quarters would not work in a traditional office by 2020, which is not some far off, futuristic era. It’s six years from now.”

And as the digital age carpet bombs the cube farms (a legacy of the Industrial Revolution), people are re-imagining the working lifestyle and, while saving their employers money on overhead costs, are finding a much more sane work-life balance than America has been used to.

The benefits of this trend, you can imagine, will reach well beyond just the confines of America. Being able to work remotely, and without permission from the culture or the government, is beginning to level the playing field in places where forced inequities are incredibly vast.

Take, for example, Code to Inspire (CTI) and the Digital Citizen Fund in Afghanistan — two organizations which work to empower Afghan women with economic independence.

“Code to Inspire,” founder Fereshteh Forough writes, “is a 501(c)(3) registered non-profit that is committed to educating female students in Afghanistan and improving their technical literacy by teaching them how to code so that they can find future employment as a freelancer and become entrepreneurs driving innovation.”

“Digital Citizen Fund,” Dr. Ehsan Bayat of the Bayat Foundation explains, “teaches women how to make money online through skills other than coding, such as blog writing, social media, and video production.”

If you know little about Afghanistan, here’s why this is important…

According to Forough, 85% of women in Afghanistan have no formal education and are illiterate. Women participation in the labor force, thus, is a paltry 15.7%.

Because it’s still taboo for Afghan women to walk outdoors unattended, social mobility for women is severely restricted. And in the rare case when women do make money, it’s still somewhat taboo for them to have complete control over it.

The solution in the digital age is simple: Empower them to work remotely and to accept bitcoin.

“Women receive payment in bitcoin,” Bayat explains, “which allows them to conceal their identity and keep their earnings private. Even though women can make money in Afghan society through other means, they rarely have control over it once they have earned it. Bitcoin provides them with complete control over their earnings and makes them financially independent in a way that was not previously possible.

Prior to the bitcoin revolution,” Bayat goes on, “women who accepted online work were typically paid in American currency, which required hefty fees from PayPal or bank wires. Roya Mahboob, the co-founder of Digital Citizen Fund, recalls receiving payment for all the girls in the program in a single lump sum that she would then divide between them according to their earnings. This system avoided tremendous bank fees, but put the women in danger by forcing them to carry large sums of cash. Since bitcoin is anonymous, only the person getting paid knows when a payment comes in and how much it is worth. Bitcoin also prevents the need for a bank account, which can be a liability for a woman in Afghanistan.”

Coding School

And if your totalitarian government doesn’t want you to start remote companies within their borders? Easy. Go around them and become borderless.

To facilitate this, e-residencies are on the rise. Estonia, as one example, allows foreigners to apply to become an e-resident. Meaning, anyone to open up a remote company through their digital Estonian citizenship — sometimes in just 18 minutes flat.

With low start-up and maintenance costs and competitive tax burdens, a remote Estonian company is a good option for bootstrappers.

Beyond that, Liberland, as mentioned in our recent interview with the President in Prague, is set to release an app which allows individuals to trade freely beyond the borders of their home State.

As the economy continues to crawl toward borderless, frictionless technology, savvy individuals are following suit and calling the world their home.

And you can, too.

Show your boss the studies. Ask for the freedom to choose.

People who are given the freedom to work remotely (even if they don’t use it, I would venture to guess) are more productive, happier, healthier and more likely to stick around.

To dig into the benefits of working remotely, we invite Nick Hardiman of TechRepublic to explain 10 good reasons why working remotely makes sense.

Read on.

10 good reasons why working remotely makes sense

Nick Hardiman

When employees carry out their duties away from the office, that’s remote working — also known as telecommuting and telework.

It’s not an all-or-nothing definition. Some remote workers, like travelling salespeople and call center workers, are permanently away from their organization. Laptop-wielding middle managers regularly dock with the office mothership. Some employees work remotely only when the office is on fire.

The traditional office is under attack, beaten down by remote video calls, outsourcing, and workers in coffee bars. It’s a threat that the CEO of Yahoo!, Marissa Mayer, famously tried to stamp out by forcing all employees to work onsite. But who wants to work in the old headquarters?

“You know what I want to do today? Commute to the office!” Said no one. Ever.

And remote working is on the rise. A US federal government report said that 47% of its employees (that’s 1,020,034 people — no, really, more than a million people) were eligible to telework — a big increase over the year before.

So is the office dying? Is the attraction of working from the sofa wearing pyjamas just too strong to resist? Last year, a British industry panel led by national daily The Guardian and conference call company Powwownow conducted a round-table discussion to tackle the issue of remote work.

Among their concerns: Can you trust a telecommuter? Does absenteeism trump presenteeism? What’s going to happen next? Here are some of their conclusions.

1: Remote workers are less stressed

Daryl Wilkinson, group head of digital development at Nationwide Building Society, said he wanted to encourage remote working to empower his staff and as a demonstration to the rest of the company. “There’s less stress in the office and the workplace — people feel empowered to work in a way that suits them and suits the business.”

2: Remote workers are well connected

The prevalence of smartphones and social media mean you don’t have to be next to someone to communicate effectively. And new business trends like remote administration, cloud-based project management, video conferencing, and BYOD are extending the effectiveness of remote work.

3: Remote workers cost less

Encouraging different ways of working allows companies to reduce their rent and property costs, according to Ian Adams, head of head of strategic marketing development at outsourcing company Mitie.

4: Absenteeism is good

Not the AWOL type of absenteeism — this is “remote from the office” absenteeism. “The ability to work remotely eliminates the necessity for ‘presenteeism’ — being in the office as much as possible,” said Jonathan Swan, policy and research officer for Working Families, a charity specializing in work/life balance.

5: The new agile workplace creates new jobs

New ways of working require new roles in the organization. “We’re seeing greater collaboration between HR, IT, property and facilities management and job titles like ‘workplace director’ making this agile workplace happen,” Adams said.

6: Remote working provides choice

According to Robert Gorby, marketing director of Powwownow, remote working provides choice. “Choice is very important. There shouldn’t be a technology-driven compulsion to work in a certain way.”

7: Companies benefit from happier remote employees

Try squeezing a de-stressing lunchtime doze into your office day. That’s right; it’s impossible. “It’s about working with the grain of people’s lives,” Swan said.

8: Remote workers are more engaged

Nationwide’s Wilkinson said, “When you’re tweeting with people in your team close to midnight, it brings home that people are experiencing something beyond ‘doing work’ — they’re engaged in a different way.”

9: Remote venues are better than the office

We’ve all heard about how J.K. Rowling wrote a lot of Harry Potter in her local coffee bar. Now office workers can get some of that action. “Flexible working isn’t just office or home — there may be somewhere near home with better facilities,” said Celia Donne, global operations director of Regus, an office accommodations provider.

10: Commuting is bad for you

Even before the workday starts, telecommuting employees are better off than their physical commuting colleagues. According to the UK Office of National Statistics, “Commuters have lower life satisfaction, a lower sense that their daily activities are worthwhile, lower levels of happiness and higher anxiety on average than non- commuters.” And less commuting means a smaller carbon footprint, making tree-huggers happier.

The trend continues

The remote work revolution has been rumbling across industries for years now, and it isn’t over yet. Flexible working is a done deal, but remote working continues to spread. Andy Lake, editor of flexible work resource Flexibility, said Department for Business surveys showed that more than 90% of companies offered flexible working of some kind, but that this was mostly flexible hours and part-time working rather than telecommuting.

Expect more staff to disappear from the old cube farm as more staff convince their bosses to let them work from home.

[Ed. note: This article originally appeared here, on TechRepublic’s website.]


Nick Hardiman
Contributor, TechRepublic

The post Carpet-Bombing the Cube Farm: Rise of the Digital Nomad appeared first on Laissez Faire.


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