If you actually like the day to day grind of going to work you might be in the minority. A Gallup poll from two years ago suggests that only 13% of people worldwide get up in the morning and cherish the idea of wrestling through rush hour to get to the office. People are disengaged, unmotivated and unfulfilled.
Could it be something in the office environment itself that is putting people off? A survey last summer by FlexJobs revealed that 76% would avoid the office completely if they had an especially important task to complete. This would suggest that despite being the “workplace” employees are more creative and productive somewhere else.
Research by the same group also suggests that flexible work arrangements where the employee is not strictly required to be at the office can improve health, personal relationships and overall happiness.
Maybe we’ve got the concept of work completely wrong?
A new infographic explores the “remote work revolution” and the ways in which people are turning the 9 to 5 office concept on its head.
If you chart the history of “the office,” as soon as the technology was invented for people to do the same tasks remotely, that’s exactly what they chose to do. In the late 70s through the 80s the concept of telecommuting and the introduction of branch offices allowed workers a more convenient way of getting things done away from the main headquarters. As we entered the 90s and the internet, email and personal computers became widespread, employees left the branch offices and did more of their work from home.
Meanwhile a parallel group of skilled workers took the concept to its logical conclusion and became freelancers, offering their services to multiple companies from the comfort of their own home offices.
In 1990 around 5% of the US population classed themselves as freelancers. By the year 2000 this had quickly risen to 15%, and today it’s closer to 30%. The rise of faster internet connections, powerful home computing and mobile devices is directly correlated.
It’s therefore quite clear. People don’t want to work at a designated workplace and if the opportunity for remote work came about they’d likely take it and be happier because of it.
The Digital Nomad Revolution
Many companies are now offering flexible hours and remote work to their employees, either as a formal policy or at their discretion. Telecommuting has more than doubled in the last 10 years. However there is a sub-section of this trend, mainly emerging out of the tech and web based industries, that is embracing remote work in the very foundations of their business.
As shown in the infographic, website BuzzFeed and travel service Airbnb have half of their workforces doing their jobs entirely out of the office. Automattic, the $317 million developer behind the WordPress blogging platform have no in-office employees at all. They don’t even have an office. Their office is Google Hangouts and their own internal chat room. They are what is known as “fully distributed” and they tout a number of benefits to this structure.
“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,” explained Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg in an interview with Glenn Leibowitz.
He also told Forbes: “All of the money we save on office space, we blow on travel costs.”
Travel is an integral part of the modern remote worker’s lifestyle both for the work itself and their own leisure. They call themselves digital nomads, people who leverage technology beyond the home office and take their work on the go. After all with cheap internet access virtually anywhere in the world and the ability to do most tasks on a mid-range laptop or tablet, why would you stay at home? The philosophy of freedom from the office is quickly evolving into freedom from the home as well.
Digital nomads encompass a range of skill levels and positions which also affects the type of nomadic path they choose. The average freelance blogger or graphic designer may opt for a minimalist lifestyle, travelling to places like Thailand and renting basic rooms to keep costs low. Living in Bali, Indonesia instead of London for example will save you thousands in monthly expenses. It’s not uncommon for people to become nomads in cheaper parts of the world in order to amass savings or pay down existing debts quicker. The culture and experiences are an added bonus.
Others may take the minimalist route in the beginning while they work on a tech startup and hope to become more lavish once it takes off. Some nomads are already business owners and leverage their wealth and technology to network and party globally with other successful leaders, rarely living from a home base.
Leading digital nomad Pieter Levels believes that with the exponential advancement in travel and technology that the digital nomad lifestyle will soon be the norm. By 2035 he predicts 1 billion people will be leaving the office and even their home behind.
Flights are going to be faster and cheaper. New modes of transport such as Elon Musk’s Hyperloop might take us between cities like LA and San Francisco in just 45 minutes, and he even has his eye on space travel!
Many companies are also developing apps and tools to aid nomads on their travels. Teleport and Nomadlist help people find the best cities for their budget and circumstances, Horn and Sqwiggle provide great team chat solutions, and Slack and Timedoctor can keep you focussed and engaged when that self discipline is slipping.
There is also aspects of the growing sharing and cooperative economies emerging in the digital nomad community. Even though the traditional office is behind them there is still a need for work-focussed environments with added tech and resources. This is where coworking spaces come in. From huts with wifi on the beach to full blown state of the art complexes, with conference rooms, computers and leisure & relaxation facilities – nomads are opening up unique spots all over the world where others can pass through on their travels.
This is even evolving into coliving. When people are constantly travelling from city to city and country to country, it would be nice to have somewhere familiar and free to stay with like minded people. This is the concept behind startup Caravanserai which aims to be an online hub for such places.
Maybe one day in the not too distant future the majority of us may actually like working!