The disruption of the labour market: A nomad generation

As a result of the development of digital technology and the social need for a better working-life balance, the future of working is getting more flexible in terms of time and location. Remote working culture is one of the fundamental shifts that the digital age is bringing. This can provide many competitive advantages in a globalized economy, with benefits for both companies and workers. But it also encounters some barriers to handle on its way to standardisation.

A younger generation of professionals is demanding a different future by using technology to create a new scenario in which flexibility is a must. We can see the adoption of this lifestyle happening right now if we look at some facts and join the dots. Thanks to businesses that promote a sharing economy, people are moving from ownership to access in all product ranges: from Uber to Airbnb, blablacar or Lyft. Even mortgages have registered an important decrease on young generations, not only because they cannot afford them, but also because they don’t want to.

This need for flexibility comes along with an exponential evolution that the traveling industry is going through. Not so far from now — by 2035 — we will be able to take a flight from Berlin to Shanghai that lasts about 4 hours long (today it’s circa 14 hours long) at an approximate cost of $150 (rather than the average $600 it costs today). These disruptive changes on the flying market will make the movement of flexible lifestyles more affordable than ever. Remote work will help people to become “digital nomads”and travel while working, which is already such a movement with over 10,000 members.

Companies are also seeking a more flexible scenario. Today’s freelancers represent 30% of the workforce in the US, and that figure is expected to rise up to 50% by 2035 according to Forbes. This gives businesses a chance to control their workforce and adapt it to different circumstances, allowing them to take a step ahead on how human resources are managed. On the other hand, although this brings a greater level of uncertainty to freelance workers, it also provides their desired level of professional freedom.

Furthermore, especially in Western societies, there is a latent need to find a way in in which work doesn’t force employees to abandon their family, friends and lifestyle. Working remotely can help society to address the eternal challenge of offering a better work-life balance to their citizens. Reducing or eliminating everyday commuting times to the office can have a big positive impact on personal lives, which has a direct correlation on productivity according to research. This is even more significant in major cities with longer commuting times.

This change has become so beneficial that some of today’s companies have embraced remote working to attract the best talent in the industry, in an era where looking for certain highly-demanded profiles is a tough challenge for recruiters.

For the early adopters of the remote working culture there are already some facilities that enable and facilitate this way of living. This is particularly impactful for those who decide to become nomad professionals. For instance, Roam is a new concept space that joins hotel and working facilities so that nomads can jump all around the world by paying a periodic fee.

But this cultural shift would not be possible without the rise of digital tools for online communication, videoconferencing and file sharing (Slack, Skype, Github…), which makes it actually possible for anyone to work from anywhere in the world in the same way you would do under the same roof.

This issue has become so extended that it’s now considered normal to see how professionals in some industries (especially in tech, design and related fields) are unintentionally working remotely using such tools while still working from the same office. This is clearly an inefficient waste of time, money and other important resources, that companies might want to address soon for their own good. Today half of U.S. workers do a job that is compatible with the remote working culture, and according to a study conducted by Flexjobs, their number has grown 103% in the last 10 years.

It seems that the only enabler that is missing for the disruption of working structures is adapting employers’ mindsets to make it happen. The world seems to be ready to take this step forward towards what the remote culture implies, but reality shows that only few companies have dared to become fully and strictly remote, and these are limited to some specific industries. We can find examples in Tech with GitHub or Mozilla among the largest companies working on a nearly fully remote basis. Design (Balsamiq, Automatic, Hanno) and HR (Inspired HR, Kin HR) are two industries also taking the lead on the remote working culture (a more complete list of remote working companies can be found here).

REFLECTION SESSION

Take a step on back on what you just read and think about how remote work can help you improve the way you work. Here are some questions that might help you dig deeper in your reflection:

How can a remote working culture benefit me both on a professional and personal level?

What can I do to implement remote working in my workplace/business?

How might my workmates and I take advantage of new technologies to achieve more flexibility at work?

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