How to Take Your Company Off-Road

The future of work is nomadic, and that’s good for talent and retention

My wife and I are digital nomads. We’ve been working “out of office” for four years and counting.

As such, we’re big believers in the professional, creative and personal benefits that itinerant work can offer.

Travel makes you nicer.

Travel makes you smarter.

Seeing the world and earning money at the same time—and working to your own schedule!—makes you feel like your life isn’t unfairly balanced to work.

Now of course, we’re not the first to realize this.

The first wave of nomads often supported their travel by selling advice on how to quit your job and travel the world, or by being travel bloggers and trading coverage and content for accommodation and transportation.

The current wave has evolved into a lifestyle choice for entrepreneurs who have global clients or operate online businesses.

Either way, it’s a wonderful working life.

But for many, the leap into going freelance, or even starting your own business, is too daunting—especially in the USA.

Here’s why:

  • An aging population
  • The exorbitant and rising cost of health insurance
  • Consolidated dominance and defensive maneuvering of large corporations to prevent competition
  • Diminished liquidity and low interest rates (which means capital is disproportionately offered to unicorn extreme growth opportunities through VCs and funds instead of small businesses that don’t want to eat the world)
  • The absurd complexity of the USA federal and regional tax code

And well, there you have it. That is why you get fewer entrepreneurs starting fewer businesses.

Hence: entrepreneurship is in long term decline in the U.S.A.

From Inc

A double whammy

For many young and talented people who might consider working out of office, the nomad lifestyle seems unattainable without taking on huge risk. The choice, it seems, is this:

  • Either you become location and employment independent with very little cash cushion
  • Or you work for a company (hopefully with benefits) and stay put.

But there’s a third way.

There are a number of smart companies looking to attract the best, most restless, adventurous, and creative talent with methods that go beyond Google’s perks or purse. These companies have abandoned the traditional dichotomy and embraced TRaD working instead.

TRaD stands for “Telecommuting, Remote and Distributed”.

Remote.co, a resource for companies and teams embracing this model, lists more than one hundred companies that support this style of working.

Here are some of them…

And by the way, it’s not just trendy 20 person software companies.

It’s companies like American Express, which says that “having a remote workforce allows us a much deeper talent pool to select from as we look for world-class people to deliver our unique brand of world-class service.”

Many of them indicate it’s about hiring (and retaining) the best talent from a global pool, who increasingly want freedom and flexibility.

Remote.co CEO Sara Sutton also points out that:

“remote work has the power to bring people into the workforce who have typically been left out of the more traditional work models. Whether it’s people who live in rural or economically-depressed areas, or those who need flexibility to care for their kids or aging parents. People with disabilities or health issues, military spouses, retirees who need or want to keep working, the list of people who can benefit from remote work is long.”

Others mention the time and money saved by not forcing employees to make ever lengthening commutes.

This is a great thing - commutes are a silent driver of much unhappiness in work and life.

The psychological immune system bounces back from single huge events, good or bad, but not from everyday ones.

Flexible working is also the key to attracting and retaining more women, especially after they have children.

Going the Full Nomad

There is, for now, at least one company that is embracing the nomadic lifestyle wholeheartedly. PR agency Emerging Insider is divesting itself of its Chicago office and going on the road:

“We’re launching the world’s first fully nomadic agency, with our team setting up a new live/work location around the globe every quarter. We aren’t a collective of freelancers. We are one of the world’s most successful startup/mid-market PR agencies and we’re about to meet the rest of the world by going nomadic.”

They claim this is a first for the corporate world where employees that are not freelance can work and travel with the stability of a well known organization.

CEO Zach Weiner pointed out that he’s doing it strategically, for a balance of work and life reasons:

“We realized that becoming nomadic ourselves would actually allow us to go deeper in working with clients. Meet new startup clientele, enhance relationships and most of all provide incredible experiences for our staff.”

So while globalization creates challenges, it also creates opportunities for those willing and able (and tight enough in their time zone management skills) to work with clients all over the world.

Taking your company on the road is one such approach, which of course comes with its own logistical and cultural challenges. Says Weiner:

“All internally have been incredibly excited, but also, a little bit overwhelmed. Those without [the nomad] experience see the incredible opportunity, but also overestimate the challenges inherent in anything where routine goes out the window. We’re fortunate in that our team is young and flexible, I’ve always been prone to hiring people that are risk-takers. As an agency these days, you have to be.”

Taking risks, creating your own narrative as a company, keeping your staff inspired and happy: these are things all companies need to work on, now and in the future.

Going nomad is probably a bridge too far for many (or even most) companies.

Nevertheless, companies that want to win the future of work are going to have be more flexible about flexible working.