Prepare for the Remote Work Tsunami

The digital nomads, who are portraying themselves in the internet these days, are only the spearhead of the movement. Most of them are internet marketers, travel blogger, self-taught digital nomad trainers, WordPress experts or organizers of coworking retreats.

But this is only the beginning, they are only the first row of the protest march. The already raising big mass behind are the silent ones, who do full- or part-time telecommuting or are part of the worldwide freelancing force, which feeds big companies. See details in Diana Mulcahys book ‘The Gig Economy‘.

Why is remote work an incoming tsunami?

Latest since 2011 we all know the characteristics of a tsunami. Small waves out in the ocean are indicating the problem, but you cannot imagine the impact, they will have at the coast. Only next to the coastline, where the water is shallow, the waves will pile up and get their disastrous force.

The remote work movement is in the phase of the small waves out in the sea. The big wave will hit companies and workers in the near future. The obstacle with that is, that humans are not made for fast changes. Mankind is highly adaptable, but only over generations and not in just some years.

What makes it even more complicated, is the raising automation of jobs. What started in the manufacturing industry decades ago, will continue there and will spread farther into assistence, administrative and even academic jobs.

Reasons for the shift to remote work

For companies:

  • get happier employees and increase productivity
  • get higher skilled employees, than the ones living nearby your offices or you can convince to move to your location
  • save money for offices and wages, because your employeers don’t have the expensive metropolitan cost of living

For employees:

  • create a healthy work environment with less stress (at home or on the road)
  • choose your employer worldwide for the best conditions, instead of comparing only the few in reach of your commuting
  • save money while living in a rural area or abroad, compared to an expensive city

See the complete list here: The Ultimate List of Remote Work Pros and Cons

The overall reason for the remote work tsunami is the skill-shortage at the places of the companies and the technical opportunity to work from everywhere.

The reason for the overcrowded cities all over the world is the former necessity to gather people to work together in large buildings. That is obvious for manufacturing processes, where a decreasing number of people work and is not further true for all office jobs.

The result

The economical advantage will be at the companies which adapt to this new work style quickly. The rural areas and small towns will thrive and the big cities will loose residents (although this is still unbelievable with their extraordinary housing prices today). The well educated techworkers from Asia, especially from India, and from Africa can participate quickly from the international business.

Old-style companies (‘what we are doing cannot be done remotely’) and the people who won’t or cannot adapt to the new work style will be on the downside. The last group is paired with the group of people who lost their job to automation and won’t or could not be trained into new professions.

How to prepare?

For companies:

  • implement a remote culture, switch the company language to English
  • send the staff home for some single days
  • adjust rules and agreements
  • send them home more days or 100%
  • employ new fully remote employees from anywhere
  • read: how to shift your company to remote

For employees:

  • check or enhance your technical skills for providing your profession in the remote way
  • arrage a home office
  • participate in remote trails at your company
  • ask your boss for some single days working from home
  • move to a remote position or start your own business (the later was never as easy and cheap as today)

Prepare for the remote work wave and you will not be washed away, but on the winning side of the movement.

If you are employer or employee, facing the above and need some advice, just contact me.

What do you think? Is the shift not as dramatic as I suggest – or even worse? Let us know in the comment section below!

Status of the Remote Industry

The remote industry is thriving. That is a fact. But what is rising more? Supply or demand? Remote jobs or remote workers? Are there platforms? What is the most important new job? This post will answer that.

Actual Status

If you are curios what the remote industry is, have a look at my blog post ‘What is remote work, a digital nomad or even a remote-first company?‘. If you are still wondering why so many people are talking about remote work, just read this: ‘The Ultimate List of Remote Work Pros and Cons‘.

I would summarize the status of the remote industry as follows:

  • there are lots of willing workers (this is also shown by many surveys, i.e. ‘State of the American Workplace Report 2017‘ by Gallup)
  • we have now all technological possibilities for collaboration (and the future will bring cheaper virtual reality devices on top)
  • there are best practices and knowledge bases
  • we have not enough job offers and career opportunities / too less long-time engagements,  mostly gigs (the quality and diversity of jobs should be the same as with on-site jobs)
Knowledge Bases

Lets have a closer look at the knowledge bases associated with remote work. They are a little scattered over the following fields with often overlapping topics:

 

Remote Work Consultants

What is this new job about? These consultants are advising people who want to work remotely, what kind of skills they need, which hard- and software they will need and how to find a job. But, they are also advising managers to enhance their traditional companies with remote work. That goes from letting people work from home some days, over changing companies culture, processes and tool all over to creating new teams or divisions which are completely remote.

Conclusion

Exactly with that, the remote work consultants are able to increase the number of remote positions, are spreading the word of remote work to more industries and are lobbying for remote work in our complete society including local and global politics. So that is the most important new job about remote work.

And because these consultants are gathering all the knowledge over remote work, they can establish the missing overall platforms for remote work, which will combine the important topics from the long list above.

The listed examples can never be complete. Did I miss an important service? Or am I wrong with my argumentation? Please let us know in the comments section.

Remote Work Will Save Small Towns

The struggling small towns, which lost so many people, first and foremost the young talented ones, to the big cities, will be thriving again with the already started wave of remote work.

Status quo

The entire world is in a long phase of urbanization (see also these UN report: 2014 Revision of World Urbanization Prospects from my post How remote work supports the health of our planet). But it is not only the movement from rural landscapes to cities – it is especially the skilled people, who have to move from small towns to the big cities to get proper jobs. That is the same in the US, North and Latin America, Europe, Asia, Australia and even Africa. And there are also some decreasing metropolitan areas; to name only two examples: the Rust Belt in the US and the Ruhr area in Germany, which were strong in coal mining and steel industry.

You can see the same pattern everywhere: Young people move away from home after finishing high school or studying to find higher education and work in big cities. And everywhere you see the big travel movement for christmas, chinese new year or the other big holiday breaks, when singles, couples and young families are travelling to their families to be together for a few days.

Future

But why will that change? Because of the advent of remote work. I am explaining the rise of remote work in all my other posts, but take this as summary: The Ultimate List of Remote Work Pros and Cons. Because it effects so many parts of our lifes, we should name it a new industry. With so many known advantages, it is clear that the remote industry will introduce itself even faster than the digital revolution.

Everyone with a location independed job can choose a place to live and work. There will be people, who want to live at their home town, at the place where relatives live (if it is not the same) or they will choose a ‘nice’ spot. Some will stay in big cities, because of amenities like good travel connections or cultural offerings. But the big movement will go from overcrowded cities where housing is expensive, the air is polluted and traffic is a nightmare to small towns, while some of them are already looking like ghost towns.

Home towns

We all need communities, and nearly all of us love the community of family, friends and neighbours where we grew up. So it is easy to guess, that a lot of people will move back to their home towns. And the returning inhabitants bring demand for services and spending capacity which will not only keep some dying small community alive, these towns will be literally reinvigorated.

Imagine the young high potential graduate who can still take care of an elderly family member and start a significant job from home. Or imagine a young family with remote working mom and dad, who are enabled to live in their small home town, neighbouring parents and other relatives to give their children the same feeling of ‘home’ like they experienced years before.

Vacation spots

All the others, who are not tied or not tied yet will choose a nice spot, which is affordable, has good weather and other amenities like security. In general that will be the holiday regions. There will also be much movement between these areas, because the migration will start again when the locations get crowded, which ends the quite and also rises living costs and traffic.

The vacation spots will get nomads, who are passing by on the one hand and new residents, who are settling down, on the other hand. It is important to grow the infrastructure to handle them in a balance with minimal destruction of the nature to keep the place attractive.

Responsibility of towns

The towns have to stop trying to attract big companies or manufactoring jobs. That will be a waste of time and money. Fred Perrotta explains it well with an US example here: No Jobs are Coming: How Remote Work Can Save Small Towns. Also the comments by Kristi E. DePaul, Michael DeHart and Deb Dutton are very well said.

The better way is attracting remote workers to move (back) to the town and reorganizing the infrastructure for the new situation. There will be an increase in service jobs if the population is growing again. But the actual residents should not rely on only that. They should be trained in the use of remote work tools and how to get a digital job with their capabilities.

Responsibility of big cities

First of all, the cities have to take it seriously. Lots of them are highly dependent on a few big companies (be it blue or white collar jobs), which is very dangerous. Germany has a number of cities which are highly dependent on big car manufacturers. Take Wolfsburg with Volkswagen for example. The treasurer of Wolfsburg declared a spending freeze at the day ‘Dieselgate’ went public, because they knew that VW whould not pay extensive taxes anymore.  They will have to deal with unemployment soon, because of the radical shift to electric cars, where Volkswagen will loose market share and lots of employees.

It is way better for cities to have a huge bulk of remote employees which work for many companies in different industries and even different countries. That is the best insurance against economic risk. Cities are still attracting big companies to get new jobs, but soon they will try to attract remote workers.

Big cities have to reinvent themself to keep a meaning. They have to take care of air pollution, traffic, security and they have to spend a lot for green infrastructure, parks and entertainment to be attractive in a very new competition.

If you are able to choose: Do you want to live in a big city or in a town? Let us know in the comments section!

What is remote work, a digital nomad or even a remote-first company?

The remote work movement gains more and more momentum. But what is ‘remote work’ really? And what are all the other terms in its context? See the following collection.

Remote Work

It is any kind of collaborating work, where not all participating members are colocated in one building. The definition diverges, some say all workers on one plant are not remote, but others say everyone who sits 30 meters away or on a different floor is remote. That hard definition comes from the fact, that this 30-meter-collegue will lose the connection to the project without proper communication and documentation.

With that definition you will get one point: you are already working remote in some kind. But the common understanding of working remote is to work part- or full-time from your home office or a cafe or coworking space in your home town or anywhere else on our planet.

Completely Remote / 100% remote

If you are talking about a person, it is someone, who works full-time remote (no matter if in the home town or abroad). This is not excluding project meetings at your company and visits of customers and suppliers from time to time.

If you are talking about a company, all their employees are able to work where they want. The company can even have offices, but some never had an office or headquarter anywhere.

Remote-friendly vs. Remote-first Company

All big companies are trying to be remote-friendly these days. They are offering flexible work hours, part- and full-time home offices and sometimes even single enployees, which are completely location independent. These actions are commonly taken on existing onsite staff.

A remote-first company is built around the remote philosophy with all its tools and processes, even if some employees are sitting together in the same office. These companies are hiring worldwide, with no connection to any location. That constellation is still rare, but there is a raising number of i.e. software companies. One of the first of that kind was 37signals, turned now to Basecamp (http://basecamp.com).

Freelancers / Entrepreneurs

There are 3 major working conditions for remote workers: freelancing, self-employment and traditional employment (permanent appointment). These conditions are often mixed, i.e. a freelancer who has its own side projects or an employed person with part-time freelancing. Anyway, the percentage of freelancers and entrepreneurs is very high under remote workers.

Digital Nomads

are generally people, who are working online with the help of laptop and smart phone (formerly known as telecommuting). While the term is correct for people in the home office and abroad, it is normally linked to remote workers, who are moving from location to location around the globe.

Co-working and -living

With the raise of remote work, some digital nomad hubs emerged (i.e. Chiang Mai in Thailand). In those cities the first co-working spaces appeared, commonly open offices with WiFi where you rent your desk per day or even hours. Co-living came up next, the easiest explanation is: a combination of co-working space and hostel. The co-working spaces are already spreading through our home towns, because remote workers, who cannot work at home, are tired from distractions and bad wifi at coffee shops.

Remote Industry

If you combine all that, you see that we have a rising industry branch here. The related businesses includes co-working and -living spaces, hostels, coffee shops, specialized travel agencies, organized digital nomad trips, specialized online education and blogging, software for online collaboration and a lot more (please feel free to put the things I missed in the comments).

Millennials / Generation Y

Everytime you read something about the future of work you will come across the term ‘Millennials’. The millennials (or ‘Generation Y’ if you live in continental europe) are, according to Wikipedia (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millennials): ‘the demographic cohort following Generation X. There are no precise dates for when this cohort starts or ends; demographers and researchers typically use the early 1980s as starting birth years and ending birth years ranging from the mid-1990s to early 2000s’.

Why are they (wait, I should say ‘we’) that important? Because this generation will have the highest percentage of working people soon and because the needs and desires of that generation are totally different to generations before. Security and stability at only one employer was desired over decades, but the millennials are looking for freedom, opportunities and self-fulfillment. And because that is combined with and enabled by the digitalization, it is the biggest challenge for all industries.

That explanation was helpful? Or do I missed an important point? Please let us all know in the comment section. Thanks for sharing!