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!

Families are Loving Remote Work

Everyone benefits from remote work. But to share your remote work life with your partner or your family is even better.

Every experienced parent will tell you, that you should enjoy the time with your kids. But who is spending enough time with the kids? What is enough time? The overlap of your life and the life of the rest of your family is simply to small in the on-site office world. And that is not only right for parents – every couple loves to have more time together.

By far most remote workers with families are working out of their home offices or a nearby co-working space. But there are also some, who are travelling the world. We will look at both in this post.

Working from Home – Benefits

The No. 1 benefit is clearly the saved commute time which you get to spend with your partner, your kids or even your hobbies. It is really priceless to join breakfast and dinner with your entire family and be able to bring your kids to bed.

The flexibility is the second big benefit. You can return to work while the kids are sleeping in the evening. You can pick them up at school or attend a school event in a work break. You are flexible to organize the childcare – i.e. you split the time, the kids are at home, between both parents.

Michael Erasmus writes in his post ‘I found my ideal lifestyle by working remotely‘ how he is using the additional time and flexibilty for his hobby surfing. He lives in Cape Town and is checking the waves in the morning and during the day. If they are good and he has no meeting, he goes surfing and returns to the desk after a while.

All the other benefits of remote work are also present. Be it taking care for a pet (Why Many Remote Workers are Happy Dog or Cat Owners) or choose a productive work environment (The Ultimate List of Remote Work Pros and Cons).

My personal favorite is the added time I have with my two 10 and 8 year old girls. Our daily routine is, that I’m taking them to their school bus stop and bring them to bed very often. Remember routines – they are essential for remote workers to be productive.

Working from Home – Risks

But there is always a downside. This is i.e. the risk of mixing up work and family time. I’m highly recommending clear boundaries in terms of space and time.

Define a corner for work, i.e. your home office and another for private internet surfing / gaming, i.e. living room or kitchen. To use even different devices is a good idea for not falling into the pit of looking at business emails in private time.

You should not be distracted by your kids in the home office. Think about the possibility to work in a café or co-working space for some hours. Normally the closed-door-policy works pretty well at home – just remember to lock the door while being interviewed by BBC…

Do not mix time for work and family. So make your schedule clear to the entire family. There is nothing worse than kids, who are expecting dad or mum at home means 100% play time and are disappointed all the time.

Please don’t think you can work and look after the kids at the same time. Use their time in kindergarden, school or bed for work. And if you need the time the kids are at home awake, hire a babysitter for some hours.

Tips from the Buffer team: ‘Working From Home with Kids: 21 Tips From Our Remote Team‘.

All in all your familiy life will thrive if one or both parents are able to work from home. Even all mums have the possibility to return to work part-time after giving birth whenever they want.

Digital nomads

Is the life as digital nomad conflicting with relationships or having a family? Despite most digital nomads are single travellers, there is a rising number of travelling couples and even families with kids. Well known examples are ‘Digital Nomad Family‘ and ‘Bucket List Family‘.

Travelling as a couple is really great, because it avoids the otherwise lurking loniness. Travelling with small kids is also nice, however special in some cases. I.e. you are looking for yourself constantly about the nearest available pediatrist.

You have to make a decision until your kids are turning into kindergarden or school age. Many parents decide to settle down then and allow the kids the routine of school, friends and building relationships, which is important for their development. Only a few decide that the travelling gives them more than that and start to ‘home’ school the small ones on the road.

What benefit is missing? What is the biggest impact of remote work to your family life? Please let us know at the comment section!

Fight Skill Shortage with Remote Work

The predictions on the future of employment cannot be more divergent. Some say we face huge unemployment due to the emergence of the robots. Others say the growth of the companies is highly limited to the shortage of talented workforce.

The Problem

Companies around the world list the lack of specilized workforce as one of their top risks. The ‘vacancy duration’, the time to fill an open position, which is a good indicator for the availability of fitting workers, has increased dramatically. The fluctuation rate increases in a more and more stable environment. Unemployment rates are lower than 5% in a number of regions worldwide, what can be called ‘full employment’. The consequence is, that employers have to pay highly increased wages to attract skilled workers.

It is not a worldwide problem and it occures mostly not in a whole country. It appears regionally in the following parts of the world: Canada, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Middle and North Europe. And even in some Asian, Arabian, African and Middle or South American regions.

The Reasons

There are some obvious reasons for that problem. The Baby Boomers (which are born in the 50s and 60s) are retiring rigth now, faster than young employees can follow. The average of work hours per week is declining continously. The automation replaces widely manufacturing and other low skilled jobs but rarely higher skilled jobs (till now).

The Generation Y, the Millennials, are seeking for completely different factors at work with more flexibility, less stress, less career ambition, but they are highly motivated (i.e. they presume to be allowed to have private time for phone calls or Facebook at work, but are willing to be available and checking emails after work). And the employers are very rarely attuned to that situation.

The Actions

What to do about that situation? You can employ less skilled workers and do plenty on-the-job training. Or you can educate workers by your own, i.e. right after school. But the best investment is to change your policies and culture to let your existing staff work remotely and to use the remote workforce.

As a regular reader of this blog you know all the benefits of remote work. It is not only the saved cost for offices and the ability to hire as fast as possible the best talented workers from around the world. Above all it is encouraging and motivating to your workers. That is because they will experience your trust, save time and money for commuting, have less stress and can combine work and family or hobbies in a better way. That results in happier, more productive, less sick and thriving employees.

To get a good summary, read also this blog post: ‘The Ultimate List of Remote Work Pros and Cons‘.

The Conclusion

The best way to fight the No. 1 fear of the employers – the skill shortage – is to enable remote work. It is a win-win situation for both, the employers and the employees. It is definitively the future of work, so it is a huge advantage in the competition about the most talented workers.

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!