The world we live in is constantly evolving. Global markets need to be competitive in just everything you can think about : work, traveling, medicine… The costs of transportation and flying, for instance, are plummeting. Traveling or living abroad has become way easier — especially thanks to the increase of visa agreements and, obviously, to the internet. You can communicate with you loved ones while on a beach in Bali thanks to the Internet Gods.
My young generation, the generation famously known as generation Y, is embracing this philosophy. It is a globalized, or born-global generation. We think world, Europe, Asia — not just France. We grew up with the Internet and probably can’t live without it. Our generation looks for purpose, for fun, but also for responsibilities and independence, in work as well as in life. Our generation would rather travel around the globe and have fun than have the house, car and golden retriever package. If I need a car or an apartment, I can always rent one.
The economy is also evolving with the emergence of collaborative economy and social businesses in particular. Many startups and unicorns were born in this joyful mess: Uber, Blablacar, Drivy, Couchsurfing, wework, Etsy, 99 design…
This new economy raises doubts about the old one’s foundations — such as the traditional salaried workforce. What will be the 21st century worker’s status? In his book La France du bon coin, David Ménascé shows that the salaried workforce is nibbled at on its top as well as on its bottom. On one side, you have people cumulating precarious jobs… and on the other, people with high intellectual positions have new aspirations that collide with the very hierarchical and politicized systems of big companies.
Thus, thanks to the subprime and European crisis, the number of self-employed, independent, freelancers and entrepreneurs exploded. Now, there are also slashers — people who alternate several jobs : photographer and web graphist, guitar-player and yoga teacher, etc. For some it is an obligation, for others a claimed way of life. These new ways of living are developing and it will keep on going that way, as you can see in the chart below (for freelancers):
In 2014, there were 53 million Americans doing freelance jobs, according to the Freelancer Union study. In France, they were 700 000 that same year, according to Hopwork’s estimations ; and 8.3 millions in Europe in 2013 according to the study « Future Working: The Rise of europe’s independent professionals ». It also appears to be the most growing job category : +85% in France, according to this same study.
More and more companies are following the same philosophy by allowing their employees to work from home —though some of them have gone back on this decision, like Yahoo when Marissa Mayer became CEO… The failure of getting the company back on track shows that teleworking was clearly not the issue there. Working from home can sometimes be badly set up : without consultation, strategy nor rules and especially when there is not a real HR politic behind it. Yet this way of working is actually developing.
There seems to be a limit (in % of the number of employees) beyond which teleworking causes more problems than the ones it solves, as you can see in the article “Remote Worker, Distributed Team”, written by Bob McWhirter.
The latter also mentions « distributed teams » — the ones located on the bottom-left side of the chart. They are the companies without employees who work in the office because there is no office! For instance: Buffer, Stripe, Basecamp, inVision, Automattic (the company developing WordPress), Zapier and event the recent French startup Email Hunter.
So, from the moment you work from afar, why would you keep living in Paris, Lyon, etc.? That’s why teleworkers go live in the countryside and coworking spaces start appearing in those areas, like Mutinerie Village or La Cordée. But more than everything else, it is the opportunity to go travel abroad, switch locations whenever you wish : it is digital nomadism.
Digital nomads can be entrepreneurs, paid employees or freelancers. They work from Bali, Thailand, Colombia, or travel through Europe whenever they feel like it… For now, nomads are mostly doing web-related jobs — but there are also lawyers, CEOs of retail companies… or even Media bosses.
That’s why , according to the estimations or Nomad List’s founder, Pieter Levels, there could be up to 1 billion digital nomads by 2035!
Would you be one of them? Would you change your way of living and working?
You can find the French version of this article here.