If one thing is clear about remote work (at least according to an in-depth Pwc census in america, e by Adnkronos in Italy) is that many people prefer it, and would like at least 3 days of smartworking per week.
When the pandemic forced office employees to shut down, it instantly transformed them into digital nomads. Yes, it prevented them from spending time in person with colleagues, but many soon realized they preferred remote work over their office routines.
While remote workers of all ages contemplate their future (and while some offices and schools begin to reopen) many wonder if they wish to return to their old lives and what they are willing to sacrifice or endure in the years to come.
Office life and digital nomads
Even before the pandemic, there were those who wondered if office life was in tune with their aspirations.
We've spent years studying and to speak of “digital nomads”, workers who leave old houses and cities to live and work more freely and flexibly. The conditions that distanced workers from offices and major metropolitan areas, pushing them towards new lifestyles, were many regardless of the pandemic. Now this army of digital nomads (and aspiring ones) can reinvent their relationship with work.
Tinder and switch for big cities
Most of the digital nomads are the ones who enthusiastically started working for prestigious companies. She moved to big cities like Milan, New York and London, she wanted to spend her free time meeting new people, going to museums and trying new restaurants.
But then came the burnout.
While these cities offer great opportunities for recreation and creativity, digital nomads have rarely had time to take advantage of them. High costs of living, time constraints and work culture have contributed to making the lives of many oppressive. Many have compared the city life of professionals to a "hamster wheel".
Most of the digital nomads interviewed and involved in the recent studies had been drawn to what urban planner Richard Florida called in this very interesting little book “Creative class jobs”: roles in design, technology, marketing and entertainment. They assumed that this job would prove rewarding enough to make up for the sacrifices in terms of free time spent on social and creative pursuits.
Yet most of these digital nomads soon realized that these works were far less interesting and creative than expected. Worse still, their employers continued to ask to be “all in” for the job and accept the control aspects of office life without providing the promised development, mentoring or rewards. Doesn't seem like a good way to spend 2 or 30 years on the job. True?
Looking for a new start
This awareness has caused a first form of "counter-exodus" of digital nomads. Yet, although they have left some of the most fascinating cities in the world, the digital nomads had not yet matured what we might call their own "class consciousness". The pandemic could offer many employees the opportunity to work remotely, and there is no reason to think that many will not take advantage of it to transform their working lives.
First of all by favoring smaller cities and towns, with cheaper real estate markets and greater contact with nature. Many of these places are not yet fully “gentrified”, and still possess vibrant local cultures. As commuters to work disappear from everyday life, reducing the days of work in the presence would give remote workers greater availability of income and more free time.
New, small support jobs
Digital nomads have often used time and money savings to try new things, even second jobs. A recent study has even found, somewhat paradoxically, that the satisfaction derived from starting a second job often also improves performance in the first jobs.
The future of work, while not entirely remote, will undoubtedly offer more remote options to far more digital nomads.
Sure, some business leaders are still reluctant to accept their employees' desire to leave the office behind, but local governments are embracing the trend, both in USA and in Europe, developing plans to attract remote workers. This migration, both national and international, has the potential to enrich communities and cultivate more satisfying working lives.