Coronavirus crisis is changing the world, and we all know what it has brought to our societies: lockdowns, office closures, market upheaval, and a sharp economic slump. All this is deeply worrying.
We are approaching a new reality, a new course that could represent a huge, unprecedented opportunity for organizations. The next stage should not imply going back to one’s past comfort zone but rather looking ahead and boldly embracing the future. Indeed, the virus could prove to be a tremendous driver for change, pushing companies to transform as never before.
To be able to perform this change, organizations’ action is urgently needed in five main areas: people, functions, technology, spaces, and culture.
Welcome to the era of the digital nomads! If you can work from home, why not work while travelling? Smart working brings with it a revolution in the human tendency towards permanent settlement. There are already numerous start-ups that offer the opportunity to work while travelling.
The world of work is changing in step with the digital nomads. A recent New York Times article told the story of Unsettled, a start-up that organizes thirty-day co-working experiences around the world, through which digital nomads – be they professionals or entrepreneurs – can travel the world while working. There are dozens of start-ups like Unsettled around the world: “If we could be somewhere, experiencing the world in a beautiful setting while working, challenging ourselves, growing professionally, enjoying a community of like-minded people and connecting locally, what’s stopping us?” said Michael Youngblood, 32, the South African who founded Unsettled with another digital nomad, Jonathan Kalan, 29.
But then, it was only to be expected. “Our nomadic future”, stated the title of a rather prophetic cover of the Economist in autumn 2008. “The broad technological future is pretty clear,” ran the editorial. “There will be ever faster cellular networks, far more numerous Wi-Fi hotspots and many more gadgets to connect to these networks.” The result? That is equally clear: “What we were used to doing in one spot, we will do on the move.”
And that’s basically what has been happening over the last ten years. After a centuries-long quest for permanent settlement, we have rather suddenly rediscovered our nomadic roots. Or rather, a digital nomadic dimension, rejecting permanent settlement and property ownership as a constitutive feature of the globalization era.
Working remotely is not just about working from home, however. It means working from anywhere. After a centuries-long quest for permanent settlement, we have rather suddenly rediscovered our nomadic roots. Or rather, a digital nomadic dimension, rejecting permanent settlement and property ownership as a constitutive feature of the globalization era. Digital nomads move from one city to another in search of opportunities, stimuli, other digital nomads with whom to share a part of their lives, like-minded communities that break up and reform continuously, without interruption. An Upwork survey on the workforce of the future, issued last February based on interviews to more than one thousand managers, reports that two thirds of these managers work remotely and that half of them had trouble finding useful talents in the place where their company is headquartered.
The statistics confirm this phenomenon, within the broader context of the world’s metropolitanisation. Migration from the southern to the northern hemisphere is just part of the story. In actual fact, 20% of EU inhabitants wish to migrate away from their native countries – that’s 7% more than the global average, and just under the proportion of North African and Middle Eastern inhabitants who seek to migrate due to misery and famine (22%).
Naturally, in the case of digital nomads, it is a different form of migration, dictated not just by economic reasons. These young people don’t just seek greater income or opportunities. They also – and perhaps, first and foremost – seek destinations that can satisfy their sensory dimension, their cultural stimuli, their vision of the world. This is well explained by the Global Shapers Annual Survey of the World Economic Forum, an important survey and perhaps the most accurate in grasping the needs, dreams, ideals and values of the generation of digital natives and of the children of globalization, with a database of 25,000 respondents from 186 countries worldwide.
81% of these young people aged 18-35 – that is, 8 out of ten – say that they would be willing to leave their country to find work or to advance their career, setting their sights on Western metropolises in countries such as the United States, United Kingdom , Germany, Australia, Switzerland, France, Spain, Sweden and Holland. The results tell the story of young people with an optimistic outlook on technology, an aversion for politics and bureaucracy and, in the overwhelming majority, a desire to see borders and frontiers disappear: “Travel has changed, everyone wants to be a temporary local,” said Signe Jungersted – director for development at Wonderful Copenhagen, the official tourism organization of a region strongly committed to attracting digital nomads – to the New York Times. So get used to it.