Way before the pandemic, the glamorous idea of digital nomadism, working from under palm trees and maybe being your own boss had started taking off, in contrast with the traditional way of thinking about travel as free time and come corporate office as work environment.
Then came covid and first, travel stopped. Bye bye, digital nomad dreams. But at the same time, the traditional office work stopped too. Sure, many companies have offered flexibility on where to work from already pre-pandemic, but widely having the freedom to not work from the office was reserved to those working for themselves. The pandemic forced organisations to accelerate the process of giving their employees the right to choose more where their work day takes place, and how (talking here of course about those jobs that are not specifically tied to a certain physical place of course).
While the first ”phase” of the pandemic was filled with lockdowns, closed borders and cancelled trips, as vaccines were rolled out, variant have been getting weaker and low-case and low saturation of the healthcare system waves have become more common, travel has started again. Not exactly the way it used to, maybe, but it’s back. And hopefully to stay.
So now comes the interesting question – all of us who have been working remotely largely because of the pandemic, will we get to keep that option? This for sure depends largely on the organisations, and some will implement a more or less rigid back-to-the-office policy (I have my eyes on more traditional sectors and organizations here), but my hope is that those will be a minority. I believe that performance of employees hasn’t in the end decreased from the increased flexibility of working remotely (in some ways, maybe it has even increased), and that employees will also want to hold on to this flexibility too hard to accept strict office policies. The trend in work places in recent years in general has been in a more central role in employee welfare and participation, and in the end, this is only a natural continuation of it.
I personally do miss the social aspect of going to the office, and I also believe there are some things done more efficiently in person if possible. But at the same time, I find it hard to imagine that I’d be waking up at seven in the morning and going to the office every day. (How could that ever have been the norm?!) Ideally, I’d be free to choose when to work from the office, be that twice a week or once a month, or work from home… or anywhere else in the world.
Now that borders are opening again and an increasing number of people have the flexibility to work remotely (at least until called back to the office), the idea of digital nomadism suddenly has become more accessible to more people than before. There are some if’s, such as the responsibility of the organisation and employee regarding insurances, taxation, and ethical concerns related to digital nomadism. Some of these I believe will have to be addressed formally by companies in the years to come as this becomes more common by building new practices, but in the meantime, if a girl wants to fly to the Canary Islands to work, nothing can really stop her.
The future will tell, but if it would be up to me, I’d be betting that remote work and the possibility to live a more ”digitally nomad” life will become more common even for those working under the umbrella of an organisation (other than a pyramid scheme. Sorry, terrible joke. Not all digital nomads are involved in MLMs). And this, in turn, I hope will also change the infrastructure of life and work in general – such as legal frameworks for labour, insurances, flexible forms of living and such. So maybe, if anything good can be drawn out of this pandemic that’s long overdue, I hope this will be one of those things.