It really shouldn’t be a surprise that technology is impacting the way we work, where we work, the hours we work, and who we work with. In fact, I’ve just returned from a three week trip through Africa, which seamlessly blended both work and play.
When it comes to my “workday”, I never distinguish whether I am working or playing. Being a digital nomad allows me this luxury, with plenty of time to do what I want, when I want. There is no boundary between my work life and my non-work life. Some days I wake up and go scuba diving in the morning, then check into my virtual office and work for a few highly-focused hours. Other days, I grab a cup of coffee and work into the afternoon, then set off for an adventure in whatever country I am visiting.
Thankfully, technology and forward-thinking clients have afforded me this lifestyle. I “meet” with people all around the world via Skype or Zoom, accomplishing projects as if we were sitting together in the same space. The Cloud offers me the ability to access all my necessary files and projects, as well as manage tasks remotely. And social media has helped me stay connected–both publically and privately. I have learned to be more time-efficient when I’m working, mainly because I have plenty of non-work time to reflect on the things that need to get done. This reflection time allows me to problem solve and strategize, so that when I return back to work, I am super-charged and ready to go. It’s this balance of work and play, reflection and action that keep me happy and productive.
You might be wondering if it takes a special kind of person to be a successful digital nomad? I believe there are certain skills that can be learned. These skills give us many clues about what is needed to work efficiently and meet the demands of the future:
- You must be willing to be much more transparent in the way you work, how you do things, and how you think.
- You must be able to receive feedback and be open to doing things in new ways. Technology is a great tool, but it often comes with many learning curves.
- You must be excellent at communicating and connecting with others across a variety of platforms and cultures and borders. Some days I’m having conversations with clients and colleagues in email, SnapChat, and Facebook Messenger.
- You must be able to manage your freedom on a global level. This means you are mindful of your time and possess self-discipline to stay on track. You also need to be able to keep up with deadlines and appointments in various time zones.
As we look to the future of work, Harvard Business Review believes that work will fall into one of four categories.
Each of these quadrants focuses on a different type of organization and the variety of ways organizations approach work, talent, and strategy.
- In the Current State, organizations rely on full-time employment and work is defined by a specific time and place, such as teaching or nursing home care. This work doesn’t require people to be on the Cloud.
- In the Today, But Turbo-Charged category, organizations embrace the evolving technology, but workplace arrangements follow the traditional model. Work relationships are supported by better and faster technology, and employees might work remotely. A familiar example would be call centers–where workers are using a variety of technology to manage the work, but centers may be stationed around the world, regardless of where the company is located.
- In the Work Reimagined category, new employment models emerge and include freelancing, project work, part-time work, and contract work. New recruitment techniques have evolved and organizations are using social media to track and communicate with present and future employees. Upwork, a freelance platform, is a great example of this category (and a platform I use myself).
- In the Uber Empowered category, the use of technology is advanced, and workers have more democratic arrangements. Workers are using Cloud-based technologies, as well as artificial intelligence to complete their projects and assignments. IBMs Open Talent Marketplace is an example that allows managers the ability to break large projects into smaller projects, find the right person to complete each piece (via a shared platform), form communities around the work, and track project status.
As you begin to think about your work future, it’s important to ask yourself a few pointed questions:
- What will your workplace look like in five years (or even less)?
- What role is technology playing in your workplace and how can your organization embrace it?
- What skills will be in demand?
- How will you get paid, and how is value measured?
The work ecosystem is constantly evolving, and you have more choices now than ever before in terms of how you’d like to work, where you’d like to work, and when you’d like to work. As you prepare for the future, take time to reflect on your work and lifestyle goals, so you can put together the perfect “workplace” for you.