Digital Nomads : today’s community for tomorrow’s workers

Perhaps you’ve already heard about Digital Nomads. More than a site it’s rather a community for those who break the traditionnal link between working and being at the office and use the right tools to be connected and able to work anywhere, anytime. Alone but not isolated : digital nomads often interact more with their ecosystem, are more informed about what the others are doing and keep more the others informed than people who work close one to another in traditional offices usually do.

In short, more than a way of working it’s rather a new daily way of life for more and more people. Please don’t tell me it’s only for independant workers or small companies : more and more companies now have mobility and nomadism programs that are more than experiments. Sometimes it’a about home office, sometimes it allows people to work from wherever they want. Those who read Tim Ferri’s “Four hours workweek” will appreciate…

So it’s reality for more and more people but they’re still like a community of their own. An unconceivable realty for “normal” companies where people can’t affort “this kind of things” ? Let me put you right : this is the path where the future of work has to be found and that’s why observing today’s digital nomads would help any company to understand its own future.

For those who still don’t get get, I will just mention IBM’s mobility program that allow a lot of employees to work from home. Still at IBM but in many large companies too, local offices allow people to work in a place near their home or where they have an appointment. In this case they still work from their company’s offices, but they’re not posted to a determined place. And I promise you this phenomenon will soon be maintream.

Because the current trends are about global companies and matrix organization : wherever you could be you don’t work whith the people with whom you share your office. Because real estate costs and travel costs due to increasing energy prices will strongly affect corporate competitiveness. Even commute costs will imply a pressure on salaries. Because the need for reactivity, for, agility, means than employees must be able to react wherever they would be. And, at last because of (even if I think people may be too enthusiastic about digital natives) the arrival of people for whom non-mobilty is nothing else than an old concept and a barrier to efficiency.

So the only thing you have to do is to visit the communiy to understand the way they work, the tools they use.

Ok…I can ear some voices saying “It’s impossible ! It’s not a way for working !”. Are you sure ? Are you talking about work or about exercising the “holy” hierarchical control power ?

In globalized teams managers will have to get used to not having those who for for and with them by their sides, under their eyes. Because they will be anywhere in the world. And focusing on the ten people they have near them in order to forget the fifty people distributed across continents is nothin but buiding a reassuring illusion that won’t last. What do you want to control ? That they are busy ? I’m not sure this makes any sense today : results only have to be controled, not means. Just have a look at the concept of Result Only Work Environment (ROWE)…that’s the way things will soon be.

This said, since each improvement generates its own regressions, this new way of working will imply a real thought on the concept of “place”.

• The office is not where value is created anymore : it’s created online.

• The place where people work is not anymore the place where hierarchical control and power take place. But power and control are still needed. So will we have to rethink control and apply it only to results and not on day to day activities, which is one of the only few things that justify the myth of presenteism.

• It will also have a deep impact on team managemen, mainly on what have to do with human relationships. Project management tools and ERPs won’t be enough : managers will also need tools to support interactionssn discussions, sending a “social signal”, in short social and visibility tools.

• We said that digital nomads are often less isolated from thir colleagues, from their ecosystem than traditional workers who work at their office. But neglecting the need for real meetings, face to face discussions, would be a big mistake with painful consequences. Perhaps the very concept of “office” will have to be revisited, considering it’s not a place for working but for meeting ? Why not. Also note that the online interactions often make digital nomads feel like meeting each other in real life. Perhaps there’s something here…

After the “WYSIWYG” wich revolutionized software interfaces, here comes the WIWIWIA (Where I Work is Where I Am) era.

Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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