By | Abhijit Bhaduri |Keynote speaker, Author and Columnist
Digital Nomads are hunter-gatherers of the world of work. They pack their laptop in a backpack and a few clothes into a suitcase as they cross borders. Everything is ambiguous, much like today’s world of work.
Mobility is optional
With more than fifteen million confirmed cases across more than 200 countries, Covid-19 has changed the world of work more than electricity did..Offices are unsure about when to get everyone back and if so, who does not need to be in one location. According to McKinsey, the world will see 7.5 million fewer vehicles in 2020. Public transport utilization has dropped between 70-90 percent across the world. If offices do not expect the employees to commute to the workplace, public transportation is not going to see an easy recovery.
Sometimes the effects are less visible. The 202-year-old Brooks Brothers filed for bankruptcy in early July 2020. They had been making business suits for years. They had survived two World Wars and the great Depression. What made them pull down the shutters?Offices started declaring casual Fridays. Wearing hoodies to work became the informal dress code to signal that you were cool and belonged to tech. This was the missed tsunami warning. Then the pandemic sealed their fate. People could work from anywhere in track pants and T-shirts and Brooks Brothers went bankrupt.
WFH changed to WFA
Work from Home was for many employers, corporate speak for an extra vacation day. It was done discretely as a perk given to the boss’ favorite. The boss would occasionally work from home, but it was not a universally understood acronym.During the early days of the lockdown, Work From Home was meant to be a short term measure. Then employers had soon let employees Work From Anywhere. Many of the employees had gone back to their hometown or village and this was inevitable. Work had become boundaryless. It could be done by anyone anywhere, in most cases. Unless there were machines to be operated, chemicals and equipment needed in labs, talent too became boundaryless.
We Are All Digital Nomads
As work and talent became location free, the core of work experience changed. We have all become digital nomads where the employer’s workplace has become invisible. Meanwhile the parliament of Estonian created a digital nomad visa that allows “location-independent knowledge workers to live in Estonia for up to a year while working for employers or clients outside of the country, ushering in a new era of work — one where knowledge workers aren’t tied to one desk or even one continent.” I interviewed two Digital Nomads about how they travelHere is a newsletter dedicated to Digital NomadsWe may not be able to go to Estonia today, but already we can be located in any part of India and be employed anywhere in the world. There is no need for a work visa. It turns out that being a digital nomad is more about having the right mindset than the Visa. Our mindset works like an operating system.Trend spotter Mary Meeker said in her 2018 report that “freelance work is growing three times faster than the growth of the total workforce.” Work is also a source of our identity. Digital Nomads switch “jobs” and their identity every few weeks or months. They move from highly skilled work to manual labor – any work that can be done from that location and pays enough. They do odd jobs to survive and thrive no matter what.Here are some ways to build yourself a Digital Nomad mindset whether you are employed or are a freelancer.
- Stay flexible: When medical devices (eg pacemakers) were built, to keep the costs low, the software that was written for it was very limited. Cybercriminals soon learnt to exploit that. That created opportunities for doctors who worked with cybersecurity experts and regulators to create more secure medical devices. Collaborating is a great skill that opens up many possibilities.
- Become a creator:Learn something with the intent of teaching others what you just learnt. Initially take a topic in your area of interest and then deconstruct it to be able to teach others. Once you have done a few of these, move to a subject that is adjacent to your area of expertise and try it out a few times.
- Become a novice often: Learning something from scratch is painful at first. But it is a confidence booster. You believe you can “figure it out”. Books, podcasts, TED talks, Zoom webinars, discussions with other experts – there are many ways to feed your curiosity.
The Digital Nomads love thriving in ambiguity and learning on the fly. It helps them move beyond one role and one identity. Even if you are employed having a Digital Nomad’s mindset is a fabulous advantage to in the world of work.