“We live in an information society, driven by knowledge in action…. [Services] can be provided via the information highways from anywhere, even from the other side of the globe…. We are in a New World.” (professor of international employment law, Roger Blanpain, The World of Work in the 21st Century: Challenges and Opportunities – paper presented at Oxford, October 2008).
Globalizing, down-sizing, online everywhere 24/7. Sometimes I just want to crawl under the covers with a good old-fashioned printed-on-paper book when I hear these terms. But there’s a big shiny upside that I’m taking advantage of… telecommuting or to use a term I just found, being a digital nomad. And not just from my couch in SF (though I happen to have been doing a lot of that), but starting in a couple weeks, from a friend’s couch in back in Mexico. Yup, will wanderlust never cease.
Over Thanksgiving I ran into the brother of a good friend who recently escaped the Marin bubble and moved his family to Barcelona where he’s running his online start-up. His exec team is still in California and his developers are in India (what’s new). Another acquaintance, Barak Kassar, did the same thing last year, also relocating his family to Barcelona (funny coincidence) while continuing to run his brand marketing business in the US. Another friend in San Miguel runs his company in San Jose virtually. The list goes on.
There are tremendous benefits for companies and clients willing to accommodate remote workers – time-shifting, low overhead, flexibility, and ultimately, happier colleagues. Benefits for telecommuters… for my friends, they can expose their kids to new cultural experiences for longer than a 2-week vacation; for me, I can spend real time with friends I’ve made around the world, but more importantly, my clients benefit from fresher ideas inspired by provocative surroundings.
There are challenges; there are potential international employment issues to deal with and one begins to miss the face-to-face — although the robotics developer, Willow Garage, is solving that issue. And if your broadband goes down, well… at least there’s something interesting to explore just outside the front door.