I’m writing this post from a dog-friendly cafe with a pool in Northern Thailand. I’m enjoying my morning latte, while puppies are making me company.
This wouldn’t have been possible if a couple of years ago I didn’t decide to quit my day job and become a digital nomad. Like many more people before me and hopefully many more after. I am location independent and I can work from anywhere in the world.
Remote work culture is changing the way people live, work and travel the world. Today I am talking with some experts on remote work, traveling and digital nomad lifestyle. Please meet today’s interviewees and have a read at what they have to say.
Marina Janeiko is a long-term digital nomad, UX designer and founder of What’s It Like. Follow her on Twitter.
Lydia Lee is the freedom-based lifestyle and business coach at Screw The Cubicle, web TV host at Screw The Cubicle TV, and podcast host of The Cubicle Crashing Podcast. She helps corporate prisoners escape the confines of the 9-5 life through.
Casey is one of the facilitators at Hacker Paradise. Originally from New Jersey, he’s an avid traveler with a fondness for Asia and Latin America. He spends a lot of time thinking about tech, startups, and what it means to live a meaningful life.
Jacob Laukaitis is a co-founder of an online coupons company Chameleon John and has been a digital nomad for the past 2 years in which time he traveled to more than 35 countries around the world.
Ilma Nausedaite is a COO at MailerLite. Powered by coffee. Inspired by art & traveling. Collecting adventures.
Christopher Mims is the technology columnist at the Wall Street Journal. Texan. Fond of books and other anachronisms.
Kavi Guppta is a co-author of Disruption in the Developing World. As a digital nomad and content producer, Kavi regularly writes about the Future of Work, marketing technology, and culture transformation. See his work here.
What are the current challenges people need to overcome to start working remotely?
Kavi Guppta: I’ve found organizational skills, communication skills, and process skills are the biggest challenge anybody who wants to be a remote worker has to overcome. If you already struggle to do well in those three areas, then working in an independent environment away from your team or managers will make it even harder.
Christopher Mims: Bosses’ mindset. Most bosses don’t know how to manage remote workers. If you’re using the best online tools, you’re already ready for workers to go remote.
Rodolphe Dutel: Working remotely is often an exciting opportunity to approach personal work and team work quite differently than in a traditional setup. When you start working remotely, it can feel like overwhelming to have to be self-organized, and hardly ever meet your co-workers face to face. You also get to be a lot more flexible than before, and deciding when you start and stop working is important too.
An interesting way to experiment with remote work could be to consider working from home, or outside of an office for a duration of time and see how it feels.
Lydia Lee: The first challenge people face is usually fear of the unknown. Not knowing what they would do in a career or what business to create that will help sustain them outside of the cubicle. Part of this is also that they do not know what their best strengths and skills are. What will point them towards the best direction to re-create a better way of working for themselves.
Marina Janeiko: Flexible banking solutions, flexible and not overpriced international healthcare options, more role models to provide the encouragement. Distributed startups, other successful remote professionals, companies being explicitly open and welcoming remote talent.
Pete Rojwongsuriya: The hardest challenge for me was to figure out how to get shit done while the environment and the surroundings are calling my name and begging for me to explore. It’s all about finding the right system that works for you, your types of work and still have a few hours left each day for you to explore.
In order to find this perfect system, there’s no way around the fact that you will have to put yourself through it and see what works. You can’t theorize a system without knowing what kind of traveler you are (you will only find out when you travel!), what kind of accommodation you would stay, and what kind of infrastructure the country has. And even if you found the perfect system, you will have to adapt to a new environment all the time as you move around the world. The key is to find a good foundation and adapt according to the places you go.
Ilma Nausedaite: I think that working remotely will never become mainstream. You need a certain set of values to want and be able to work remotely. I love the blog post by Groove where they explain how to hire a good remote worker.
The biggest advantage of remote teams is that they are result-orientated. The only criteria how to judge a remote worker is performance. You don’t care what time they started working, how much it took to finish the task or how many times they checked Facebook. At the end of the day, you just ask what they have done.
How remote work will look like in 2016?
Lydia Lee: I believe the way we work is changing. The news is out where stories of freelancers, remote work, and location independent businesses are reaching others through the online platforms. Lifestyle choices, happiness, and meaning are more important to most people now. And although money is always going to be something they want, these other factors take priority in their lives.
Support systems are in place all over the world. They are designed to help digital nomads feel part of the larger community and learn from others. From co-working spaces and incubators to co-workcations and masterminds. These things are developed to help support the entrepreneurial and remote work journeys.
Kavi Guppta: We’ll continue to see more companies seriously consider hiring remote workforces. It’s important to point out that not all companies have to be fully remote or distributed. It’s ok to have some parts of your team distributed if that’s what works for the employees. The main goal is to provide team members with the option to work remotely. Let them thrive in the environment that best suits their personality.
Casey Rosengren: There are a number of awesome companies that are fully remote, and I think more companies will begin experimenting with remote as a way to attract better workers and give their employees better quality of life. In a couple of years, I think remote will be as common a perk for startups as free lunches and gym memberships are now. It will be the only way to attract quality workers.
Pete Rojwongsuriya: More industries will realize the possibility of remote working and people will become more and more flexible with their time and will transition slowly to a remote working routine. As the demand grows, more services will cater to digital nomads. We’ve seen many services sprung out from this such as Nomad List, Nomad House and many more and it will continue to grow in all directions. There might soon be a Foursquare for Nomads to find a nomad friendly cafes (I would totally use this, by the way)! We might not see many changes in 2016 as we have to wait for companies to open their eyes and realize the benefit. But in a few years, I think it will not be so uncommon to work while traveling.
Jacob Laukaitis: I don’t think it’ll change fundamentally, but there will be more people becoming nomads; more organizations focusing on products/services solely for digital nomads (such as my friend’s Casey’s Hacker Paradise); and obviously more worldwide meet-ups and online communities that help nomads connect with one another.
Ilma Nausedaite: I hope to see even more hubs and apps for remote teams in 2016. I think more companies will experiment in hiring people remotely.
Rodolphe Dutel: In 2016, larger remote companies (150+ employees) such as GitHub, Automattic, Invision and Toptal are continuing to strive – I’m currently documenting their best practices in “Distributed – How Remote Teams Work” – a book due in 2016.
Collaboration and productivity tools such as Slack & Trello have also done extremely well in 2015, allowing teams of all sizes to work better without necessarily seeing each other at all time – lowering barrier to entry for remote work.
How remote work will impact collaboration and innovation?
Christopher Mims: It will force people to collaborate and innovate online. This isn’t always the best way to innovate, though, so it will have a positive effect for some, negative for others who can’t adapt.
Casey Rosengren: I think we’ll see more people leaving the traditional paths behind in favor of living the life they want now. I think we’ll see more people building large companies while sustaining a truly amazing lifestyle. I think we’ll see more teams that are distributed all around the world, with a developer in Spain and a designer in Tokyo.
Marina Janeiko: Imagine an open society where people move freely and cluster around the same values and interests vs. being forced to stick together because of the geopolitical boundaries. If this is not the richest ground for innovation – then I don’t know what is.
Kavi Guppta: I believe remote work will help teams strengthen their ability to produce results. It forces teams to communicate better and to improve the way projects are managed. Technology is making it easier for teams to collaborate, but the technology won’t be the only answer to talented people working well together. It always comes down to how willing the teams are to learn from each other, listen to each other, and work toward positive progress that can result in a great place to work and a profitable company.
Jacob Laukaitis: The mere fact that people work on a single project while coming from completely different backgrounds and living in different continents make their idea exchange much more diverse and innovative. I think we will see a lot of online companies solving niche problems in very niche markets. It wouldn’t have been possible to stumble upon these problems unless you have somebody living in that specific area and talking with people from that community. In this scenario, a person from India might stumble upon a severe problem people from various villages are facing. Someone from Eastern Europe might then develop the product that’ll solve the issue, while a person from the US might find partnerships and funding for their venture.
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