With the pervasiveness of the internet through the entire world, including in jungles, deserts, and even underwater, it has opened the door for remote work.
The office is no longer needed in the physical sense. But what about the benefits the office brings in terms of work functionality? Or is an office environment stifling for productivity that could flourish in a freer space?
A report in the Boston Globe claims there to be no definitive answers for these questions; as much depends on the worker as it does the company mission and culture. However, the report concluded that remote workers tend to be more successful with the right informational support – where they can feel connected and valued while away from the office environment. This is often hard to attain while working from home or from a cafe on the other side of the world. But what if there was a work and travel program that provided the very things – social coworking environments and distraction-free spaces with reliable WiFi – that make remote work challenging? Would that change the perception of working remotely for employers?
These answers should become evident soon enough because work and travel programs already exist.
And they’re exploding in popularity.
Rise of Remote Work
The invention of the internet allowed for certain types of desk jobs to be done outside the office, though it was slow to take hold.
Initially, there were only a few jobs that were possible to work remotely. It was not until the internet became a regular fixture in a majority of homes that it was really feasible for employees to work from them. In time, this expanded to include more and more professions, eventually spawning new ones specifically because of the growth of the internet. E-commerce, SEO copywriting, blog monetization, and other remote jobs or streams of income that had previously never existed were now in demand – and filled by technically skilled workers that were not tethered to a physical location.
Still, remote working did not fully take off until internet capabilities improved around the globe.
Suddenly, the entire world was open and digital nomads emerged.
The internet has allowed for many people to leave the office and work in places that years earlier would have been considered absurd – either alone or in a group of like-minded professionals
Rise of Coworking Spaces & Coliving Programs
With a rapidly increasing remote workforce, two new niches opened up: coworking spaces and coliving “work and travel” programs.
Many people were starting their own online businesses, working freelance, or otherwise working remotely – and many craved to be around others in a similar situation. They wanted to escape the rigidness of the office but retain its social and collaborative nature. What sprung up were coworking spaces, flexible environments where remote professionals could bounce ideas off each other and enjoy the benefits of being around others working under the same circumstances.
But this was not enough for some who had the freedom to work from anywhere in the world. As internet conditions improved in almost every country, aspiring digital nomads began spreading out to work in new areas of the world. Many of these people wanted the same communal benefits that coworking spaces offered, as a sense of community tends to be valued even more in unfamiliar surroundings far from home.
Coliving programs began to address this demand.
With that, remote work was changed forever.
How Coliving & Coworking Delivers Real Benefits
Work and travel programs provide a lot more than simply a place to live while members work remotely. In this digital age, it’s easy to find a cheap Airbnb to stay on a monthly basis and scope out cafes to work from. What is decidedly harder to find is a sense of community and like-minded people that share a similar professional mentality.
This is what work and travel programs deliver: a ready-made community of adventurous professionals.
And it’s precisely this which allows for the success of their members. It removes the disadvantages of being away from the office by providing a social, focused working environment while simultaneously adding the invaluable experience of working and living in an exciting location.
But how do these programs create this kind of environment?
There are several necessary things that need to be provided in order for remote work and travel programs to deliver on their mandate.
The Reliable Internet Guarantee
The bedrock of any serious work and travel program is a reliable internet connection for members; without it, the entire premise quite literally falls apart.
Employers and employees both understand that internet disruptions cannot be commonplace. The freedom that digital nomads enjoy is limited to the availability, strength, and reliability of their internet connection.
Working from the jungles of Guyana or the outposts of the Sahara desert may be intriguing to some adventurous souls, but would be nearly impossible for most conventionally remote professions.
More realistic is to set up shop in Bali or Medellin – or another digital nomad hotspot – where cafes and coworking spaces are commonplace and thoroughly tested. However, for the vast middle ground between remote (no pun intended) jungles and established nomad Meccas, there is an entire world of possibilities where reliable internet access is possible yet not necessarily easy to obtain.
This is where remote work and travel programs shine like a WiFi beacon in the night. By providing – and guaranteeing – a constant, strong connection they not only allow remote professionals to work from previously unavailable places, they also encourage more people to join.
This reliability is paramount: members still join work and travel programs in known hotspots like Colombia and Thailand in part because of the trust they have built by delivering on their promises.
Basically, workers are able to consistently get their work done with few connection issues.
A Social & Focused Working Environment
Reliable internet is undoubtedly important, but that can often be sourced with a little extra research and, usually, a little extra money. What can’t be sourced as easily is a social working environment populated by focused, like-minded people.
One of the benefits to working in an office, according to the Boston Globe report, is the atmosphere that is created by having colleagues to share ideas, progress, and social pleasantries.
This can become detrimental in a toxic work environment where the social aspect becomes a net negative, but the potential for positive communal interaction always remains available.
That is not the case with working from home.
Some people find the isolation helpful to focus, with less distractions and less interruptions. However, these benefits tend to be more pronounced when a person works from home on an occasional basis, with the quiet, isolated space acting as a reprieve from the usual work landscape filled with other people.
Long-term isolated work misses the benefits of social interaction, peer feedback, and mentorship (both giving and receiving). This can lead to an overall decrease in the quality of work, and even lead to less productivity without colleagues to hold the worker accountable.
Work and travel programs provide a sweet spot, somewhere in-between a stuffy workplace and an isolated home office.
By providing accommodations with other remote workers, members can work from “home” for the duration of their stay, along with other members. They can also choose to step out and join a coworking space with people in the community, or meet up with others at the best cafes in the area.
The benefits of the office are all there:
- social interaction,
- peer feedback,
- learning opportunities,
- the accountability to stay on task.
One of the hallmarks of a program like WiFi Tribe is that the members actually work during the week, during normal business hours and sometimes beyond – it’s not a glorified, extended vacation.
Potential members are vetted to see if they will be a good fit in a coliving situation as well as a coworking situation. If someone does not have enough work to fill their days, they most likely will not be admitted to most of these programs (especially with WiFi Tribe, which considers member workability an integral part of its success).
The result is a social, focused work environment that allows for members to stay accountable to their jobs while enjoying the freedom of living and working in locations all around the world – with all the benefits tied to a location-independent lifestyle.
A literal world of possibilities are opened once liberated from the confines of the office and the isolation of the home.
An Idea-Rich Ecosystem
Coworking not only allows for social interaction in the workplace, it creates an environment where people bounce ideas off each other. Members of work and travel programs are often in different sectors, which is arguably more valuable than if everybody were in the same field.
Sharing a space with motivated individuals in different industries allows for a great deal of learning.
If a copywriter were to be surrounded by a group of other copywriters, she may learn some techniques to improve her writing or get help with a sentence she is stuck on.
But if she were to be surrounded by graphic designers, web developers, e-commerce entrepreneurs, bloggers, and marketing specialists, she will likely learn a far broader set of skills. These skills could be applied to her current job, but they could also lead to career growth in another direction.
The possibilities are limitless when an idea-rich ecosystem flourishes.
E-commerce entrepreneurs can grow their businesses based on input from marketing specialists, copywriters can learn how to monetize their content from experienced bloggers, content writers can find jobs writing for project managers they meet within their work and travel group – all of which have happened on numerous occasions in WiFi Tribe and other programs over the past few months alone.
These kinds of benefits transcend what people would receive being surrounded solely by people in their field.
Remote work and travel is an ideal option for many people, but permanent digital nomading is decidedly less appealing to most.
Shorter stints in varying locations seem to be more popular than long-term work and travel. Few remote professionals want to be on the road indefinitely, leaving behind friends, family, and familiarity for good. Work and travel programs vary in length, but most of them are starting to take this lifestyle choice into account.
Remote Year initially offered only one option, to live and work around the world over the course of a year. This came with a large upfront deposit and required a fairly serious commitment. However, in recent months they have begun offering shorter programs, reflecting the desire for less commitment and more flexibility.
WiFi Tribe, which was founded slightly after Remote Year, has always offered shorter options. Participants can choose to sign up for one month, two months, three-plus months, or five-plus months, with varying pricing scales. This has been one of the major benefits for many remote professionals, some of whom choose to work remotely as a way to recharge before returning for the office to work – or vice versa, for the more nomadic who choose to work abroad for half the year and return home to regroup before heading out again.
Outcome: A Powerful Sense of Community
At the end of the day, the most desirable thing that remote work and travel programs provide is a powerful sense of community.
Anybody with a remote job could source their own housing, make sure there is strong enough internet, and join a coworking space.
It would be less expensive, but decidedly more difficult than joining an organization that takes care of all the hassles. And it still would be lacking the most important thing of all, the thing that captivates all the members of Remote Year, Unsettled, WiFi Tribe, and other coliving groups: community.
When people live and work together in foreign countries, joining fun activities in the evening and on the weekends, they form strong bonds. These bonds only get stronger the more months people spend together in an ideal living and working configuration.
For most people, it’s difficult to find and maintain such meaningful connections with others in their 20’s, 30’s, or 40’s. These programs provide ideal conditions for real, significant relationships to blossom between people of all ages, at stages in life that many people thought impossible.
Remote work and travel programs are changing the way people view their jobs, their personal relationships, and ultimately their lives.
To quote Mike Dane, a software engineer and member of one of the WiFi Tribe 2019 Colombia Chapters:
It’s like being in college except you actually have money and some life experience to appreciate how special this is.
Community is impossible to find on your own, and freedom is hard to find in an office.
Work and travel programs are not only pioneering a new way to work, they’re pioneering a new way to live.
Never in human history have we been connected in the manner that the internet provides. Sometimes this can, ironically, lead to isolation. But if you can utilize the technology that connects us all to create a meaningful community that has freedom to roam the planet, we can experience something that no human beings have before us.
And it seems, with these pioneering programs, we’re well on our way.
The future is full of possibilities.
Where the Future of Remote Work is Headed
Every day, more and more people are leaving the office to work remotely, either at home or on the road. And, more and more, people are joining remote work and travel programs.
Each of the aforementioned programs have seen a steady increase in membership, with all of them providing services to over 600 participants.
Numbers will likely continue to rise as more people enter the remote workforce and more programs are created.
Aiding this bloom are resources to help potential digital nomads approach their employers about making the switch.
WiFi Tribe, for example, has a complete pitch document that hopeful candidates can take to their bosses. It provides in-depth details on how the program works and why it would be beneficial to encourage their employees to join the community.
It’s understandably difficult for many of the people who’ve tasted freedom to return to the office full-time. Though offices will never disappear entirely, as they still provide a bevy of benefits, it’s not hard to fathom a shift in society where almost everybody works remotely at least part of the time.
We’re entering a new period in modern history, unfolding before our eyes. It will be interesting to see where we go from here.
If you’re curious to join a remote work and travel group, check out WiFi Tribe.