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The end of traditional offices and the rise of digital nomads

By Karoli Hindriks


Remember fax machines? You know, those clunky shrines to the 20th-century office? It may be hard to believe now, but at one time they were seen as innovative and cutting-edge, a symbol of the future of work at the time. Like many of the nostalgic technological tools from yesteryear, the way we work is on the same path to becoming obsolete.

In fact, the very nature of work is evolving right before our eyes. For instance, wondering what jobs will look like for the next generation? A recent World Economic Forum report predicted that 65 per cent of children entering primary school will likely hold jobs that don’t currently exist. That’s both an exciting and scary proposition as we begin to welcome Gen Z to the workforce.


The end of the traditional office

Automation, the gig economy, social media and e-commerce are all paving new career paths for those not even old enough to know what a fax machine looks like. The jobs of the future will look completely different for this new generation, and the same can be said for the traditional work environment, which will be completely unrecognizable in just a few short years.

The ubiquitous cubicles dividing us today are already being replaced by open and flexible workplaces espoused by the rise of co-working companies such as WeWork and others. In fact, global enterprises are pulling a page right out of WeWork’s book, actively redesigning their offices to facilitate and promote collaboration and interpersonal relationships among employees.

Take for example Apple, which has designed its new corporate headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., named “Apple Park,” with such conscientious detail to maximize creative collaboration in a bid to capture the essence of its former CEO and founder, Steve Jobs. This is an inspired, though absurdly expensive, example of a company staying ahead of the competition and embracing the ever-changing employment landscape.

While companies with mega money are embracing the workspaces of the future, others are ditching the idea of an office altogether. Instead, the workplace has turned into whatever workers want it to be, whether it be a Starbucks, an Ikea-designed home office or a sunny tropical beach in Tahiti. All of this is a result of the flexibility of our connected personal lives transitioning into our work lives. Canadian businesses should look to adapt and be just as flexible, preparing for what the next evolution of work will look like.


The dawn of mobile workers

That next evolution may already be starting to appear. Accessible internet, smartphones, roaming data plans and cheaper air travel have all combined to spur an emerging class of mobile workers known as digital nomads. They are ambitious and highly skilled individuals free from the restrictions of location and limited only by the power of their imaginations. Digital nomads are also driving what the future of work might look like.

According to Statistics Canada, 2.18 million Canadians were categorized as temporary workers in September 2017, but that may not be enough to feed the demands for skilled workers in the country. That’s why Canadian businesses are courting digital nomads, a rich pool of talent, skills and experience that fill pressing needs. To meet the demands of these digital nomads who are on the move, governments and companies can look towards the blueprint already being put in place by countries like Estonia. Yes, Estonia!


Embracing digital nomads (and the future of work)

The tiny Baltic country of Estonia – home to 1.3 million people – may at first seem like an underdog in the global pursuit of top talent. However, the country’s embrace of digital innovation and mobile workforces through public and private sector collaborations has put it on the map for global tech talent. Estonia is not only positioned to compete on a global scale today, but it also has the flexibility to attract the next generation of talent, whose job skills will increasingly trump borders.

Estonia is the first country to offer e-Residency, a government-issued digital ID available to anyone in the world, streamlining the process of starting and managing a worldwide company there. There is also an effort underway, started by Jobbatical, along with Estonia’s Ministry of Interior, to establish a digital nomad visa program to make it simpler for workers to relocate to Estonia.

Digital nomads aren’t going away. To the contrary, they are just starting to flex their economic muscle. In fact, digital nomads arriving in Canada are playing a key role in helping businesses succeed. The Canadian government is realizing their value, making its startup visa program permanent, and in 2017, embarking on a massive expansion of research funding for AI and other fields to attract superstar researchers.

The future of work is being led by digital nomads, who are filling skills gaps that simply cannot be addressed with local workforces. Initiatives like a digital nomad visa and others offer a bridge to the future of work, supporting companies as they seek the right talent for the right job, regardless of their passport.


Karoli Hindriks is the co-founder and CEO of Jobbatical.




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