XXI Century Work Decoded: The Future is What We Want it To Be
The future of work is changing, and a new generation of professionals are making the world their office.
Four people from different corners of the world — USA, Turkey, Ukraine, and Estonia — share their perspectives on location-independent work, new ways of collaboration and how to travel and work remotely without giving up your career but rather propelling it through exposure to new cultures, people, and experiences.
If you think of occupations suitable for remote work and digital nomadism, jobs to do with the digital environment — designers, editors, journalists — spring to mind first.
“From one side it is true — it is easier to move bits than atoms,” says Sten Tamkivi, the VP of Product, Employees & Marketplace at MOVE Guides, a company helping HR teams move their staff around the world. “All jobs where you move information as opposed to moving anything physical are obviously the most portable jobs,” Tamkivi continues. “But if you look at the global statistics — 240 million people are living in a country other than the one they were born in, among them people working on oil drilling platforms, as medical nurses, etc. — all these jobs that are very much physical and related to physical locations. So there are no limitations to which type of employment makes people move. The limits that we see are human-generated constraints. The most obvious ones being borders. Borders are an entirely random system depending on where you were born — that decides whether you can enter or not. Of course, there are some jobs that are more protected by regulations. To practice as a medical doctor, you need a special license. You can speak fantastic English, come from Canada and want to move to California, but it would take you years to have a permit to practice as a doctor in a location that is only 500 km away.”
Tamkivi is a veteran in the remote workspace. Having served at Skype as an early executive, he has also lived in four countries and helped a number of people move to other nations as well. Twelve years ago Skype was THE tool for uniting people working in different locations. “At that time we were still a relatively small company with about 200 people in ten sites. The mindset was — we have this tool, why do we care where people work from?”
After Skype, Tamkivi co-founded Teleport — a startup entirely dedicated to the notion that free people move around the world. “Our mission with Teleport was — how do we make every single government in the world compete for every single citizen? The best way of doing that is to make it as frictionless as possible for people to move around and go to the best place in the world for them,” maintains Tamkivi.
In March Teleport got acquired by a bigger player in this space — MOVE Guides. So, Teleport continues their mission now in the corporate relocation area. “We are not done yet; we keep working on this from our offices in Tallinn, San Francisco, and Hong Kong.”
Digital nomads are the new elite
Also passionate about moving people around the world — we at Jobbatical. “We help people get jobs in cities and at companies where they’re happy,” says Lauren Proctor, the Head of Marketing at Jobbatical. “Whether you want to work in Bali, London or Barcelona or, if you’d like to work remotely — we’re there to help you. We also help employers who are experiencing talent shortage by helping them find the best talent from around the world.
Before joining Jobbatical in Estonia, Lauren headquartered her consultancy out of New York City. “I had just helped start a company that was then acquired by Twitter, and someone said to me — the new elite class are the people who can make their lifestyle, they set the terms of their job, they live wherever they wanna live, and they go to the places where they’re treated best.” Lauren admits this thought struck a chord in her and inspired her to go and work remotely from cities like Seoul, Budapest, Bratislava, Stockholm, and others.
Although the world could now be almost anyone’s office, the freedom of choice is not equal to all. “Passports still help, unfortunately. And so does money — it is a lot harder to jump on a plane to move elsewhere or even buy a jacket if you do not have an income. We need to change that,” Lauren stresses. “If you’re great at UX, it doesn’t matter if you’re from a tiny town in India and you’ve never left the country. That skill translates everywhere. We’re trying to put pressure on companies to hire internationally and at the same time make it as seamless as it would be hiring locally.”
Countries should be like companies
Global events are very influential towards people’s desires to move. “Our biggest user intake in Teleport history was after the Paris attacks. Tons of people with transferable skills were looking online — should they continue in Paris or should they think about their future differently. This proves how volatile the world is now,” Tamkivi says and adds: “This is what governments should consider when competing for citizens — if your country’s environment starts to degrade — if you cannot keep your security up, if you don’t have enough schools, if the taxes go high, people will leave faster than ever before. The reason they do — the world has become transparent regarding the cost and quality of life. So if there is a better life somewhere, people will learn about it in a flash. Take Colombia for example — 10 years ago nobody would’ve thought moving there, now Medellín is a great startup hub.”
“Countries should be like companies in their approach,“ agrees Oleg Gutsol, the Head of Global Growth for the Estonian E-Residency program. “Seems kind of random that your fate is largely decided by your place of birth. There are talented people everywhere.”
Oleg himself is a true global citizen — born in Ukraine, lived most of his life in Canada, but has worked from seven to eight different countries. Coincidentally, he found his new challenge with the Estonian Government’s E-Residency through Jobbatical. “I’d been traveling for the last two years, working from seven to eight countries on several different ideas with early-stage companies when Jobbatical’s ad popped in my Facebook newsfeed — it was the perfect combination of the job itself (e-government) and the most beautifully designed ad,” Oleg says. “I had considered several countries — Singapore, Dubai, and Estonia. But everything led to Estonia since all the other nations are using Estonian government tech — either copying it or being inspired by it. Being part of E-Residency is just an obvious place to be, here on the forefront of digital nations.”
Best cure for unemployment — a mobility voucher
When our grandparents and parents grew up, the idea was to get a job and do it for the rest of your life. “Now the average job is eighteen months, and it is not about being someone who sits at a desk and works from 9 to 5,” says Lauren Proctor. “All of us who have had the chance to work abroad, in some ways we’re blessed because we see the world differently, but it is a bit of a curse, too, because it is still hard for some people to understand us. We’re in this weird place where it is all pivoting, but the value is something that we can create. Tools like E-Residency, Jobbatical, Teleport and Remote Year make it possible for us to define what it is. The future is what we want it to be.”
Sten Tamkivi references author and Professor of Economics at University of California Berkeley, Enrico Moretti, who has written a lot on the new geography of jobs; in particular, one thing he has proposed as the best cure for unemployment. “When someone becomes unemployed, the government shouldn’t give them money but instead a voucher to move somewhere else and work there.”
I couldn’t agree more — if challenges matching your skills are scarce, take them where they’re wanted. The world is your office.
Written based on a panel with Remote Year, Jobbatical, MOVE Guides (ex Teleport) and E-Residency about remote work that took place on June 13 at Spring Hub in Tallinn, Estonia. The panel is accessible here.
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