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Ed

About the author:

Dad. In-entrepreneuer. Previously Head of Innovation at the UK's largest charity. Currently founding CEO of a tech education charity. During COVID Ed launced an e-commerce start-up, before re-locating with his young family to Cabo Verde where he now lives and works as a corporate nomad.

A year ago, closing the door on our 3 bed Victorian terrace in Brockley, a genteel suburb of London, I clambered into a minivan, squeezed between 13 bags whilst Katherine and our two boys Zeb (then 4) and Oz (2), followed in a taxi behind. Arriving at a deserted London Heathrow, COVID tests in hand, we boarded an empty plane bound for Cabo Verde via Lisbon. Unbeknownst to me, we had just begun the journey into becoming corporate nomads.

Travel for work? Work to travel?

Historically business travel has taken on many forms – commuting for meetings, conferences, and team building – oftentimes blurring into weekend breaks and extended trips to create a new category of ‘bleisure’. Whilst a fortunate elite of digital nomads have forged careers living and working exclusively on the road. Then COVID hit. Overnight, millions of companies and their employees transitioned, mostly seamlessly, into using technology to continue their jobs working from home.

“You’re on mute” became the defining statement for a generation of remote workers

A new type of employee benefit?

In the 80’s tax efficient, environmentally deficient, company cars were all the rage to retain mid-level executives. The 90’s saw an explosion in city-centre gyms as companies offered free memberships to attract young talent. By the dawn of the millennium cycle-to-work schemes were the new fad. In the 10’s along came the ubiquitous employee incentive and discount offering – PerkBox was born.

Now in the 20s, COVID has unequivocally demonstrated that technology can empower us to work with purpose from anywhere. A raft of early adopters, particularly in the tech space where flexible working is more established, have now fully embraced the concept of work from anywhere. Shopify, Salesforce, Twitter, Google, Deloitte, Ocado, Spotify are amongst a growing band of pioneers – each announcing policies allowing their workforces to work remotely from anywhere permanently or for significant periods. Such a move is likely to prove popular with workers and a deciding factor as to whether to join or remain at a company. As Google CEO Sundar Pichai puts it

“The future of work is flexibility.”

Sundar Pichai | CEO | Google

You will return to the office. Won’t you?

Not everyone is advocating for such flexibility. Several high-profile companies insist face to face collaboration remains key to business success and are seeking a return to pre-COVID norms. These moves however are increasingly being rebuked by employees – as Apple’s CEO Tim Cook recently discovered when 800 employees signed an open letter protesting against the move. Even the more aggressive proponents of return-to-office based working such as JP Morgan and Goldman – have been forced to delay, adjust or even abandon such plans. The big four accountancy firms have also relaxed their stance – with PWC recently announcing large swathes of its global workforce can work from anywhere. Forever.

It’s clear there’s way to go before work from anywhere, hybrid, remote and office based, models find a happy equilibrium – but, as Brian Chesky CEO of Airbnb recently observed – in this new age of global mobility when they do:

“I don’t think companies will dictate this. Employees will dictate this.”

Brian Chesky | CEO | Airbnb

Happy teams are productive teams

If employers are to successfully navigate the world of work from anywhere, in addition to understanding HR, tax, risk considerations, they will have to exercise careful judgements related to implementation of an employee benefit programme which may not be accessible to all not least by virtue of the type of work undertaken or composition of the workforce. Nor will WFA be for everyone. Notwithstanding, there are many clear and tractable benefits that a well-structured WFA programme can offer both employees and the employer. These far exceed the material benefits offered by traditional employee incentive initiatives.

A pre-pandemic report into the State of Remote Work by Owl Labs suggested that 71% of workers say the option to work remotely would make them more likely to choose one company over another, with companies offering flexible working showing a 25% lower turnover rate than companies that don’t. A study of 16,000 home workers published by Stanford University cited gains of 13% in employee productivity.

Digital nomadism has been exploding

In the USA alone reports suggest the market grew by 49% from 7.3m to 10.9m from 2019 to 2020. The market experienced only a brief hiatus as air travel ground to a halt, before resurging as an army of homeworkers realised they could achieve the same from a beach bar with their Zoom background on as they could a kitchen table – with or without their employer’s blessing or knowledge.

Aruba, UAE, Croatia, Malta, Iceland, Cabo Verde were amongst a swathe of countries quick to latch on to the potential – launching remote working visa programmes seeking to entice a new type of traveler to replace the void created by COVID tourism disruption. The question is, did these adjustments attract a new type of traveler or simply entice those who were already living the transient lifestyle and electing to shift their work location to a more favourable environment?

More than Airbnb, a low-cost flight and a co-workspace

The reality is that, unlike a digital nomad, a corporate nomad needs much more than an official confirmation that they can live and work legally in a country. Not necessarily accustomed to travelling and working for sustained periods overseas, potentially as part of a couple or family, with permanent ties to their home country (house, schooling, tax, residency considerations etc) – they are not a permanently roaming nomad. Rather, they are looking to shift their work environment temporarily to instantly unlock benefits associated with living and working overseas. This demands a level of pre-decision advice, on the ground support and defined opportunities specifically relating to wellbeing and active volunteerism – in addition of course to the core logistics of travel, accommodation, co-working space etc.

“Corporate nomads are seeking more than a low-cost flight and an Airbnb – they are advocating for a total lifestyle change.”

Bringing the right people, to the right destinations, to do the right things

Statistics aside – there’s a whole new dimension to corporate nomadism which has yet to be fully understood or assessed. What really happens when you bring highly talented, motivated, and value driven individuals, their families, and colleagues to live and work in a location for a fixed period? At its simplest one could talk positively about people staying longer and spending more. Whilst true, this is in fact only one element of the WFA mix.

Corporate Nomads are typically employed by an organisation, they are not ‘nomadic’ in the true sense and simply have been afforded extended ability to work from anywhere for a temporary period (usually up to 90 days). Consequently, they bring a different set of motivations, experiences and mindset which can be positively harnessed to benefit local communities economically, socially, and environmentally.

“At GoRemote we believe Corporate Nomads are distinct from Digital Nomads. Not just in demographic or outlook.”

Destinations which work

I can only speak from personal experience but as Zeb and Oz settled into their new school 30 seconds from our house, Katherine and I discovered a whole new energy and dimension to our lives. Gone was the arduous London commute. Harried mornings getting children fed, dressed and out the door to different educational settings and dashing to our workplaces – removed. Wrap-around care deleted. Time saved. Money banked. Immediately we became more productive. Better workers. Better parents. Better partners.

Work. Life. Balanced.

With Cabo Verde one hour behind GMT the boys waking early is now a blessing. Logging on at 0700 local time I can immediately start collaborating with my distributed team. By midday I allow myself a couple of hours with the kids having lunch at home or go for an energizing kite or windsurf. Closing out afternoon Zoom meetings with the UK winding down I have a couple of clear hours to organize my thinking without distractions. Clocking off at 4pm I’m able to take the boys to ballet, Capoeira or an evening paddleboard. Work. Life. Balanced.

Work global. Go local.

Profoundly, I believe as a family we are contributing. Not merely through spending money within the local economy, but meaningfully. Katherine brings 20 years as an NHS Speech and Language therapist to an island with no therapist. I mentor local entrepreneurs to help build their businesses. It may not be the typical organized beach clean or Wednesday afternoon teaching English in a school – but we feel it adds more intrinsic value. Moreover, we feel part of a community which offers us so much as a family, and to which we can give back in our own small way. Dare I say it, I feel more local and with a more equal value exchange than I ever did in Brockley.

Corporate Nomad – it’s a nascent term, Google it. GoRemote might pop up. Today on LinkedIn #corporatenomads has two followers. One must be me. The second, Belinda our co-founder. Maybe you’ll be the third?

Cabo Verde. Your office

Postings from €1295 per month

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