Three years ago, I touched down in Colombia for my first trip with 20+ other remote workers — we were going to spend a month together, sharing a coworking space, taking weekend excursions across the country, participating in workshops, and breaking bread (or in this case, arepas). The only thing we needed was our laptops. For a year, I had been growing a remote company on my own, and this was the first time I was going to meet other people who wanted to live their lives like me...traveling the world and working wherever our heart desired. #workfromanywhere
I took this trip with Unsettled — one of the many companies cropping up everywhere that led organized trips across the country for a new group of workers who wanted to network, hang out, and share ideas and work while on the road. And it was life-changing. I explored the cobblestone streets of one of South America's oldest walled cities — ordering $1 garlic fried plantains served with local cheese; I paraglided over the hills of Medellin; I took a gondola to one of Colombia's formerly most dangerous communities and learned how they were able to heal through graffiti; I rode a flashing party Chiva bus and drank Colombian beer; I climbed 740 steps of a huge rock, overlooking the most beautiful water landscape surrounding Guatape; I visited a local family's coffee finca and learned how they grew coffee; and I made friends around the world. WHILE I WORKED ON GROWING MY BUSINESS.
It paved the path for me that this was the lifestyle I was meant for — there was no going back to an office 40 hours a week, ever again. I wanted to be a "digital nomad" for life.
A decade or so ago, remote workers and freelancers existed on the fringes of the workforce, misrepresented and often misunderstood. Who were these young professionals who were naïve enough to think they could satiate their wanderlust or work from home and still make a steady paycheck?
These, my friends, were the pioneers of a group of people who would become known as "digital nomads." The innovators and out-of-the-box thinkers who seized on evolving technology and made it work…so they could work from anywhere. Now, in the midst of a global pandemic, the working world has finally caught up with them, with a staggering 42 percent of Americans now working remotely.
While many countries' borders are closed down during COVID-19 and travel has come to a bit of a halt, digital nomads aren't able to travel at the rate we were used to or embark on these epic month-long adventures with groups of other remote workers. However, Unsettled has evolved into an industry leader on the subject of remote work, helping teams navigate the challenges and uncover the opportunities that working-from-anywhere creates. And we love to see their continuous mission to support remote work, even when travel is paused.
Recently, Unsettled unveiled their state-of-the-workforce report, “The Future of Remote Work,” and unsurprisingly, it aligned pretty closely with our own values and philosophy here at First Page. Read on to learn more about what tomorrow holds for our growing remote workforce, and learn about an opportunity to build connections with your remote teams.
So, What Is the Future of Remote Work?
The work-from-home life isn’t going anywhere. Some of the biggest brands and largest nationwide employers have committed to their remote workforce, shifting jobs from office to home, even after the pandemic. But what does it take to make this transition a success?
In “The Future of Remote Work” report, Unsettled says that even remote workers who didn’t choose this lifestyle must learn how to adapt and approach this sudden change as an opportunity for career and personal growth. The report says, “While the rapid shift towards remote work may have 'happened' to many of us, it is now up to us to take responsibility and be intentional about how we shape the future; of our companies, our teams, our work, and ultimately, our lives.”
We couldn’t agree more! At First Page, our collective of digital marketing experts are intentional and focused in their work from wherever they are in the world…leading to happier employees with a healthy work/life balance.
Big brother is watching. Or, at least, the big boss is watching. In the Unsettled report, Gary A. Balles, Chair for the Future of Work at Singularity University, writes, “One of the many outdated models we have inherited from the industrial era is what I call ‘management by surveillance,’ the need for managers to continually observe workers to ensure work is performed as demanded.” Obviously, with the swift onset of remote work, this approach to management is becoming a relic of a bygone time. And that’s likely for the best. When employers allow their workers freedom to make decisions and solve problems, they give them greater opportunities to grow.
At First Page, that’s been our approach from the start. Because we hire proven experts who drive results, we can offer them breathing room to lead, learn, and perform up to the high standards we set — no micromanagement required.
Sometimes, you need to make a Target run at 2:00 p.m. Sometimes, your kids will need a fourth player for their video game campaign while you’re still “on the clock.” Sometimes, life just happens and traditional work environments aren't always conducive to letting it. While employees need to remain focused on achieving goals and maintaining productivity, managers also need to understand that remote work won’t look the same as in-office work.
Stephanie Lee, Team Experience Manager at Buffer and a respondent to Unsettled’s remote work survey, says that both workers and managers need to be flexible in understanding it won’t always be business as usual: “It’s not just ‘doing what we were doing in the past, but in a remote setting.’ For us to succeed at remote work, we need to start thinking remote-first. It’s about setting new expectations around clarity, communication, and connection, because there are things you miss out [on] in remote work.”
At First Page, we are more flexible than a yoga instructor. That flexibility begins at the top, but it works its way down through all of our team members. We adjust to different time zones, we understand that our furry friends want to be walked on their schedule, and if a problem does arise, we communicate — immediately, openly, and with the goal of reaching a solution.
Nothing worth doing is ever easy, right? Good things take time, and to reap the benefits of a remote workforce, you might have to practice a little extra patience. This will likely be a challenge for many brands who found their entire business model turned upside down in the space of a few days’ time. As Sherisa Rajah Baird, Director of Global Employment Law at Elements Global Services, noted in her survey response, “A workplace cannot go remote overnight. Sure, it’s physically possible, but a reset of this magnitude requires training, guidance, and a commitment to reskilling if we are to replicate the success and execution that we associated with a traditional office.”
Patience is a virtue, and it’s one that we at First Page have worked to develop in spades. Our team has collective decades of experience in remote work, and we understand the unique barriers and opportunities it provides. But that didn’t happen overnight. It took hard work, intense dedication, a good portion of ambition…and searching the world to find our individual happy places where we could stay zen, tune out the noise, and learn the art of patience.
Building Your Own Future of Remote Work with Team Journeys
Along with the release of “The Future of Remote Work” report, Unsettled also unveiled the launch of Team Journeys, a virtual program that provides remote workforces with new and innovative ways to connect and grow together — even when they’re apart.
But as more than your average team-building exercises (no trust falls here), Team Journeys focuses on optimizing remote teams to build culture, spark productivity and creativity, and give collaboration a turbocharged boost. As they say on their website, they’re kind of a reverse mullet: “lots of fun up front; all business in the back.”
The program consists of weekly interactive, virtual sessions over the course of a month, with the goal of optimizing your remote operations and creating deeper, more meaningful relationships between distanced employees.
Team Journeys sounds right up our remote work alley. Unsettled embodies the values all remote teams must learn to embrace, and they’re helping teams across the country and around the world work better together, even while they’re apart.