Australian businesses must support the rise of the corporate nomad


As Australian employees emerge from lockdown and organizations grapple with a growing talent shortage, we can finally look beyond the old office / home choice and see that the new normal will be true flexibility and opportunity. to work from anywhere.

They’re digital nomads, and they’re nothing new – independent creatives have been rebounding in Southeast Asia for years, but this corporate flavor certainly is. The new nomads are employed full time, but travel while working for one boss. There is no solid Australian data yet, but new research in the United States has revealed that the number of digital nomads increased by almost 50% in 2020. The number of corporate nomads increased by 96% in only 12 months, from 3.2 million in 2019 to 6.3 million in 2020.

In an unusual turn of events, I have spent more of this year than not working remotely. A series of beneficial incidents (canceled flights, closed borders, blind luck) saw me working in airports and cafes, in hotels and AirBnBs, and – best of all – in a dreamy coworking space on Magnetic Island. in the far north of Queensland..

In 2020, I spent the same time working in my apartment in Melbourne. Life took on a grim certainty of flushing and repetition centered around the metronomical press conference. It wasn’t that bad – I found the certainty of my routine quite calming, and I was also keenly aware that I was in an extremely privileged position to be able to work.

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Still, I was definitely not at my best, and found myself limping in 2021 with limited enthusiasm. Like many others, I read Adam Grant’s book New York Times article on languid and felt a painful pain of recognition (or “saw” as the children would say). Grant languidly calls “the neglected middle child of mental health,” characterized by a lack of motivation and focus. I had just enough self-awareness to know that something was wrong, but not enough to know how to deal with it.

When Melbourne returned to lockdown in July, I extended my vacation to Queensland to meet many people who had done the same after accidentally getting stranded. Others had intentionally planned work trips across the country due to overseas vacation cancellations or simply a need for a change. Some have found a unique space to work for several months; others took it week after week, moving to a new location for Monday. I did a bit of both.

So how’s it going, working from anywhere? Finding good wifi is key, as well as a place to make video calls where you aren’t going to drive other customers up the wall. I became much more intentional in managing my journal and found that my productivity and energy seemed to at least double. When someone shared Adam Grant’s essay again recently, I was delighted (so surprised) to find that it no longer resonated.

Hospitality businesses are starting to take notice. A recent piece in Forbesa highlighted the opportunity to meet the needs of the new digital nomads, who all need places to stay, work and eat. Estonia, for example, is promoting itself as a nomadic digital destination and offering legal visas for remote workers. A wonderful side effect of this general trend is greater cross-pollination between creative freelancers and the business types who spent their days in a dedicated office. Learning from each other can only be a positive thing for Australian innovation and corporate culture.

Companies that can help their employees do what I have done – rejuvenate themselves and find new inspiration and creativity by being in different environments and combining work and travel – will have a significant advantage in employee retention. This is easier said than done, as there are tax and legal implications, but the payoff in attracting and hiring the best talent will be huge. There are tremendous opportunities for the types of entrepreneurs who can capitalize on this trend by providing positive and welcoming workplaces for people on the road. If you are thinking of creating other coworking spaces in paradise, count me as your first client.

Sonia Clarke is the Director of Future of Work at PwC.

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