The International Business Times published this article today about digital nomads finding offices away from home – in Indonesia, Vietnam, Argentina, and a variety of other remote locales that offer “co-working spaces in the developing world that promote access to a lower cost of living and higher quality of life.”
There’s really no exploration in this particular article about whether or not this os a new brand of imperialism, exploitation, or general problematic American manifest-destination (are we outsourcing gentrification to Asia now?). Those are really important and significant discussions that I’m not launching here now – but will on another day.
Today I want to talk about working from
home away from home.
When I left the grind of 9-to-5-ing to become a consultant, I was both excited and anxious about life outside of an office. I’m a social human, and one of my work superpowers has always been getting as much good work done at the proverbial water cooler as I did at my desk. After all, work is really about relationships, being open to your environment, and, in my case, learning more about what was happening around me.
Fast forward a few years and I still think all of that is true. Skype and Google Hangout at my bloated cell phone plan full of daytime minutes have made it possible for me to work happily in yoga pants from my home office, and also from Seattle, San Francisco, New York City, or a beach house overlooking grey whale migration habitats. For nonprofits, this kind of remote staffing capacity can help reduce or eliminate overhead costs, attract diverse and experienced candidates for jobs, and expand the joyful tentacles of your mission across the country or across the world.
But despite the delivered promise of digital tools for collaboration, remote staffing, and globe-trottable telecommuting, there’s still no substitute for running into someone at the coffee maker and hearing what they’re working on. Spontaneous interaction and intentional collaboration are not interchangeable.
I work from the beach every now and then, but I also make sure to spend some face time (with a lower-case face – NOT Facetime©) with my clients, colleagues, and collaborators.
Whales migrate in pods for a reason — it’s lonely out there! If you’re building a budget wired for digital co-locating, corner off some of your cost-savings and invest them in your team building. The results will pay for themselves ten times over.