The age of the digital nomad opens up the world for the tech sector
For years, prestigious universities attempted to convince us that flexible, remote, and working from home were a positive, presenting research and reports that highlighted greater productivity, higher employee satisfaction and loyalty. But the business community largely took these reports with a pinch of salt, with managers preferring to see their employees, at their desks, ‘working’.
It was only when offices were forced to close that the world collectively realised that desk-based jobs in particular, could be conducted from virtually anywhere. Communicating with your colleagues once we got the hang of Zoom etiquette, was, as it turned out, efficient. And it has certainly worked for Ding as a company – where we have happily succumbed to being digital nomads to great affect.
This of course would never have been possible without technology. The development of smartphones, broadband and cloud-based software have saved tens of millions of jobs around the world by allowing staff to continue their jobs remotely. As facilitators of remote working, many within the tech community were already adept at working from anywhere. Within the tech industry, the languages of programming and coding transcend geographical boundaries and as developers, it is not the amount of time spent in the office that matters, it is the output of your work that is most important.
As we all retreated indoors, global trade declined, supply chains faltered and many questioned the future of globalisation. But in the technological sphere, lines were bridged, solutions to the problems that had arisen were forged. Hackathons were held online, with developers from all around the world participating to innovate and provide technological solutions to the new problems we faced. For example contact tracing apps, financial solutions for businesses, and the use of ultraviolet light in handwashing to kill viruses came through hackathons.
This all happened outside of the office. Technology and the world’s tech talent maintained lines of communication, facilitated globalisation and brought tech communities from all around the world closer together.
As flexibility becomes the norm, offering remote working has the ability to change the approach to hiring and securing tech talent. Embracing WFH on an industry basis has the power to redefine what we value about our work, our sense of time and values as an industry.
Younger companies around the world have for years found no qualms with hiring freelancers or workers from different continents to outsource their tech work for more affordable rates.
This is why pockets of technological centres have sprung up around the world, places like Estonia, Bangladesh and Jordan have established thriving ecosystems of tech talent who work for some of the world’s best-known companies. Expedia’s software development now takes place in Jordan, a place where the youth are well-educated, well-skilled and comfortable with both English and Arabic, providing the company with diversity in thought and experience within its own organisation.
Embracing offsite hiring
While we have our headquarters in Ireland, Ding is a truly global business. Our customers are based all around the world, we have eight offices and 28 different nationalities that comprise the Ding family. This diversity is an incredible source of strength for us, it provides different perspectives, it strengthens our understanding of our customers and the markets in which we operate. This massive working-from-home shift has highlighted to us that jobs we previously thought of as on-site roles, which included key tech roles, can now by fulfilled from anywhere and embracing greater flexibility will stand to strengthen our community and companies around the world.
On a more global basis, flexible working conditions might encourage greater economic diversity. Estonia is trialing a Digital Nomad Visa, which will allow for location independent workers to live in Estonia for up to a year while working for employers or clients outside of the country. Alongside Estonia, both Georgia and Barbados have launched similar worker visa programmes to much media fanfare. Such flexible working policies might also encourage more women into tech, thus further boosting diversity and improving access to opportunities.
Living at work
There are some setbacks to consider however, working from home can quite easily turn into ‘living at work’. A survey conducted by Monster suggests workers are feeling burned out, staff can feel they are “always online”; answering emails and taking meetings well into time that would normally have been their own.
There is also the risk of the loss of culture and sense of belonging. In traditional offices, ideas often take shape as employees discuss them over a morning coffee or lunch. Teams bond at after work drinks. Tech companies need to look at creative ways to build those bonds even with remote workers so no one feels isolated and teams still work harmoniously.
At Ding, we have tried to find solutions to counter any potential loss of culture in our organisation brought on by virtual working. We encourage weekly ‘Virtual coffee’ chats and still do our Friday afternoon monthly pizza get togethers – albeit now virtually.
We have also recently rolled out a solution where our office has been turned into an area where staff can hold socially distanced collaboration workshops and meetings.
We have also seen a number of positives during this time of virtual working – our All Hands sessions for all staff, which once were held with staff present, are now virtual and have been transformed. Levels of engagement have risen significantly, with more questions, more engagement in general and use of the chat feature with staff really getting involved.
We have also seen a positive move away from longer meetings with no loss in productivity. The demise of the hour-long meeting looks to be nigh, which is certainly a positive. In fact, preliminary research by Microsoft suggests meetings are happening more frequently, but shorter meetings are on the rise.
It remains to be seen what the impact of the lack of face to face interaction could mean on performance management and ensuring staff stay motivated. But for Ding we are keeping on top of innovative ideas to keep staff engaged.
As an early adopter of remote working – the tech community is once again at the forefront of offering possible solutions to the challenges we are facing and has the opportunity to determine the best practices and policies to facilitate the future of work at home or abroad.
For now, we at Ding are embracing the age of the Digital Nomad – and all that it brings in terms of work/life balance, and the world of opportunities it opens up for the technology industry.