It’s a warm sunny Friday morning and I’ve settled in for a few rounds of coffee and croissants at one of the local cafes as I write this. My phone shows 8am local time for me, but it’s a two hour head start on my colleagues back in the UK, ideal for when I need some headspace to focus on content. And by the time the rest of the team is online I’ll have knocked out a couple other of my to-do’s too.I like coming to this place to observe the morning rush of people getting a quick takeaway on their way to the city’s glitzy government and corporate offices nearby. Here all the languages of Europe fill the air. It’s fitting for the beating heart of the European Union.
I’m what many people would label a ‘digital nomad’, someone who chooses to embrace a location-independent, technology-enabled lifestyle that lets them travel and work remotely, anywhere in the world. It feels odd saying that. I never thought I’d become one, mainly because my corporate career wasn’t built for it, but a pandemic has a funny way of upending everything you think you know.
Apparently I’m not alone. While remote work has firmly become the norm, it is becoming more expansive too. In fact people who work a standard full time job at a corporation now make up the majority of digital nomads and on average hail from high-demand, high-tech backgrounds like IT, engineering, web design, creative fields and marketing. But what’s even more interesting is that many are realising like I did that a job that can be done remotely can also be done abroad. Sorry independent freelancers and travel bloggers, your secluded Italian beach just got a little more crowded.
Although, my motivations for wanting to work abroad may go a little deeper than most. For as long as I can remember I’ve been on the move, from city to city to country to country. It will always be a part of who I am. Nothing brings me more joy and excitement in life than experiencing the rich colour and fabric of humanity.
I remember moments like munching on an egg tart in Shanghai curiously googling and tracing back its origins to the ports of Macau and its birthplace in Lisbon. Or walking amongst the ruins of Athens in silent acknowledgement of the ancient Greek contributions to our democracies and modern thinking. Or witnessing first-hand in Brussels the influence that French has had not only across Europe but on the English language in particular – nearly 60% of English derives from French because the histories of these languages were much more intertwined then they are today.
Us humans are so varied in the ways we work and live and yet we share so much. We only really see it by going to these places and exploring them for ourselves. That’s why I will always be on the move, because I want to go exchange stories and celebrate the shared traditions, beliefs, and cultures that make us human. And I can’t stay put knowing that I’m still missing a chapter of our story.
I won’t lie to you, however, moving countries is hard even if it is temporary. And the pandemic has brought about new work challenges that have never existed before – I’ve been in arrangements where I was based in one country working from home, but my time was divided between two teams based in two different country offices, and serving clients operating all over the world from Lagos to Los Angeles to Jakarta. It gives “finding time in diaries” a whole new meaning.
That kind of situation is challenging and it requires a lot more thought and planning, but it’s so worth it. You’ll build a stronger, wider network of new friends and colleagues than if you based yourself in one place. And learning to adapt to all the cultural, political and linguistic differences that comes with working and living across borders is an invaluable set of skills to have.
For me the biggest challenge for the longest time was that travelling has often meant choosing between career or country. But I don’t have to make that choice anymore because not only do I work in a firm that is setting the benchmark for flexibility, it is also incredible at championing diversity and inclusion in all of its processes. As someone who has always wrestled with his place in the world, getting to work with the full spectrum of talent in our industry in one beautiful culturally vibrant community is the closest I’ve ever felt to being home.
CCgroup’s approach to ‘extreme flexibility’ continues to work well for us even as the company grows at breakneck speed thanks to well… our flexible approach to flexibility. My request to spend time abroad came with a unique set of circumstances and local compliance rules to consider and for many employers the perceived risks of running afoul of local rules would seem too high to ever allow an employee to work abroad. In my case however, we found that with a little investigating, and some discussions with the right authorities we could put those worries to rest and come to an agreement that benefited everyone. As many more workers aspire to be digital nomads these adaptive approaches are going to be so important for employers to adopt.
At CCgroup, I get to have a place where I know I can advance in my career, where I’m celebrated for who I am, while still doing the things I love. It's safe to say this won’t be my last time I work abroad, but for the first time in years I’m looking forward to returning home.