Remember fax machines? You know, those clunky
shrines to the 20th-century office? It may be hard to
believe now, but at one time they were seen as inno-vative
and cutting-edge, a symbol of the future of
work at the time. Like many of the nostalgic technological tools
from yesteryear, the way we work is on the same path to becom-ing
In fact, the very nature of work is evolving right before our eyes.
For instance, wondering what jobs will look like for the next gen-eration?
A recent World Economic Forum report predicted that 65
per cent of children entering primary school will likely hold jobs
that don’t currently exist. That’s both an exciting and scary propo-sition
as we begin to welcome Gen Z to the workforce.
THE END OF THE TRADITIONAL OFFICE
Automation, the gig economy, social media and e-commerce are
all paving new career paths for those not even old enough to know
what a fax machine looks like. The jobs of the future will look
completely different for this new generation, and the same can
be said for the traditional work environment, which will be com-pletely
unrecognizable in just a few short years.
The ubiquitous cubicles dividing us today are already being
replaced by open and flexible workplaces espoused by the rise of
co-working companies such as WeWork and others. In fact, global
enterprises are pulling a page right out of WeWork’s book, actively
redesigning their offices to facilitate and promote collaboration
and interpersonal relationships among employees.
Take for example Apple, which has designed its new corpo-rate
headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., named “Apple Park,” with
such conscientious detail to maximize creative collaboration in a
bid to capture the essence of its former CEO and founder, Steve
Jobs. This is an inspired, though absurdly expensive, example of
a company staying ahead of the competition and embracing the
ever-changing employment landscape.
While companies with mega money are embracing the work-spaces
of the future, others are ditching the idea of an office
altogether. Instead, the workplace has turned into whatever work-ers
want it to be, whether it be a Starbucks, an Ikea-designed
home office or a sunny tropical beach in Tahiti. All of this is a
result of the flexibility of our connected personal lives transition-ing
into our work lives. Canadian businesses should look to adapt
and be just as flexible, preparing for what the next evolution of
work will look like.
THE DAWN OF MOBILE WORKERS
That next evolution may already be starting to appear. Accessible
internet, smartphones, roaming data plans and cheaper air travel
have all combined to spur an emerging class of mobile workers
known as digital nomads. They are ambitious and highly skilled
individuals free from the restrictions of location and limited only
by the power of their imaginations. Digital nomads are also driv-ing
what the future of work might look like.
According to Statistics Canada, 2.18 million Canadians were
categorized as temporary workers in September 2017, but that
may not be enough to feed the demands for skilled workers in
the country. That’s why Canadian businesses are courting digital
nomads, a rich pool of talent, skills and experience that fill press-ing
needs. To meet the demands of these digital nomads who are
on the move, governments and companies can look towards the
blueprint already being put in place by countries like Estonia.
EMBRACING DIGITAL NOMADS (AND THE FUTURE OF WORK)
The tiny Baltic country of Estonia – home to 1.3 million people
– may at first seem like an underdog in the global pursuit of top
talent. However, the country’s embrace of digital innovation and
mobile workforces through public and private sector collabora-tions
has put it on the map for global tech talent. Estonia is not
only positioned to compete on a global scale today, but it also has
the flexibility to attract the next generation of talent, whose job
skills will increasingly trump borders.
Estonia is the first country to offer e-Residency, a government-issued
digital ID available to anyone in the world, streamlining
the process of starting and managing a worldwide company
there. There is also an effort underway, started by Jobbatical,
along with Estonia’s Ministry of Interior, to establish a digital
nomad visa program to make it simpler for workers to relocate
Digital nomads aren’t going away. To the contrary, they are just
starting to flex their economic muscle. In fact, digital nomads
arriving in Canada are playing a key role in helping businesses suc-ceed.
The Canadian government is realizing their value, making
its startup visa program permanent, and in 2017, embarking on a
massive expansion of research funding for AI and other fields to
attract superstar researchers.
The future of work is being led by digital nomads, who are
filling skills gaps that simply cannot be addressed with local work-forces.
Initiatives like a digital nomad visa and others offer a bridge
to the future of work, supporting companies as they seek the right
talent for the right job, regardless of their passport. n
Karoli Hindriks is the co-founder and CEO of Jobbatical.
DATA PLANS AND CHEAPER AIR
TRAVEL HAVE ALL COMBINED
TO SPUR AN EMERGING CLASS
OF MOBILE WORKERS KNOWN
AS DIGITAL NOMADS.
66 ❚ FEBRUARY 2019 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL