More employees are eschewing the traditional hometo-office existence and instead living and working remotely. Jenny Southan has first-hand experience
Afew months ago, I decided to move to Los Angeles for a month, rent a treehouse apartment on Airbnb, and see what it was like to live and work as a ‘digital nomad’.
The traditional home-to-office existence is changing: people are swapping commuting by car to running or even swimming down inner city rivers; companies are embracing flexible working to allow more people to work home; and an increasing number of people are leaving their full-time jobs altogether to go freelance. And all of this affects businesses and their travel and relocation programmes.
By 2027, Upwork predicts that the majority of the US population will be self-employed, up from 36% in 2017. In the UK, industry body IPSE says that over the last ten years there has been a 43% increase in freelancers.
According to Upwork, not only do almost two-thirds of people think that having a diversified portfolio of clients is more secure than one employer, but more than half are concerned their jobs won’t even exist in 20 years, meaning learning new skills is critical. Leading the way are millennials, 47% of whom are already freelance in the US.
Stephane Kasriel, CEO of Upwork and co-chair of the World Economic Forum’s Council on the Future of Gender, Education and Work, says: “We are in the Fourth Industrial Revolution – a period of rapid change in work driven by increasing automation. But we have an opportunity to guide the future of work, and freelancers will play more of a key role than people realise.
“Professionals who choose to freelance make this choice knowing that, as their own boss, they are in control of their destiny. Freelancers, therefore, think more proactively about market trends and refresh their skills more often than traditional employees.”
Being a journalist able to write from anywhere, I was in a better position than most to go freelance and chose where to live, but as frequent travellers know, all you really need these days is a smartphone and a laptop to perform your job from wherever you are in the world.
My apartment in the Hollywood Hills, booked through Airbnb, had a terrace facing out over the city and more space than I could ever have afforded at a hotel. It also had a more personal feel than a corporate serviced apartment. For those wary of unpredictable standards on Airbnb, you can get a degree of reassurance from 'business travel ready' listings that guarantee wifi, 24-hour check-in, workspace and no flatmates.
Although I was happy to spend some of my time working from my apartment, I sometimes found it was often easier to focus when in an environment alongside other professionals, so I decided to sign up to co-working space provider Wework. It has more than a dozen locations in Los Angeles
and hundreds more around the world, including 32 in London.
When booking a 'business' Airbnb, you get a free day at any We Work location, which seemed like a good deal to me, and I was so impressed I decided to continue using them.
They all have trendy, design-led communal lounges for you to sit with a laptop, as well as hot desks from about $350 a month, and private offices from $650. The model has been such as success, that the eight-year-old company is now worth more than $20billion.
Bridging the gap between apartment rentals in the sharing economy arena and co-working spaces is a new trend for 'co-living'. The next logical step for longer-term stays abroad or even full-time occupation on home soil, these are essentially modern communes for the 21st century professional.
They combine the best of apartment living with hotel-style facilities (think gyms, cinemas, bars and restaurants), plus on-site co-working space and a calendar of networking and social events for guests.
It’s no surprise, then, to see Wework has already branched out into co-living with the launch of Welive, which currently has one location on Wall Street in New York and another in Arlington, Virginia.
A statement from Welive when it launched in 2016 read: “Our living units are immediately ready with everything you need – pack a suitcase, bring your bicycle and move in.
“Your furniture, towels, linens, silverware, internet and HDTV – all the way down to your toothbrush – are waiting for you.”
It continued: “Members can grab a drink in the mailroom, play ping pong while their laundry dries, and enjoy a potluck dinner in our state-of-the-art chef’s kitchen.”
Proving that the trend is already entering the mainstream, other companies building co-living communities include Roam, which has properties is Bali, London, Miami and Tokyo; the Collective, which has a residence in London for more than 500 people; and Lyf, which is a millennial-targeted brand being developed by Ascott, the Asia-based serviced apartments specialist. By 2020, it aims to have 10,000 units in both Asia and Europe.
Ascott describes Lyf as “a new co-living concept that connects you with like-minded travellers” and allows residents to “bond in an array of social spaces and foster a new way of community living”.
With Upwork reporting that 69% of Americans see perceptions of freelancing as a career becoming more positive, and 71% reporting the amount of work they obtained online increased in 2017, digital nomadism is proving the next big disruptive force in travel.
As I sit watching the sun go down from my terrace in LA, gin and tonic in my hand, I vow never to go back to full-time employment again. For the first time ever, I feel I achieved work-life balance.
Bridging the gap between apartment rentals in the sharing economy arena and co-working spaces is a new trend for co-living”