Al­ter­na­tive work­ing

More em­ploy­ees are es­chew­ing the tra­di­tional hometo-of­fice ex­is­tence and in­stead liv­ing and work­ing re­motely. Jenny Southan has first-hand ex­pe­ri­ence

The Business Travel Magazine - - Contents -

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”

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