Striking a balance in the nomadic workplace

A nomadic workplace often includes views like this

Image source: ohefin 

Living a nomadic lifestyle – to whatever degree – is often as much a question of balance as it is where you choose to locate yourself. It is a balance in terms of how much time you commit to work, a balance in terms of how much of your past life to take with you, and a balance in terms of how much you are happy to throw yourself into new experiences, new cultures and new relationships.  

Moderation in all things’ may have been your grandmother’s motto, but that is maybe a little tame by contemporary standards. Sometimes there are experiences, opportunities and even people that you simply have to go all in for. How else would anyone ever change careers or fall in love? But at the same time, your grandma’s cautious approach is not without a certain wisdom. Maybe if we said ‘balance in all things’ we’d be able to bring her successfully up to date. Granny may not necessarily know best, but she still knows a heck of a lot.

Pushing boundaries

The happy state of 21st century communications means that there is a lot more scope for pushing the boundaries than there was even in our parents’ day. You can locate yourself just about anywhere in the world and still be able to find out how your team has performed on a Saturday afternoon or keep up with your poker buddies at a globally accessible online casino like 32Red. The ties that connect us to home are a lot more live than they even were when we were growing up.

That sort of connectivity means we can all be a little freer in terms of how far we push the envelope in the other direction. Who would have thought back in the day that you could complete work on a website from the other side of the world? But today, it is hardly ‘out there’ at all. Nowadays, any edginess comes not from the distances involved, but how mobile we choose to be.

Mobile apps like the BBC iplayer or the 32Red app make it possible to be as fluid and as mobile as your tastes allow. It means that the whole idea of a nomadic workplace is opening up to literally millions of workers who are now able to dis-locate their working and personal lives whilst still keeping both in balance.


Image source: star5112 

Invisible boundaries

Once upon a time the idea of one place for holidays and another for work were so deeply entrenched that to imagine anything different would have been almost impossible. Now, for the creative, the digitally literate and the free of spirit, that distinction no longer applies. It does, however, bring with it its own challenges. It’s not easy to concentrate on the next iteration of a website design when the surf’s up and everyone around you is heading for the beach.

In a sense, what we have traded is a freedom of movement for a more self-disciplined approach to work. The working lives of our grandparents’ generation may have been governed by strict gravitational time-frames, fixed shift-patterns and factory whistles but in a sense, they were freed from the pressure (or the prison) of self-motivation. They were told when and where to work, how hard to graft and when to stop. The pressure to impose those sort of invisible boundaries is now devolved down to each of us individually.

There is a line in management theory that suggests that this is just a matter of us having to take on an added responsibility as we answer to ‘the man’. This post-bureaucratic organizing, as its proponents call it, is just the same old serfdom served up in a different set of clothes. In the name of balance we should also acknowledge that there are even more radical scholars such as Slavoj Zizek who argue that there was once an innate freedom that came with not having to self-motivate and not having to self-manage as our grandparents experienced. It is a kind of ‘Animal Farm’ logic that insists that servitude is a form of freedom and that our notion of freedom itself represents merely a different form of restraint.

These are interesting areas for contemplation as you sit in the sun, or meander your way along a mountain trail. They won’t help you if you’re midway through designing a website or even if you’re wondering which way to play on the 32Red site, but they are issues that go right to the core of what it means to be a nomadic worker: Does ‘nomadic’ really mean ‘free’?

For all the ease of movement and the creative triggers that you might expose yourself to, there is, as your grandma would no doubt tell you, always a price to pay. Whether that is in the quality of your relationships – always better close up and personal – or in the additional effort you have to make in order to maintain a professional identity whilst on the move, mobility and the benefits of a nomadic working life don’t come for free. They all have their own particular gravitational pulls. For all the magnificent sunsets and the beautiful horizons, there is always a balance to be struck.