Digital nomad, telecommuter, remote worker. It all comes down to the same thing. More and more workers are leaving physical office spaces. While the traditional office is far from being dead, you could certainly argue it's headed in that direction.
As more people work from their homes, their local cafe, or a coworking space, perceptions are quickly changing about people who work remotely. Companies no longer fear setting their employees free like they used to.
Here are 7 ways that the future of work will be shaped by digital, rather than physical, spaces.
1. 5G will change how we work
Thanks to 5G, one day we won't have digital offices at all. That's according to a panel discussion held at New York City's Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) discussing the future of creative collaboration in a 5G world as part of the 2019 Fast Company Innovation Festival.
"5G networks are going to create a world of nomads," said Theodore Schachter, chairperson of advertising and marketing at FIT and founder of the marketing firm Wolf Prey Advisors.
Michael Caralis, the director of public sales and operations at Verizon, meanwhile, called 5G the "fourth industrial revolution."
"The network will be faster than our brains," he added. "As you add capabilities and features to technology you drive down the costs and make everything easier to connect over time."
2. Holographic meetings will do away with traditional office spaces
At the same panel discussion, the experts said in-person interaction between employees will be replaced by holographic meetings, as Inc. reports. This technology is already in development — holographic concierges are a thing — and will only improve as the years go by. 5G, in turn, will make it more accessible.
Companies like DVE are developing holographic telepresence solutions while Microsoft and Spatial are working to combine mixed reality and online meetings to create immersive work collaboration experiences.
3. Companies and employees both save money going remote
It's expensive renting a physical office space for a business. Remote work can do away with this expense completely. As The Global Workplace Analytics report states, employers who allow employees to remotely can save up to $11,000 per year per employee.
The employees also stand to make big savings. As Business Insider points out, the average American can spend up to $5,000 on commutes annually. Then there's the work lunches, dinners, and general food costs that generally go up for office workers who are less likely to cook at home. Even child care costs can be significantly reduced for parents who work from home.
4. 70% of workers already telecommute
According to a study carried out by remote coworking space provider IWG, 70% of all workers worldwide telecommute at least one day per week. When even people that are contracted to work in a traditional office are slowly peeling away from their physical workspace, surely that has to be a sign of things to come.
The same study says that 53% of global workers work from home or remotely for at least half of the working week.
When you get a taste for the flexibility of remote work it's hard to go back to the relatively rigid structure of a physical work environment.
5. U.S. companies are going 100% remote
As Workationing points out, more and more U.S. companies are going fully remote. In fact, a comprehensive State of the American Workplace Report by Gallup showed that 170 U.S. companies surveyed were fully remote. An increase from only 26 companies in 2014.
Some of the best-known fully remote companies are Buffer, Zapier, InVision, GitHub, and Brave.
Today, tools like Slack, Dropbox, and Google Drive make online collaboration much easier. For companies, going fully remote allows them to recruit from an almost endless talent pool. What's not to like.
6. Digital nomads take fewer sick days
A recent study, carried out over nine months, from Stanford University showed that remote workers took fewer sick days and were 13% more productive than traditional office workers.
Not only this, but home workers also reported improved work satisfaction and experienced less turnover. However, remote workers did have a lower performance-related promotion rate than their in-office counterparts. That clearly doesn't correlate with the increased productivity and is something that will have to be addressed by companies of the future.
A similar study conducted by Connect Solutions reported that among those who work remotely, 77% stated that they are more productive working out of a traditional office. One of the main reasons? Telecommuters find working off-site a less stressful environment. There's nothing quite like home (or the local coffee joint).
7. 'There will be 1 billion digital nomads by 2035'
Back in 2015, serial entrepreneur, Pieter Levels gave a very well-argued presentation in which he said there will be one billion digital nomads by 2035.
Though Levels admits that this is a guesstimate, it's a well-studied one based on predictions of increased internet speed (100 gigabits by 2035 according to Alcatel-Lucent), lower travel costs, lower marriage rates, meaning lower homeownership and fewer people tied down to a location and a mortgage for years, as well as many other factors. Ultimately though, it's hard to predict how these things will develop, and for all we know his prediction could be conservative.
The real litmus test for the predicted upsurge in digital nomads will be the uptake of 5G, and whether it really delivers on its promise. Even without 5G though, more and more people are saying goodbye to the traditional office.