“It’s a pain that exists – the 9 to 5 routine,” said Heather Lee who works for Remote Year, a young and innovative American company that believes you can work and travel the world at the same time. “People are just more willing to admit it and do something about it now.”
Luckily there is a prescription for this 9 to 5 pain. It’s been developed by Remote Year, involves travel and has been on the market since June 2015. You only need 27,000 US dollars and one full year to be treated… oh, and you’ll need to bring your own job.
That’s right, instead of escaping from work, you’ll need to bring it with you. Remote Year will arrange the rest: a year-long work-while-you-travel experience with like-minded “remotes” including travel between 12 different destinations, accommodation, 24-hour workspace with Internet, and local activities.
From pilot to product in less than a year
The response to Remote Year’s work-while-you-travel experience has been positive, if not extraordinary. Its first cohort of remotes is currently in the ninth month of a year-long pilot itinerary of 12 cities across the globe. Five more cohorts are scheduled to head out on year-long itineraries during the first part of 2016. Each group consists of about 75 remotes with two programme leaders; one of the leaders manages community relations and the other logistics and operations.
According to Remote Year, there is no typical remote, but what remotes have in common are strong beliefs related to community, travel, flexibility and diversity.
“Generally half are women and the other half men. The average age is 30 although it ranges from 22 to 63. Thirty nationalities have been represented in our programmes and remotes have a diverse range of travel experience. As far as their jobs and work, about half work as designers or developers. Remotes have a wide range of language skills, but there are opportunities for language learning along the way, especially while staying in a region for a number of months where one main language is spoken,” said Lee.
The traditional working holiday scheme turned on its head?
A year away from home with such a hefty fee and still having to work along the way may not sound curative. Actually, at first it may sound like a very expensive work trip or a working holiday scheme turned on its head. For millennials with the sharing economy at the centre of their lifestyle, a remote work year abroad is sustainable, according to Remote Year.
“Millennials value experience over ownership. It used to be that you’d have to quit your job if you wanted to travel, but we’re living proof that you can have both. We’ve noticed this is a trend with millennials,” said Lee. “If you sublet your apartment in New York or LA and are able to work from anywhere, it’s doable; it may not be as expensive as you think.”
WYSE Travel Confederation found through its Millennial Traveller Survey that interacting with locals and experiencing everyday life in another place are two of the most important travel motivators for young people. WYSE research has also indicated an increase in the number of youth and student trips lasting 60 days or longer (New Horizons III, 2013) suggesting that longer stays abroad combining study, work and travel experiences are more and more attractive to young people.
“In addition to all of the logistics and amenities provided, being with 75 incredible people with a wide range of skills, backgrounds, and experiences is an amazing opportunity that will motivate you to develop your professional skills further,” said Lee.
Work-travel as an employee benefit
At the most basic level, Remote Year seems to be ideal for older millennials that have established themselves professionally, earn good salaries and don’t have children or pets to care for. Perhaps they want to embark on one last grand fling abroad before more serious demands and commitments take root? Or maybe relive the flexibility of student travel after a serious relationship has unravelled? Then again, why not travel now if you missed the opportunity at a younger age? The motivators could be any or all of the above and Remote Year expects the work from anywhere trend to continue with Generation Z.
“Yes, we expect this work-travel lifestyle to become more popular with younger people and as more companies come around to the idea,” said Lee. “We see it as a non-traditional work benefit that companies could offer to keep talented young professionals; companies are slowly getting interested. We believe that people can be productive anywhere and that productivity can even increase when you are unshackled from your desk and inspired by new surroundings.”
When asked if any companies were bankrolling the participation of any current remotes or making matching contributions to a participant’s fee as though it were a 401(k) investment account, the answer was, “No, not that we’re aware of, but that’s a good idea.”