The stories that defined 2018 when the digital nomad went mainstream, and remote work became the future of work.
Last year on NoDesk, I featured 448 articles on digital nomads and remote work, as well as the occasional offbeat piece. These were the favourites as measured by a combination of what the NoDesk audience most enjoyed reading and sharing, and which stories I found most interesting.
Much of 2018 was about the digital nomad lifestyle going mainstream and the rise of remote work and fully distributed teams, a direct response to the modern workplace.
We're squandering human health and potential on an epic scale by forcing the vast majority of people who dislike or hate the open office into that configuration. Their work deteriorates, their job satisfaction declines. And for what? Because a minority of people kinda like that configuration? Because it'll look good in a few photos? Because it'll impress strangers who visit the office? Get outta here.
There were personal stories written by digital nomads about their lifestyle and the benefits of remote work. Take, for example, Charles Patterson's account on how working remote was the best decision they’ve made.
Today one year ago I decided to get rid of my belongings and live out of a suitcase. It started as an experiment I didn't expect to be doing for long. However after 365 days without a permanent home, I have no intentions on changing my current setup.
With all these newly minted adventure-seeking digital nomads in foreign lands, came novel problems, such as how do you use a squat toilet.
Beyond digital nomads, there were articles written on some of the most innovative and leading companies with distributed teams, such as GitLab.
Every employee of the San Francisco-based startup, which offers tools for software developers, works from home. Three years ago, that was nine people. Today, GitLab's 350 employees across 45 countries use video calls and Slack chats to stay constantly connected.
Operating virtually hasn't exactly slowed the company down. InVision now has 800 employees (up from fewer than 500 a year ago) and a $1 billion valuation that should increase with its imminent next funding round. By those measures, InVision is already bigger than Slack was when it was named Inc.'s Company of the Year for 2015.
GitLab and InVision are prime examples that remote work works at scale. But there are many pitfalls with working remotely, and too often the idea of remote work gets blamed when a company fails with its implementation. Fortunately, Andreas Klinger put together a crash course on how to manage remote teams.
Remote work is the future of work.— Alexis Ohanian Sr. 7️⃣7️⃣6️⃣ (@alexisohanian) October 18, 2018
With the rise of remote work, the issue for job seekers has been on how to find a remote job – the NoDesk remote job board was the most visited section this year – but also on how to land a remote job when you’re competing alongside hundreds, or even thousands of applicants from across the world.
For job seekers, it has not only been about finding a remote job, but also on how to pick a career and make the right career decisions which Tim Urban writes about in this long-form article.
This post isn't me giving you career advice really - it's a framework that I think can help you make career decisions that actually reflect who you are, what you want, and what our rapidly changing career landscape looks like today. You're not a pro at this, but you're certainly more qualified to figure out what's best for you than our collective un-self-aware great uncle.
Stories about the positive aspects of being a digital nomad and working remotely were plentiful in 2018. But with the increase in attention on nomads, there emerged personal accounts about the darker side of the lifestyle. These were the most powerful stories of 2018 and I hope aspiring nomads will learn from them.
Amir Salihefendic shared his personal story about isolation, anxiety, and depression in the remote workplace. A must read.
And Martin De Wulf writes that despite the benefits of working remotely, it was stressful, took a toll on their mental health and relationships.
There was also the question of whether working remotely or being a digital nomad can harm your career, and the impact digital nomads have on communities at home and abroad, as Paris Marx discusses in Digital Nomads Are Not the Future.
Building on these themes, I have found there are two kinds of digital nomad. There are those who are coming to something, and those who are getting away from something. The former seek to satisfy their spirit of adventure, while the latter seek to create a better life for themselves. Both kinds of digital nomad may experience hardships with the lifestyle, but the latter group should take note, as More To That points out, travel is not a cure for discontentment of the mind.
The point of all these stories is this: being a digital nomad or working remotely is not without its difficulties. As with everything in life, when you pray for rain, you got to deal with the mud too. That’s a part of it.
One of the favourite offbeat pieces featured on NoDesk was Naval Ravikant’s Twitter thread on how to get rich (without getting lucky).
How to Get Rich (without getting lucky):— Naval (@naval) May 31, 2018
And lastly, this piece, The Last Curious Man, on the enormous life of Anthony Bourdain was a must read.
I’m sure I’ve missed a few things, but if you’re curious to learn more about digital nomads and remote work, all 448 articles featured in 2018 including previous years can be viewed here.
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If you’re looking for a new opportunity this year, I curate the best new remote jobs at leading companies and startups that offer you the freedom to work remotely from home or places around the world on the NoDesk job board. You can also visit Cryptocurrency Jobs for remote jobs in the blockchain and crypto space.
Please let me know if you have any feature requests, suggestions or general feedback by reaching out via email or on Twitter. My DMs are always open. Let me know how I can assist you as a digital nomad, remote worker or in your search for a remote job.
Best wishes for 2019. I hope you’re only a few days away from your next adventure!