The idea of working a 40-hour workweek can cause a 20 to 30 something-year-old to run kicking and screaming to the far ends of the earth. We get gag reflex just from the notion of clocking in at 8am on Monday morning, grabbing a sandwich during a specified lunch hour, and joining the mad rush of commuters back home at 5pm.
Then, rinse and repeat for four more days till the glorious mini-escape of the weekend rolls around.
I’ll admit, even writing about it makes me a little nervous and uncomfortable.
The monotony? Routine? Job security and benefits?
These are unwelcome and oddly foreign ideas to many young professionals.
A lot of it isn’t our fault but to a large degree, we’ve traded in familiarity and comfort for income insecurity and adventure because we’re the generation that’s redefining abundance, happiness, and what it is to be a dreamer.
We want our vocation to be our profession. They’re no longer mutually exclusive.
I know this first-hand. As an accounting graduate, I worked in finance before retiring the penguin suit for creative, freelance work in the entertainment industry. At the time, I might’ve been an anomaly but nowadays I’m not alone.
The rest of the world is slowly catching up too. Digital nomad visas are a thing now in countries like Costa Rica and Barbados. Some US states are actively luring millennials and Gen-Z with $10,000 paychecks and tax credits to move to their cities.
We scroll through enviable news feeds on Instagram of people in shorts and flip flops, staring at a beach sunset in an exotic location working on their laptop amidst the backdrop of a tropical holiday, living their best life.
A life that was once reserved and assumed could only be attained for 65-year-old retirees is now sought out by 25 year-olds with a laptop.
Previously, you had to work for at least a year at a new company to accumulate enough vacation days to take off for a week but that’s no longer an acceptable option for many.
We’ve become the generation that wants to have their cake and eat it too.
This movement caught my eye when my friends were changing their jobs and companies every one to two years. It seemed every time we met up, they were interviewing for a new position at a new company or were serving two week’s notice for their current employer.
Some requested transfers to a new office. Others made bigger changes and packed up their possessions into storage units and literally moved to Bali or Spain with nothing but a few thousand dollars in savings and their Macbooks.
We’ve realized that knowledge work doesn’t have to be done in a cubicle in a skyscraper. As long as we have a decent wifi connection, we can do (most) of our jobs anywhere. Those Monday meetings can be held over Zoom. We don’t really care for watercooler chat with our colleagues when there’s Slack. Added to that, the pandemic made this even more true as we were all forced to do our 9–5 work from home.
This applies to the rest of the workforce too — the freelancers and those who work in the gig economy. They can be Uber drivers anywhere so they’re location-independent. They can manage their Amazon FBA business and Shopify store just as effectively from a beach in Seychelles or a café in Paris. They don’t want 10 vacation days a year, and leases that are difficult to break.
Freedom and mobility are more important than dental benefits.
Savvy companies are becoming in tune with this too. In recruiting the kind of talent they want, companies like Netflix have stepped up their game by offering unlimited vacation. As there is a learning curve to effectively implement policies like these, some companies have missed the mark.
However, most employees do prefer it.
Employees and employers are actively looking into how to integrate both ideals. We want to make our workday as enjoyable and efficient as possible.
Technically, yes, we can answer emails and have a Zoom conference call just as easily from physical office spaces as we can from a beach in Bali.
But it turns out the working from anywhere is not as simple as it’s made to be. In our pursuit of the laptop lifestyle, we might be doing more harm than good to our mental health and happiness in the long run.
Millennials were excited by the idea of traveling the world while still employed. — Havard Business Review
There’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting the best of both worlds, especially if you can have them at the same time. It’s quite noble to want to make a significant and moral contribution to your work as well as having a good time as much as you can.
We’re the generation that’s inheriting a climate crisis to no fault of our own but just the negligence and irresponsibility of those before us. And it’s on us to fix it too. So some might feel justified, or even righteous, about their desire to experience it all before the Maldives disappears underwater or while African rhinos are still around.
We aren’t getting locked into mortgages and car payments that will take our entire working lives to pay off so our disposable income is being routed differently than our parents’ income.
Growing up with social media and the internet has only added to the growing desire to travel and work for a living. We’re addicted to the approval and vanity metrics from getting likes and followers. As a result, we’re doing what we can to chase it.
We’re feeding off content that’s inspirational and aspirational. When we see an old friend from high school post a glorious picture on a camel in the Jordan desert, the dopamine effect makes us want to make that a real experience in our lives too now. Even if it means we have to cut corners to make it happen.