The advent of telework allows for the possibility that fully remote workers could spend their lives traveling across the globe without having to take a day of PTO. While this freewheeling lifestyle sounds great for those with an itch for seeing the world, it comes with some serious legal challenges, primarily when it comes to establishing residency for tax purposes. Currently, most “digital nomads,” as they’re known, use a tourist visa to enter whichever country they want to work out of and then leave, but technically that’s illegal. Estonia is looking to solve that problem through a visa program for digital nomads, expected to launch in 2019, which will entitle holders to live in Estonia for a year at a time but visit Schengen Area member countries for up to 90 days.
“In terms of the future of work we are all navigating, there is no policy to support the new ways of working,” Karoli Hindriks, the Estonian founder of the international job search platform Jobbatical who proposed this idea to his country’s Ministry of the Interior, told Rosie Spinks at Quartz. “A digital nomad visa represents a breakthrough in the way governments support today’s mobile workforce.”
Estonia already has a successful startup environment and is one of the most tech-forward nations in the world: In 2005, it became the first country to hold elections over the Internet, and in 2014 it offered e-residency programs for location-independent entrepreneurs in an attempt to become a more attractive destination for business formation. The popular web chat program Skype, now owned by Microsoft, was built by an Estonia-based developer team in 2003.
In the age of the mobile workforce, “hot desk,” flexible desk or hoteling systems have emerged as a way for organizations to conserve office space and create a more dynamic work environment by doing away with assigned desks and instead having employees reserve desk space as they require it. Along with other aspects of the open office trend, hot-desking has been criticized by some occupational researchers who say that employees forced to share working spaces can be less productive, more distracted, and have worse relationships and more conflicts.
Ethnographer Alison Hirst spent three years studying the open-plan, hot-desk environment from the inside, and recently published the findings of her study. At the Conversation, Hirst discusses what she learned about how a hot desk system can affect certain employees more adversely than others:
Hot-desking tends to affect different employees in different ways. There is often a subtle division between those who can “settle” and reliably occupy the same desk every day, and those who cannot.
Settlers arrive first, choose their preferred desk, and by repeating their choice over time, establish this desk as “their” space. Settlers can secure the best desk space (often near the windows), can furnish their desks with all the materials and equipment needed for work, and can sit near their closest colleagues. These routines are advantageous. Contrary to popular belief, these kinds of habits enable creativity because they enable us to put mundane matters (like finding a seat near to people we know) into the background and direct our attention onto problem-solving and innovation.
Employees who for various reasons (such as childcare responsibilities or part-time status) arrive later in the day don’t have a similar choice of desk space.