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When it comes to the workforce, there are two factors rapidly evolving the future of work: COVID-19 and millennials. 

An unlikely duo, but hear us out. 

When the 2008 recession hit, many millennials were exiting college and entering the workforce. Jobs were scarce and pay was minimal. By the time the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, millennials were severely burnt out from working full time and then working their side hustles just to live. This generation went from clawing their way up the work food chain to being knocked back down and now they’re saying “No thanks.”

The trend goes back to pre-COVID days, with millennials leading the shift toward independent, flexible work. A 2018 USA Today article made clear which direction the workforce was headed. Nearly half of millennials said they intended to leave their full-time jobs for life as flexible workers. Less than a quarter of Gen Xers and only 13 percent of Baby Boomers responded the same way.

If millennials are the ones forging the flexible way, then COVID-19 was the force that has only accelerated the workforce’s evolution. 

Employees are no longer tied to a physical location

In March 2020, employees all over the globe learned an important lesson: there is no point in going into an office. For nearly a year now, workers have been getting along just fine performing their duties remotely. 

Now that employees have gotten a taste of remote life, companies will have to adapt to employee working preferences. LiveCareer surveyed 1,000 individuals and received some pro-remote findings. Specifically that 81 percent of working professionals enjoy a remote work setup and 65 percent said their new work situation positively affected their work-life balance.  Additionally, 29 percent of them would quit their jobs if their employer did not allow them to continue working remotely after the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This opens up the possibility of workers becoming digital nomads. Since 2005, the remote workforce has grown 140 percent. The term “digital nomad” has been around as early as the late ‘90s, right smack dab in the middle of the great dot-com bubble and when companies began to see the efficiencies of new technologies – and employees began to see a potential new lifestyle for themselves.  

The idea of working from anywhere in the world is – for lack of a better term – sexy. Putting in a few hours of work and then exploring new sights indefinitely sounds like a lifestyle only influencers have. 

Nope. It’s just the way the workforce is evolving. 

Technology has made travel more accessible

As touched on above, technology has opened up more opportunities for anyone to become a digital nomad. You no longer have to go through a travel agent to determine where you want your next home office – technology has made it so easy that you are now your own travel agent. 

But it’s not just planning the trip, it’s the whole experience. Passengers can now check into their flights from the internet, pull boarding passes up from their phones, connect to airport WiFi to put some hours in and enjoy digital entertainment during the flight. 

The obvious game-changer is Airbnb, the app that allows you to book residences around the world. The process is efficient, rates are affordable and sometimes you never even see your host. Over the years, other travel-friendly apps have hit the market, making it easier for tech-savvy travelers to book their trips. Kayak and Hopper assist in finding the best travel deals, while Meetup is great for connecting with others in the area once you arrive. 

Thanks to technology, travel is not longer as time consuming, stressful or intimidating. 

There is now competition to attract digital nomads

The hospitality and tourism industry is even adjusting its strategy to accommodate digital nomads. Countries like Croatia, Estonia, Georgia, Bermuda and more are offering visas for digital nomads to reside for a few months or even a year. 

Estonia’s Digital Nomad Visa program is the first of its kind in the European Union. As part of the program, Digital nomads who stay 182 days or more are subject to the country’s 20 percent income tax. There is also a one-year Bermuda visa that requires a clean criminal record, sustainable income and a COVID-19 test to participate. 

Earlier this year, Croatia opened up applications for one-year residency permits to remote workers. Meanwhile, Aruba is offering three-month stays without a visa and one hotel is even playing it up for its new visitors. For roughly $250 a night, visitors at Boardwalk Boutique Hotel can enjoy indoor and outdoor workstations, as well as the hotel’s boosted WiFi – done specifically for digital nomads. 

One person is taking things to the next level by building a digital nomad community in Madeira, an autonomous region in Portugal. Gonçalo Hall built a small community that can accommodate up to 100 members. The village has a free coworking space with WiFi and surrounding housing for the community. As of Feb. 1, 2021, the village has 75 committed members and another 2,000 people interested in the opportunity. 

“With many people leaving big cities right now, we wanted a village in a smaller place where people can create deeper connections than in a city,” Hall told CNN

Talent-matching platforms fit this increasingly popular lifestyle

In 2020, a lot of people in the workforce shifted to flexible employment after being forced into it through mass COVID-19 layoffs. An Upwork report analyzing the impact of COVID-19 on the freelance industry found 12 percent of the workforce began freelancing during the pandemic. The majority of that group did so out of necessity and financial stability – and they’re not going back to the traditional work structure. More than half (51 percent) say there is no amount of money that could get them to go back to a 9-to-5 work structure and 82 percent say they are happier working on their own.

In the same Upwork report, 58 percent of full-time employees that have had a taste of the remote work life are considering becoming a contract worker. 

Ahead of the curve are talent-matching platforms that are harnessing the freelance boom to offer more efficient solutions for companies. Resources like FlexTal allow flexible talent to build work around their lives and offer companies an efficient hiring process that gets them results. 

These platforms make it easier for companies to access flexible talent. No more recruiting on LInkedIn, Indeed and the like. By connecting with a talent-matching platform, the recruitment, sales and backend work is taken off the client’s plate. There is more time for company leaders to focus on what’s most important and less chances of getting tangled up in a bad-hire scenario. 

With COVID-19 currently restricting travel for many, it will be interesting to see how the digital nomad landscape looks in a post-pandemic world.