While the digital nomad movement is kind of on pause now because of the travel restrictions, remote work is becoming a new normal for many companies, and employees. I’ve been freelancing since 2013, and – hell no! – have no will to work from the office again.
I can’t believe that it was only last year when I met Simon Lewis somewhere on Facebook streets and decided to join his CoWorking Days community. SO much has happened since then! I’ve started organizing Coworking Days Lisbon in 2019, gathering all the interesting people – remote workers and digital entrepreneurs – to meet, work together, learn from each other, and, what’s more important, CONNECT.
Simon has been nomading since the digital nomad movement had a name. Recently I talked to him about the history of his digital nomadism, remote projects, and current struggles of the digital nomad community.
What’s the story of your connection with the digital nomad community and what are your current projects?
I am the founder of CoWorking Days & CoWorking Safari. A few years ago I was bored of working at home alone and in need of a community to plug into. I lived in Athens, Greece and the closest coworking space was 40 mins away and I was OVER working alone in coffee shops so I decided to create my own community which I called Athens CoWorking Days. The idea was to create coworking meetups in different cafes around the city to help me be more productive and meet interesting like-minded people.
After only a few events and because I am well connected with bloggers and influencers people started to notice what I was doing, liked the idea, and asked if they could create their own communities in different cities. Plus through my previous work in destination marketing & travel in Africa the City Of Cape Town noticed what I was doing and asked us to create a campaign for them to help attract digital nomads to the city.
The Swap London For Cape Town campaign was born! This campaign attracted startups & entrepreneurs based in London to apply for an all-expenses-paid trip to Cape Town so they could experience the cities startup scene. Since then CoWorking Days has grown to 10 communities in different cities around the world with over 3000 members taking advantage of our online and offline events plus our Members Perks & special offers.
We also have our own unique Coworking/Coliving retreat in Africa called CoWorking Safari, as yes, you can actually enjoy a real African safari and stay connected.
With the pandemic, what do you think are the digital community’s struggles (except for the limited travels, of course)?
Isolation is the biggest struggle which is why we launched online events to help people learn from each other or simply socialize over a coffee.
What are the pros and cons of remote work, in your opinion?
The pros are, of course, being able to work from anywhere. And many people still have to realize that working remotely doesn’t mean working from home, or even worse, your bedroom. You can travel, work from anywhere, with a magical view or in a cool company, and enjoy life while earning money.
There are quite a few cons as well. People are lonely (especially now in isolation), they don’t interact or collaborate face-to-face, don’t have activities together. It is hard to maintain a work-life balance and manage your time this way. But with just a little effort, and self-care it’s possible to live the life you’ve imagined.
Do you think remote work is the future? Did you have any struggles with your team so far?
Yes, of course, remote work is the future, but people and companies will have to adapt a lot. It takes some time to get used to the new reality, learn such things as self-discipline, time management, and get used to online meetings/reporting for employees. For employers, it means learning how to manage the team under new circumstances. We did ok as we are used to working remotely.
When the pandemic is over, do you think it will be a boom in travel and offline events, or people will get used to online meetings, conferences, etc.?
I think we will see a bit of both with pointless travel, meetings, and events becoming a thing of the past.
What is next for your projects?
As South Africa is now reopened, we want to help European remote workers escape the winter and head to Cape Town. It is very affordable, has great weather, amazing beaches, nature, coffee, and foodie culture. There is a lot to do and see, and it is a great warm destination to enjoy life while working remotely!
How do you stay sane during these badass times, and what are your tips for digital nomads on this?
I made a conscious decision to work on my work-life balance and focus on my physical and mental health! I now get out of bed every morning before daybreak to Stand Up Paddle to watch the sunrise in Barcelona which means I spend at least the first 3 hours of my day offline rather than sitting around my kitchen table staring at a computer screen.