How remote work can change the world for the better

26. November, 2016

The last 3 years I’ve been traveling full-time and working remotely and our team here at Refuga is also working remotely. We have experienced a lot of the positive sides of doing it, but it also made me wonder how the future will be and what kind of impact working remotely could have. I think there are some areas where remote work can really help transform the world to the better and just be for the top 1% luckiest people in the world.

Withour further ado, a few thoughts on how remote work can help make the world a better place:

More meaningful work

First of all, and probably most obvious, remote work can be a tool in living a more meaningful life on your own terms.

Having more people do meaningful work and live better lives is definitely something that can change the world for the better. With remote work, people are able to live a bit more on their own terms and not just fit into one way of working and living.

My experience with people who are working remote is that, when they are living life more on their own terms, they start to move even further up the Maslow pyramid of needs and think more about creating impact, helping others and doing work that is not just meaningful for themselves, but for the whole world.

Having a better work life will not just make you happier and make your work better, but it will also inspire others to do more meaningful work creating a small and slow, but real, movement.

Better education

A sub-trend in the whole remote working movement, that I’m very interested in myself, is the way some people are using it to educate their kids in a more natural and practical way.

Without going into a longer discussion about the education system, my opinion is that it’s a very, very flawed system. It’s a one size fits all system that was built for the industrial time where the goal was to educate people to have the same mindset, so they could become good workers in the factories. In the future, these jobs won’t be there and we need people to be creative, start their own businesses and work much more independently. Research shows that kids get less and less creative the more years the go to school.

The above are just a few things that are not working with education, but the big challenge is, that it’s the best system we have. It’s an extremely practical system because it’s easy. Parents have dreams of their own and need to work to earn money for the family, so it’s very practical to set the kids of schools and institutions and pick them up at the end of the day.

Some people are using remote work to change that. They have grown tired of the endless busyness and many of them didn’t feel that the school system was a good fit for their kids (a one size fits all system always have people who don’t fit into the system). They are not just homeschooling, but doing world schooling.

They have decided to travel full-time as a family and teach their kids through traveling. Some follow a curriculum while others choose not to. The idea is that it’s a way for the family to spend more time together and a way to do education much more practical and based on natural learning.

I’ve personal been super inspired by the small community on Facebook “Worldschoolers”. If you want to read more about the ideas leading people to educate their kids this way, I can really recommend Peter Gray’s articles on Psychology.com and the books by Sir Ken Robinson and of course his world famous TED talks.

Good jobs in areas that have no good jobs

I’ve been working with freelancers online at platforms like Upwork for years, but I had a real mindset-changing experience when I traveled to Kenya and met up with Jackiya, a young girl that had been doing freelance work for me for a while. It’s was extremely interesting to hear her story of creating her own job with online work when her surroundings had no or very few good paying jobs to offer.

The internet and working remotely can really make a huge difference in getting third world countries on a higher level. Earlier this year I visited Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world, sadly known for horrible work conditions. It’s very difficult for me to change something for the better in Bangladesh through for example volunteer work, donating money etc. With the internet and remote work I can easily create a good paying and meaningful job in Bangladesh. Besides just creating that job, there will be some added benefit, because the person in Bangladesh will probably share his or hers story with friends and family, who could be inspired to do online training and search for online jobs.

But this is not just true of third world countries. In many Western countries, we see big challenges caused by globalization and the end of the industrial period. This transition of our whole world will – as all transitions – have some losers. When factories are closing down, either because of outsourcing or because machines are taking over, it means that people are losing their jobs and while many western countries are actually creating more jobs than that’s disappearing, it doesn’t mean that there is created new jobs in smaller cities or rural areas, where a lot of the losers in this transition are living.

A big, growing problem in the West is the gap between the rural areas and the big cities. While all the good things of globalization and technology are present in the big cities, the rural communities aren’t experiencing any of these positive things, they are just paying the price. A way to try to solve this could be for the governments to actively work with creating new online jobs and training for people in these communities as part of the solution.

The value of living abroad

The whole wave of remote work has also sparked the whole digital nomad scene where a lot of people travel around while working. It’s been normal for most people to just travel for week-long vacations and sometimes with work, mostly just seeing the inside of a conference hotel. When more and more people are able to work where they want, more people will not just travel to visit another country, but actually, travel to live there for a longer period of time.

While the benefits of traveling, like seeing and understanding other cultures, is something that can dramatically change the world for the better, that can be super difficult when just traveling for one or a few weeks of vacation. Vacations are breaks from your everyday life and normally people are so exhausted from their normal lives that it’s difficult to experience a lot on a short vacation. Actually living for a longer period in another country open your eyes much more for other cultures and thereby making you more understanding of the differences around the world.

These are just some of the ways we see that remote work has a very positive impact and where the impact will continue to grow.

Is remote work the solution for a better world? Of course not, but it can be part of it.

Nikolaj Astrup Madsen I am the founder of Refuga. I'm danish, but I'm traveling the world while building Refuga and whenever I have time I go for a run in the mountains. I hope you will join me on this journey!

Leave a Reply