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The evolving world of work: Digital nomadism, Work Creep and Quiet Quitting as challenges for companies

The lockdown is now a bitter memory, but those months of confinement and all that came with it forever changed the lives of individuals, particularly many workers who, thanks to the smart working and to all the nuances of so-called hybrid work, have discovered new dimensions and ways of working, as well as reviewing their own priorities and ways of approaching work itself. It is in this light that phenomena such as Digital Nomadism, the Work Creep and Quiet Quitting, three new trends that seem, however, destined to take firm root.

1. Digital nomadism

The first of these three phenomena, Digital Nomadism, although it has emerged recently actually has deep roots: in fact, people started talking about digital nomads as early as 1997 thanks to the study by computer scientist Dr. Tsugio Makimoto and writer David Manners entitled precisely 'Digital Nomad'. It brings out how the emergence of communities of itinerant remote workers is due to the natural need of humans to move and the development of digital technologies and, consequently, how the digital nomad is

"the representative of a future lifestyle in which anyone with access to portable technologies is free to move and travel while taking their office with them." 

If it is a term and a phenomenon that was born in the late 1990s, how come it did not begin to be talked about frequently until more than two decades later?

Digital nomadism has for years been a current of thought and movement that has remained on the back burner, especially in the capitalist Western society that associates office employment with being cooped up in four walls for eight hours, vastly removed from a concept of work that takes into consideration the idea of performing the same tasks even on a sunny beach and flip-flops.

The lockdown, in that sense, was a real breaking point: by putting a brake on the free mobility of people, individuals had to learn to come to terms with a world that demanded that they take work home with them in every sense of the word, initiating days made up of endless hours of video conferencing done in shirts with pajama pants underneath, or in jeans and sneakers but sitting at the table of a co-working and complete strangers to replace everyday colleagues.

The Pandemic changed people's habits and lifestyles, giving them a way to re-calibrate their work-life balances as well, giving unprecedented importance to the space set aside for their leisure time and, in some ways, generating impatience with those four walls that, when restrictions were removed, drew professionals back to them.

This is where Digital Nomadism has experienced a real explosion: after experiencing the smart-working and hybrid work, workers have realized that they have an opportunity to rethink their careers and, consequently, the very way they work. Priorities have become the prevention of one's mental health and well-being, happiness the most important and fundamental incentive to be productive to be accompanied by a life on the road.

But who are the Digital Nomads? 🤔

A study by Passport-Photo.Online states that the perfect portrait of the Digital Nomad is that of a Millennial, that is, someone born between 1981 and 1995, possessing a bachelor's degree or equivalent, married, used to traveling both alone and with company.

A full-time satisfied or very satisfied worker primarily with the IT or creative sector, the digital nomad is an individual who cannot do without technology, a key element of his or her competitive success and earnings.

2. Work Creep

If digital nomads are individuals who are particularly happy with their work and their way of building a career around the world, the Work Creep is a condition that, although derived from a spontaneous choice of the worker, in the long run generates malaise, exactly the opposite of the happiness and carefreeness that accompany digital nomadism.

This is a phenomenon that also already existed and remained silent until post-pandemic, the translation of which is 'work creep', i.e., the employee's tendency to make himself excessively available to his employer, burdening himself with more and more tasks, burdens and responsibilities by working late or on weekends.

The individual who falls into the vortex of the Work Creep voluntarily chooses to work longer than necessary and beyond working hours, but in return there is no increase in salary, overtime pay, or other benefit and economic incentives.

Seemingly beneficial to the employer, the phenomenon of creep work actually hides several pitfalls. Often the result of a rhetoric of work that leads employees to put the interests of the organization ahead of their own mental and physical well-being, as well as corporate cultures that do not always succeed or strive to create alignment between organizational and personal goals of the individual, the Work Creep is a health risk to workers, placing them under a condition of stress, tension and overexertion.

A tired employee is not productive, further endangering the efficiency of the business processes in which he or she takes part and, in the long run, the effectiveness of the company's activities.

An employer, in order to maintain high productivity levels and make processes more streamlined, should make phenomena such as the Work Creep not occur, understanding that such a proactive employee is certainly a good thing, but not if he or she turns his or her work into an addiction that creeps into his or her private life, inevitably affecting his or her long-term health.

3. Quiet Quitting

The other side of the coin from the Work Creep consists of the Quiet Quitting, its exact opposite.

The new post-pandemic awareness made employees understand the importance of the work-life balance, triggering in them a sense of dissatisfaction that, compared to the Work Creep, provides no incentive to do more despite the lack of salary increases and rewards of all kinds, but to do less and less by clearly separating one's individuality from the work sphere.

According to research conducted by TherapyChat in collaboration with Ipsos, 46 percent of workers, in fact, understood the influence their work status had on their psychological well-being and developed a parallel desire to deviate and redefine their priorities regarding leisure and sociability.

However, Quiet Quitting would also seem to be related to employee discontent related to the business environment in which they fit, thus posing as a consequence of situations that have generated in them a sense of dissatisfaction and lack of stimulation.

In fact, the phenomenon is also referred to as 'silent resignation,' indicating precisely the employee's renunciation of maximum commitment at work, separating his individuality from his daily tasks, consciously choosing to do the minimum.

4. Points in common

Digital nomadism Work Creep and Quiet Quitting are three trends and phenomena that have become increasingly important in recent years precisely because of the changes brought to the world of work and society itself by the Pandemic. 

These are three facets that have both pros and cons, but with clearly delineated commonalities: in all three cases, in fact, it is clear that underlying is the need for a change in organizational cultures that invest more in human capital and that fully understand the importance of maintaining high levels of employee satisfaction and, before that, their mental and physical well-being.

Although we are dealing with phenomena that show no signs of stopping, companies must take note of the need to redefine their approach to talent, adopting a people-centric one that takes into consideration the real needs of the person and is as much as possible data-driven.

Through data and listening to employees' needs, it will be possible not only to improve their satisfaction levels, but also to stimulate Employee Advocacy actions that accompany an Employer Branding strategy aimed at demonstrating to potential talents how human capital is valued and how alternative paths to those outlined so far can be chosen.

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