It’s been more than a year since the time I went remote. At first, it was just a temporary solution for the lockdown period and no one actually believed it will last, everyone I knew was mostly expecting things to get back soon. And so did I. After a long period of a stable and predictable life it’s hard to imagine that something can change dramatically. A bit later I took the job abroad and was getting ready to relocate in fall 2020. You know, when all that pandemic will be finished and things get back to normal. Yeah, right. As might guessed so far, due to the pandemic and lockdown restrictions it didn’t go as planned. The company decided to close offices and go remote till it will be safe to get back. Actually, that time earlier we gathered together with a few colleagues to build a team, to develop mobile games as a pet project, and managed to gather together for a brainstorming session only once, or twice before the lockdown and months before we realized that we are fully distributed team.
And here I am, a year later at the same point. We are thinking about relocating eventually, even though the offices are still closed. Just because it’s been a year since the decision to move. Mentally it’s hard to be in this limbo — you made a decision to move but were delayed by the circumstances. So you know it’s temporary and you will move, but you don’t know when. And this affects your lifestyle. Basically, you live packed and ready to go and this might be a bit more stressful than it sounds.
But what strikes me is that relocation turns from a necessity to a bonus feature in many companies. After trying distributed workflow, many companies realized that it’s totally OK. Even more to it — it might be even better for many organizations. And now you can see many positions open as remote, rather than “office city-based”. Some just don’t know when they would be able to open offices, some just don’t care anymore. A similar situation we have within my team — some of us are relocating to different countries, some are just don’t want to be fixed to any geography, or want to travel to find the sweetest spot. And in the end — online is the only thing you need to get the job done. And this is the #BigShift that had already happened. You don’t need to go to the office to work.
There are still many issues that the world has not yet sorted out and that should be in the coming years. Like work permits and licences, because right now people working remotely don’t need to move, but they might want to. And many will find themselves working in US/EU companies with no opportunity to live there because of VISA issues. There will be a lot of debates around salaries, as they are so different throughout the world. If you are working in the US, but remotely from Ukraine, should you get the US or Ukraine salary? And if you will move to another country, should your company change your salary or keep it? I would guess that companies and employees have different opinions on that. Because this is a complicated thing. Right now, it’s not only the change of the geography restrictions, work-life balance, and time management practices but also the core concept of an employee, I think.
As an example, I can use Ukraine IT segment in the labor market. It’s not a secret, that most Ukraine IT specialists are working as contractors. It’s tax optimization mode, many consider themselves much more like employees, rather than consultants and companies try to make them feel as such, but eventually — they are just contractors. That brings a lot of uncertainty, like no social protection and guarantees. Your contract can be closed in 1 day. And all your working conditions and benefits are entirely dependent on your employer’s goodwill. It’s usually to companies’ benefit, but the employees also get on — the salaries are higher than they would be considering all the taxes paid for a solid employment contract. And for people in Ukraine, for whom it’s hard to do long-term planning because of great uncertainty it’s a solid choice — more money now, instead of doubtful guarantees in the future. And considering our history — it’s totally reasonable. Our faith in government guarantees was betrayed so many times before, that people learned their lesson — count only on yourself. But still, companies try to hide the fact that people are contractors, rather than employees — they are handling their taxes, buying them social benefits like insurance, just like if they were real employees. And this part of this agreement I would treat as a bad part — because people can’t mature if they are carried like that, but that’s a different story. Why did I mention this scenario? Because what I learned from this, is that being a specialist is being an entrepreneur, selling your skills, rather than products. And looking for your clients, rather than organizations to care for you. And I think it’s more mature. Learn to get enough money to care for yourself, rather they find someone to care for you.
And this “globalization” of the labor market with remote opportunities, in my opinion, will make people more independent, as you will be able to see your real value on the global market. It’s easier to find a client for your specific skill worldwide, than locally. Because locally you might just not find the demand for it, that leads you to get paid less, or simply getting some more valued skills in your local market. In the end, it will make people more confident and self-reliable. And when you confident enough, you start demanding and expecting more from the world, rather than getting what you get to survive. And the skill to create things and produce will start being more valued than the skill to sell.
And I believe it will change the world for a better place eventually.