How will you work?
The word travel shares its root with the French word for work, travail. Both travel and travail might originate from the Latin tripalium, which was the instrument used to subjugate wild oxen and donkeys.
Besides the concept of taming a rebel spirit, in my life travel and work have always gone together from the day I graduated in law, also thanks to a presentation on the possible paths that could be pursued after the degree held by my professor, who was the general counsel of a multinational corporation.
In the last twenty-five years I’ve spent more time in the sky than on the earth, ending up wondering – as Woody Allen does in one of his films – if continually changing time zones makes people’s lives longer or shorter compared to someone who doesn’t travel.
A professional nomadism you never get tired of or bored with, because it allows you to get to know different cultures, traditions, cuisines and, in my case, juridical systems, which are always the object of comparative studies and analysis; and that’s without taking into consideration the countless personal and professional contacts I’ve met all over the world.
I would invariably be teased with “Lucky you, you constantly travel and never work, you’re always on holiday!”, said to me half-seriously by the so-called ‘paper travellers’, people who travel the world while sat comfortably on their chairs, some by choice, others for not having been as fortunate as me to be able to combine work and travel, and to have a team of colleagues and collaborators scattered in different countries that – thanks to an exceptional organisational structure – manages to guarantee a continuous activity 24 hours a day for at least 6 days a week (given the different time zones and the fact that Friday, Saturday and Sunday are non-working days around the globe).
At the beginning of 2020 the virus broke out, offices were closed and all travelling activity suspended overnight. Thankfully, we still had work that could be carried out online, for the great joy of the ‘paper travellers’, who have become great fans of smart working: what’s the point of going to the office when you can easily work from home, a theory confirmed by the fact that in the first three months of this ‘new’ work modality the efficiency level notably increased, without considering the economic savings of not having to run offices and not being able to go on business trips.
It was now my turn to say to them “Lucky you that you’ve never worked”, half-seriously, obviously, and yet convinced that thinking of moving your entire office into your living room, sitting room or home studio, possibly also taking the chair and the monitor from your office with you, means at the very least assuming a comfortable position, turning from ‘paper travellers’ into ‘paper workers’.
That is if we don’t consider the total deprivation of a series of ‘normal’ components of work as it used to be before the outbreak of the virus: first of all the social element, replaced by an ‘online coffee’ or an ‘aperichat’, which the first time are fun, the second time are cut much shorter, the third time after greeting each other people don’t know what to say anymore; secondly, the learning process of our collaborators, who have gone from marking up a document together in front of the same screen to quick exchanges of documents via email with an equally quick revision of the work done; also the depth of dealing with various issues while being in a meeting in Bogotá or Buenos Aires where all the points are fully examined in order to get to a quick solution, as opposed to having a discussion in a meeting online which can’t last more than an hour because after that there is a new meeting due to start, meaning that most times the end of the discussion is put off to the following week (if everybody’s schedules can come together); lastly, the distancing between private and professional life, which when operating in smart working are difficult to separate, even simply because we lose the transitional period of the journey between work and home (which creates pollution and gets us to waste time in traffic, but it also allows us to leave behind contracts and controversies).
We are now all thinking about the CD New Normal, in which I hope that two basic elements in the thought of Michelangelo Pistoletto are kept into consideration with regard to professions in the field of international commerce:
– a balance between the way we’ve worked before and after the virus, with the right amount of smart working, office work and business trips;
– the responsibility by both ‘paper travellers’ and ‘professional globetrotters’ in deciding what they can do working from home and what requires hours of travelling to go to Bogotá or Buenos Aires.
It’s definitely the beginning of a new era of the way we work, in which balance and responsibility can represent the starting point in answering the question #how will you work?