Hi! I’m Lavinia, the human behind this issue of Upstairs. I’ve spent the last 10+ years helping entrepreneurs, leaders, remote workers, and startup teams build purposeful, innovative, sustainable organizations, careers, and lifestyles. I’ve lived in eight countries across four continents and traveled to 30+ others.
London, 2010. I’m looking at the 300+ year-old walls of my office in Charterhouse Square, in the heart of the City of London, at the gorgeous fresca on the ceiling, and at the 1h+ grueling commute that is waiting for me at the start and end of each day from/to Richmond, on the other side of the metropolis.
While finishing my Master’s degree, I’m working in Business Development & PR for a clinic and medical research center.
I’m tired. Really tired. I had a soggy sandwich for lunch, and I’m hungry. This isn’t all an uncommon story when you’re building a career in any of the world’s megacities.
I ponder on the future and work.
I’m in one of the most fabulous cities in the world, living a life of abundance (of opportunities, of possibilities), and yet I can’t see myself being in this “world” for too long. The world of long commutes, of non-stop hustling, of no work-life balance that you’re expected to be ok with for years before you “prove yourself,” the theoretically decent salary that still leaves you with too much month left at the end of your money (because everything is prohibitively expensive), the endless meetings, reports, the work-about-work, the massive burn-outs that seem to follow years of doing that, and are, again, accepted as a by-product of building a career.
All I can think of is: “This can’t be the only way.”
Fast forward to 2021. For the past ten years, I’ve worked remotely in different shapes and forms and in unconventional ways (as a freelancer, a partner, an employee, an entrepreneur, a contractor).
For the better part of this last decade, I’ve lived in Bali for parts of the year and traveled as a digital nomad or location-independent entrepreneur for the rest. I arrived here after a four-year stint in Baku, Azerbaijan, where I expanded and brought to market leadership in the Eurasian region an event management and creative agency headquartered in Dubai and Macedonia.
I first moved to Bali to help my current business partner with a project aimed at startup founders for (maybe) a year. It felt like a good, productive “break” from the corporate-heavy environment I had been immersed in before, even if I had extensive freedom and autonomy in my role.
Over the last three years, I’ve built a digital and physical coworking and innovation hub. The four floors building we rebuilt to house this project used to be a clothing factory, a glorified sweatshop, really, and I’m so excited to have managed to give it a second life as a center for entrepreneurship, digital transformation, and impact-making.
And last year, I founded the Remote Skills Academy, which provides Indonesians with an opportunity to learn how to work remotely and connect with others on the same journey.
Why is it so important to be able to work remotely, you might ask?
For me, remote work has always been a superpower. The superpower of organizing your work around your life rather than the other way around. Of accessing opportunities on the other side of the world, rather than limiting yourself to a 20 km radius around where you live. Of not needing to relocate for work. Of using the ~500h I used to spend commuting every year on learning, development & doing things I love instead. Of being able to access the job market, even if, let’s say, you’re disabled or a parent who doesn’t want to be absent 10-12h/day.
And now, enter the pandemic, remote work has become a necessity. It has simply made the difference between having and no longer having a job. More so than anywhere else, in Bali, where most people used to work in the tourism sector.
Over the years, these are some of the things I’ve been told:
“To be successful, you have to work from an office – and try to always be the last to leave.”
“Forget work-life balance.”
“You don’t look like an entrepreneur/someone in tech” (female? petite? Eastern European?).
“There is no such thing as a people-first company. Companies are always profit-first.”
“You can’t build a company while on the go; location independence is a fad.”
Has it mattered?
I am and do all those things.
I believe work is something people will do even when everything is automated, taken care of by algorithms, AIs, and robots, and countries pay out Universal Base Income to all their citizens. Because we humans have an innate need for meaning, for purpose, for expressing ourselves, and often that takes the shape of what we call work.
But work (or the way we traditionally thought of it) is broken. To name but a few aspects pointing to that:
So I wanted to live and work in an environment where:
Over the last year, while the pandemic has unraveled, many have discovered (sometimes the hard, painful way) that these new ways of working actually… work. That, for example, you can be as productive from home (in some cases too productive, as several studies have already shown).
We’ve got a long way to go, though.
But day by day, block by block, bit by bit, there’s a profound transformation happening in the business and lifestyle arena, shaping the way people work and live. It started a long time ago but has sped up tremendously in the last year. At its core, there’s technology enabling a better balance between work and the rest of our lives and the growing appetite for meaning and being part of something bigger than yourself (and money).
Productivity isn’t about getting more and more done, about turning into a machine. It’s about getting the right things done at work, so you can have plenty of time and headspace for all the other essential bits in your life.
I, along with others like me, am passionate about the future of work. When we design more purposeful businesses and lifestyles, we shape a more positive, balanced, sustainable reality.
And I’m, personally, really excited about it.
To enjoying Mondays,
Contributors of this story: Lavinia Iosub wrote this story, Oana Filip provided feedback and edited it, Andrei Ungurianu put it all together, George Olaru designed it, Răzvan Onofrei was in charge with the development, Shayna Pitch took the photo. Thank you!
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