“There’s a whole generation with a new explanation. People in motion, people in motion”
– Scott McKenzie 1967, San Francisco
Greg Caplan, Remote Year founder, connected with 30STF from his new co-working space on the beaches of Split, Croatia.
Remote Year assembles hundreds of professionals for a year-long journey to work, travel, and live in 12 different cities throughout the world. Included within the application price, Remote Year participants (called “Remotes”) get access to existing co-working spaces in each city. Private rooms are available. All transportation, including flights, trains and buses are arranged. Networking events are arranged to build a sense of community within the group, as well as connect Remotes to each local community they live in.
If you are a looking to earn your stripes as a business traveler, to truly dive into the remote working lifestyle and learn skills that allow you to feel comfortable navigating any city on the planet, then consider applying for this year’s program to be paired up with a group of 50-80 like-minded, passionate people.
Remote Year is not always driven by the employee asking his or her boss for a change in scenery. Employers too can benefit by using Remote Year to engage top talent in their industries. Small, medium and huge multi-national companies are partnering with Remote Year to create programs with their employees for recruiting, retention, recognition, and learning development. In some cases, the company even covers the program expenses for employees.
Breaking from the past, the millennial generation is more interested in collecting transformative experiences than collecting luxury cars or building extravagant homes. Millennials view the 6×6 grey cubicle as a prison cell. They don’t want to wait until retirement to see the world. Adopting a mortgage is too heavy a burden to bear. Chasing freedom over comfort, this generation covets location-independent opportunities. Luxury, to millennials, is living out of a suitcase.
An Interview with Greg Caplan
30SecondsToFly (30STF): What’s the story behind Remote Year?
Caplan: I was living in Chicago with a stable job and social life, but I felt stuck. I asked my best friends if they wanted to line up some remote work and travel with me for a while, and unfortunately, all of them just said no. So instead of just going out on my own, I created a website to see who else was interested in working remotely while traveling. The first day, over 1,000 people signed up. Over the next couple months, we got picked up by press and over 50,000 people signed up. That’s when I realized, wow, there’s something here. We are striking a chord with people. That’s when I transformed the site into an organization.
30STF: What inspired you to come up with the concept of Remote Year?
Caplan: I grew up in Chicago, in the traditional suburban upbringing as you might imagine. But mine was a little bit unique in that my parents loved to invite people into the house. We had people from New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, Russia, and also people from the community. So, for dinner every night, it was normal to have a group of 14 people around our table. So my upbringing was multicultural and interesting and wild. It was challenging at times but also really exciting. It imbued in me a sense of community. And everything I do now is really all about people.
30STF: I read that you were able to generate 25,000 sign ups in the first month. What explains such a high demand for a year-long, remote working experience?
Caplan: The question is why is this concept striking a chord with so many people. I think the first point is there is a megatrend around work changing and the second is that people’s preferences in the millennial generation are very different than they used to be. So first of all, the workplace is changing technologically, there are so many advances happening that empower great work to be done from anywhere. On the cultural side, organizations now win by having the very best talent, and recruiting them, retaining them and engaging them is the most important part of any organization. People want to work when they want and how they want. So organizations need to create a workplace that matches those preferences. The thing that unites all four of those things in my mind is flexibility. Flexibility, I think, is THE differentiator for the future of organizations attracting and keep the very best people.
“And companies now have a decision. They can either get on board and engage flexibility to recruit and maintain the best people or risk getting disrupted by a competitor who attracts the better talent and takes over their market share.”
30STF: What are the benefits to the employer to send their employees on the remote year experience?
Caplan: We find remotes are more productive throughout the year. Companies are not sacrificing in terms of productivity. Companies can recruit with this opportunity and engage their top performers and possibly use it to recognize those top performers as a reward. When the remote returns, they’ve developed important skills like leadership and comfort with decision-making, and they can apply those skills to their work within the organization.
30STF: When it comes to approaching work and business travel, what makes the millennial generation different?
Caplan: The other megatrend is that people now value experiences over things. The dream used to be to invest all of your life savings for a nice house with a white picket fence and a two car garage behind it and a car with a really nice emblem on the front. Now what this generation is looking to invest in is great experiences. We’re looking for transformative experiences with other people that they can carry with them throughout their lives. At Remote Year, we’re trying to marry these two ideas together.
“Great work can be done anywhere, and people’s preferences are towards experiences.”
30STF: What skills will a Remote gain from their one year experience that they wouldn’t get from working in their office back home? And what does “cultural intelligence” mean?
Caplan: The first and most important one is a global perspective. Interactions and relationships with people from all over. So they learn to understand differences and similarities between cultures, which is a really important skill especially for companies that are competing on an international level (which increasingly is all companies because of the internet). The other one is comfort with change and decision-making. We’re going to a new city every month and people have to learn how to adapt to new things in differing circumstances and that empowers them with a comfort and confidence to make decisions and embrace change. They’re exposed to new ideas and people and they can see the edges between them to understand where innovation and opportunity exist.
30STF: From an outsider’s perspective Remote Year seems almost like a startup incubator on wheels, is it open to exclusively to entrepreneurs or is it more inclusive?
Caplan: The vast majority of Remotes work full-time for one company throughout the year. Generally, they’re working with the same job that they had before joining the program. They are able to work with their companies to map their current responsibilities to their changing environment on remote year. Working on their communication channels, their work streams, their touch points, and throughout the year they’ve been successful. We’ve seen remotes get promotions and exceed their target goals set before starting. We believe people are most productive when they are inspired by their surroundings.
We have a diverse group of people from over 40 countries and a number of industries. Ages from 22 to 65. Designers, developers, lawyers, journalists…our biggest category is marketing.
30STF: Before you move to the next destination, do you do any language training to help remotes overcome language barriers?
Caplan: We have a whole orientation we do beyond just language to help remotes get accustomed to different cultural customs, different norms. We make them aware of any risks that they should keep their eye out for before traveling to each new market. It’s really important for them to be armed with the information that will allow them to be successful as they embark on their next destination.
It’s not just that the Remotes interact within the co-working space, but they are also getting to know each other when touring Portugal’s wine scene, for example, or taking a class on how to speak Portuguese basics, which are all things that Remote Year includes as part of its offering.
30STF: How much of the networking happens organically versus at planned events? And can you explain the social impact activities that you have planned?
Caplan: We plan events to bring remotes together as well as events that connect remotes with people from the local community. Every month we hold what we call a junction. A local networking event between the second and third week of each month hosted with local groups for presentations on projects developed within our group as well as the local community so we can all connect. We also like to pitch in to specific issues within each city. For example, yesterday I was in Belgrade, an amazing city, but the development there is having an impact on the water systems and our group their partnered with a local NGO to help advance their cause to the damage happening along the river which is a focal point in the city.
30STF: As a startup entrepreneur, how important is it for you to have a cause to work behind?
Caplan: We’re looking to make a large impact as an organization. Throughout history, humanity has gone to war with each other over us vs. them. ‘US’ was the tribe. And then it expanded to US was the city-state, and then nations at war for resources and land, etc. And we continue to see those borders get built and walls literally constructed. But I think that the trajectory that we’re going is to a much more broad description of what US is to the point where US includes all of humanity. We’re working really hard to make that a reality: to connect people from all different cultures and backgrounds.
30STF: The Split, Croatia location is your first permanent co-working space. Why did you choose Split?
Caplan: We built out an amazing co-working space on the beach in Split, Croatia. And we have a whole bunch of people in here working on projects and collaborating. It’s such great energy. We’ve also set up co-working spaces in Kuala Lumpur and Lisbon.
30STF: How did you go about selecting the other cities?
Caplan: Between my co-founder and I, we’ve been to each location, so we had a good sense of where we wanted to go initially. Now, we have a whole team dedicated to scouting and vetting and selecting the locations. In each place that we operate we have a full-time team throughout the year who helps us in conjunction with a regional operations team.
30STF: What are some of the biggest challenges that Remotes face?
Caplan: We’ve learned that the cities that Remotes report were the most challenging, looking back, are the ones they leave the best feedback on. Travel is putting yourself in new situations which are inherently uncomfortable at times, but that’s what makes it fulfilling.
30STF: For people who are just getting interested, how do you recommend that they broach the subject with their boss at their current job?
Caplan: We have a whole process that we’ve built up called the Employer Approval process where we provide guidance for that conversation as soon as they get started with the application.
Get Your People in Motion
For business travelers looking to set themselves apart from the rest by gaining leadership skills and cultural intelligence, Remote Year could be a revolutionary launchpad for your career. For employers looking for a new way to encourage top talent to join your company, consider offering the Remote Year experience.