Thursday, July 1, 2021

WFB: Will It Work?


Malaysia’s Sunday Star (p 25) highlighted a story of Manila-based digital nomads embracing WFB (or Work From Beach). 

After so long being cooped up in the coronavirus-hit capital city, many of them fed up with lockdowns and restrictions are escaping to largely deserted nature spots, notably beaches, to 'work' and in the process, injecting much-needed revenue into communities dependent on outside visitors. 

A ban on foreign holidaymakers entering the archipelago nation and domestic travel curbs since the pandemic began last year have devastated the tourism industry. 

And now, digital nomads are offering a lifeline. These people are, after all, location-independent. 

These remote workers already prefer traveling to different places – often working in coffee shops, co-working spaces, or public libraries, relying on devices with wireless Internet capabilities like smart phones and mobile hotspots to do their ‘work’ wherever they want. Therefore, this makes the whole idea of WFB really appealing. 

Even better, the digital nomad lifestyle as represented by travelers working on a laptop on a tropical beach is irresistibly inviting. 

But is this image too good to be true? 

I can visualize it as work that looks like a holiday – but it can also be a holiday that looks like work! 

Admittedly, WFB is the biggest cliché of the digital nomad lifestyle – the image of a laptop on a towel or sun-lounger on a scenic beach somewhere. These glossy images, which look almost like they come from holiday brochures, are plastered all over digital nomad lifestyle blogs. They overplay the lifestyle, making it appear like the digital nomad lifestyle consists of nothing but lying in the sunshine, sipping fruit smoothies (or in my case, a Coke or beer) and occasionally tweeting a photo of their suntanned legs. 

There's no doubt, this makes a beach 'office' sounds glamorous. But I reckon, in reality, WFB just won't work. 

First of all, when was the last time you saw a beach with Wifi access? Secondly, the glare from the sunshine causes everything on your laptop screen to become invisible, so you have to hide under a beach umbrella or squint until your eyes ache. Sand gets in the crevices of your keyboard – I’m likely to experience that because I’m clumsy – and the heat causes your poor computer to even overheat.

Bearing in mind all of the above-mentioned reasons and even if you think you're that adventurous, WFB presents a tough challenge to give you that working environment that is productive. I really don't think you can have your cake and eat it too! 

Besides, being a digital nomad doesn’t mean that your work is easier or more fun. The work is still work and you still need to do it, or you won’t earn any money. 

The only reason I’ll consider WFB is because the beach is a beautiful place to relax and engage in creative writing. Being at the beach can stimulate and inspire me. I think. And I'll write with good old-fashioned pen and paper, instead of typing on a keyboard.

Note: There's nothing to stop anybody from working in the beach hotels and resorts though! 

Already, the said country's Department of Tourism are encouraging these businesses to focus on digital nomads and cater to the "new breed" of travelers by offering fast Internet and wellness activities. 

The bottom line is that in some small way, this 'market targeting' helps the local economy during these difficult times.

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