Sailors, merchants, soldiers, ambassadors, officials of international organizations … There have always been professions that have been practiced far from home, with regular trips and short or long stays, in other places beyond their national borders.
They are the working nomads and there are more and more. Labor mobility has become a hallmark of our globalized world. According to sources in the European Parliament, more than two million workers work in an EU country that is not their own (we are not talking about immigrants). “The model has changed and its positioning has changed,” says Elena Dapra, clinical psychologist and expert in psychological well-being at the company. “People see it as an opportunity for a time, especially in the age group between 25 and 40 years. Then people look for stability.
The contemporary profile of these ‘nomads’ has a special incidence within the collective of engineers and in industrial automation procedures. And it has very visible advantages, starting with “intense personal growth”, apart from learning another language and, psychologically, “they live a different situation that forces them to get out of their comfort zone.”
This experience is highly valued in human resources offices and facilitates their rapid promotion. “Project managers are highly esteemed because they are presumed to take risks, make complex decisions, and evolve rapidly,” he says. And he considers that those seasons in another country “free” from prejudices and favor skills such as networking or networking. “Learning, experience, knowledge, skills, competence, personal growth and professional training are reinforced.” Veterans have a more global, holistic view of things, in Dapra’s words. «You stop looking at your navel and you realize that your navel is one more».
At the other extreme, the deterioration of personal relationships, especially sentimental ones, is the greatest of the cons that labor nomads suffer. “I would say that the links end very well or very badly,” says the expert, and warns that if you do not learn to handle the situation, the deterioration is very high. “Because communication is lacking and misunderstandings abound that are not resolved,” he adds. Despite the qualitative transformations of the phenomenon, there are issues that do not change. “We are talking about the absent husband, father, brother or friend.” In masculine because they are the majority.
The difference between personal and professional life is diluted and “the distance is crucial and has an influence on the harmony of the person.” That is, there are no routines, but there is a lot of uncertainty ». This stress increases when there is no preparation to carry out a complex adaptive process “and companies often do not provide it.”
So it is not uncommon for some workers to become detached. «It is good to know how to let go of things, but in a healthy world. Another thing is that that person does not get used to the change or that their situation means that it is very difficult for them to bond with someone or something. Loneliness can also appear among the consequences suffered by these people who do not have a fixed place of work. “There are two profiles, one very sociable who finds these proposals as an opportunity to open up to the world and others who live it as an obligation.”
Of course, on the other hand, the characteristics of our current society favor this work model that is increasingly imposed. “We live in a much more individualistic world that encourages ambition.”
But what can seem like a ‘refuge’ against that loneliness that we said before can turn against it. “In the end, and even if they really like the job, many people build a psychological wall to survive two months living in a nondescript hotel.”
Leire Morquecho. NGO Coordinator
“I return to normal exhausted, but with energy”
«As coordinator of the international cooperation area of the NGO Alboan, I usually travel to Latin America and Africa. I love traveling because it allows me to find meaning in my work and put a face on the people with whom you have communicated. But they are not easy experiences, we find ourselves in complex situations that give us food for thought, that make me reflect on how lucky I am and how unfair this world is. You have to combine flights, buses, cars or even a boat when we went to the Amazon and it is not usually easy.
Everything is planned, but the reality then is different. Like that time in Congo when we had a meeting at twelve noon and we arrived at six in the afternoon. Of course, I’m getting used to it, following the saying that says ‘wherever you go, do what you see’ and I can sleep on a board for four days or spend that time or more without showering. It may be uncomfortable, but it brings me closer to his life. We go hand in hand with NGOs because alone it is not possible. At first, there were three of us and the drummer, some backpackers and religious, then the emigrants arrived and now there are many executives, as a result of globalization.
I admit that airports are tiresome for me, I don’t like them, they are not pleasant spaces. Adrenaline allows you to be in constant activity, but when you finish, you realize how exhausted you are. In addition, emails that you have to attend to do not stop entering, something that did not happen before. Now you are faced with a double agenda and with the problem, in America, of the time difference.
I return to normal exhausted and with ‘jet lag’ I find it difficult to sleep, but I come with the energy of what I have lived. I feel privileged. I think it is very good to cause changes in your routine.
Michael Elmore. Wind mills
“I was in an office for three months and I went crazy”
«I am a project manager, I have changed companies several times, but I always have the same task, to manage the logistics required to build wind mills. My work trips are usually planned for two weeks, but the final average is four months, the same thing always happens.
I have traveled throughout Europe, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Mauritius, Chile, the United States or Mexico, among other countries. And lived situations of all kinds, like when I was in Egypt, when the uprising against Mubarak took place; I remember the traffic was horrible and it took me two to three hours to get from the hotel to work. I don’t think there is enough money in the world to convince me to come back.
My work is very interesting because there are no routines, it is about moving large pieces that have to be carried from the point of arrival to the place where they will be located. My responsibility includes transporting by boat to the city, controlling the traffic lights and perhaps, if a house prevents a turn of the truck, preparing its expropriation for the subsequent demolition. It would be difficult for me to be in an office without going out; in fact, I spent three months in an office in Vigo and it drove me crazy looking out the window. When I’m home a lot, I just want to go out. It is a way of life that I like very much and, in a way, it resembles teleworking, because I interact from a distance. If you can do this when you have a family? Well, I have a colleague with a wife and two children and he suffers a lot. He can’t celebrate many birthdays of his own, but he does what he wants to do. I have had a partner since last year and we spoke a thousand times on Skype. I don’t feel alone because I have colleagues.
There are things that I miss, like the food, and I am also fed up with the PCR, of course. I think this profession has changed my character, I am stronger ».