There is one big economic force touching every country worldwide right now, and it is often under-appreciated. It is called remote work, and it is the future of labor.
Initially working remotely was associated with calling in sick, and executing your tasks at home. But as everything moved to the Internet, it made more sense to start finding focus in different ways.
Suddenly the cubicle seemed an aberration, and the open space office, the last bastion of a fake sense of belonging, a silly charade that dealt with politics and the agony of being crammed into the same building with your coworkers.
Every day an utter source of noise, interruptions and lack of flow for your tasks. It might sound antisocial but the work experience does not need to be a camp site. In the age of Information, focus is a necessity.
And thanks to ever-improving software and hardware, we learned that presence can be many things, and it does not have to require physical permanence to be effective.
Remember this date: October 26th, 2018.
That is the date in which remote work was legitimized at an significant scale. When it was proved that it can build a powerful, scalable and transforming product by employing a massive, distributed network of people who do what they love, wherever they want to be, with complete flexibility.
That is the date when Microsoft completed their acquisition of GitHub, the company that made a service out of a command that is useful in programming, and became a standard for the IT world.
They started in 2008 with 3 founding employees, and grew to almost 900 employees in 2018, all working remotely. There are other successful examples for remote work, but I think GitHub is the most worthy of note, the one with the biggest impact.
Forget about all the perks of freedom, flexibility and comfort, the underlying basis of a well-connected remote workflow is speed and quality of output that is unmatched by anything else.
It is surprising that we still have to convince people about remote work, it is similar to the first era of startups, marked by the Dot Com bubble of 1999-2001. To many people, "Internet-companies" were not real, and could not be compared to "real" companies.
It was not until we had some successful examples that the digital economy took off and went mainstream, so to say. Perhaps we need that for remote work, and maybe GitHub is the first big dot on the map.
But at a time of geopolitical upheaval, when the United States and Britain seem decided to turn back pages to a much darker era, the European Union is working to instrument a trade agreement with Mercosur (the South American trading bloc), which would affect the lives of around 780 million people.
Even when some environmental considerations are required to put this into practice, it could be a great driving force for growth, where the flow of talent, intellectual property, capital, goods and services can improve those lives it affects.
It only requires some open mindedness and the notion that we are all part of the same global community, otherwise we would make the mistakes of the past, and enter a new era with an outdated mindset of "us vs. them".
When you open up trade, you also share cultural values, and the market optimizes for some sort of balance in corporate entities. What is sustainable tends to win in the end.
Despite what conservative leaders would have you think, we cannot pick and choose what works and what does not work in our local community. We have to be open to the needs of the market, and the greater good for people.
Shutting down access to a new app in a city because it is not "local" is a dark look to a closed past. In some places, the hostility to new business models is applied to all companies trying to innovate in entire spaces.
Ride-hailing apps in Barcelona, for instance, were first banned to protect regular taxis, but later allowed to exist with an arbitrary, punitive 15-minute wait required, as a way to cripple the effectiveness of immediacy.
In other words, you can innovate, gain a competitive advantage and then be stripped of that technology edge in the sake of protecting the status quo. But there is always hope, after all, the current political climate responds to a transient moment of uncertainty about progress and technology.
Latin America needs the market sophistication, professionalization and the plethora of service firms from the European Union, and the EU needs the agribusiness' goods from Latin America. Somewhere along those lines, we can create new technology companies and products that are sustainable and can drive growth in the future.
What would the new inter-linked trading bloc look like after 20 years of mobility, flexible working conditions, better access to education, jobs and connectivity?
We must begin by imagining what can we do today with the way we think of single countries in both economic unions, and then reimagine them as joint-efforts and shared problems.
Remote work is not just the future of labor, it is now its present. Companies are now relying on it to hire the best talent, wherever it may be. Sometimes to the indifference of labor laws, which do not understand nor reflect the fact that a person in São Paulo could do work for a company in Berlin.
Technology companies in Europe are raising venture capital funds and spending a lot more on people than on buildings. We should celebrate this and encourage the free flow of labor, data and intellectual property across the Atlantic Ocean. We need a trading and legal framework that can enable this.