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How the digital workplace broke our brains

Stories about the frustrations of modern work and what we can do about it

Welcome to Borderless. Every week, we handpick the best links on digital nomads, remote work and global mobility to help you navigate the quirks of living and working on the internet.

One of the great mysteries of modern work is why the internet didn’t make us more efficient. 

If anything, it seems to have done the complete opposite. We’re swimming upstream against too many meetings, emails, and Slack notifications. We’re constantly switching between tasks and never seem to have enough time to get anything done.

The average knowledge worker – essentially meaning someone who works in tech, finance or the media – spends up to 60% of their workweek on digital communication. In other words, we’re spending more time talking about work than actually doing it.

That seems deeply inefficient to me. How can we break free from the tyranny of shallow work and finally start getting things done?

This week's stories explore how the internet-era workplace works against us, what we can do about it, and radical alternatives like figuring out how much pointless meetings cost us and the enduring appeal of the bullshit jobs theory.

Wherever you are in the world right now, have a joyful and productive week. 

– Anna at SafetyWing

As nomadism grows, so does the need for niche services. The businesses that are doing best are those tapping into the potential of underserved groups, like a seven-figure coaching company that caters specifically to female nomads. It’s just one of a network of companies (SafetyWing included) helping people realize their dream of working from anywhere – and business is booming.

Rosie Bell for The BBC

Shopify has shipped an internal calculator to work out the dollar amount of pointless meetings. While the goal is to encourage creative async collaboration rather than cost-saving, the 14% fewer minutes now spent in meetings is surely keeping the CFO happy.

Gabriela Riccardi for Quartz

Across Europe, programs are popping up to attract nomads away from the over-run tourist hot spots and into lesser-known areas instead. These initiatives, which offer nomads the chance to work and live in rural regions, are betting that young, talented nomads with cash to spend can help to revive these struggling communities.

JD Shadel for Condé Nast Traveler

The very tools we use to be more productive are inhibiting our productive output. The anxiety of constant work conversations across multiple digital channels, known as the "hyperactive hive mind," increases stress and slows efficiency. How do we square that the digital workplace has made us more connected, but also more distracted?

Derek Thompson for The Ringer

The once ubiquitous internet cafe has been all-but wiped out thanks to the rise of smartphones and cheap data. These gems from the global age of the internet were more than just a place to surf the web; they were vibrant community hubs and cultural melting pots. All is not lost, though: from Uganda to Nepal, a few humble internet cafes are still clinging on. Let’s explore them.

Rest of World

Ten years after David Graeber’s “bullshit jobs” idea went viral, new research unveils surprising insights into the modern workplace. Does Graeber's controversial claim—that many jobs are essentially meaningless—hold more truth than we dared to admit?

Shayla Love for Psyche

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