Americans, Canadians and people from all over the world are opting out of their stressful jobs and long hours for a better work/life balance in Mexico.
And for good reason. Consider these facts: In the United States, about 40 percent of Americans worked more than 50 hours per week and nearly 20 percent topped 60 hours, according to pollster Gallup. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also reported that Americans worked an average of 44 hours per week, more than any other industrialized nation.
Work/life balance is measured by the number of hours worked per week versus the amount of time spent on social activities. In the U.S. the leisure time deficit is very high.
Leaving your home country in search of a better work/life balance is a primary motivator for many expats, especially younger expats. An expat Migration and Lifestyle study conducted by London-based Max Media International several years ago found that a better work/life balance was one of the top motivators for moving abroad.
“The overall consensus,” according to research director Emma Wood, “was that lifestyle, better work/life balance, the ability to pursue leisure or a better climate were the key motivators for most people. About two-thirds gave work/life balance as a key reason why they were moving to another country.”
This search for a better work/life balance has been made possible by the communication revolution of the past several decades. It has spread to all corners of the world, riding on the waves of new and improved technology. Skype, broadband Internet, mobile telecommunications and other communication products and services now allow us to live and work virtually anywhere. Today, work has shifted from place to a space. Technology has redefined how and where we work.
In Mexico, communication technology and services are continually improving. Fiber optic access to the Internet is now reaching more remote areas of the country and download/upload speeds are improving. Access to speedy connections still very much depends upon where you live in Mexico. For example, if you are served by Axtel Xtremo, you are fortunate to have a combined download/upload speed of 44 megabits per second (MBPS). Even Telmex offers download speeds up to 200 MBPS via its Infinitum ADSL service. Mobile phone service also has improved greatly. Mexico now has the fastest 4G speeds in Latin America.
Many expats use the communication infrastructure in Mexico to work remotely as entrepreneurs, consultants, contract workers, freelancers or employees of organizations that support teleworking.
“Technology-enabled telework came in the late 1990s with the widespread adoption of DSL, cable and satellite broadband connections,” Chuck Wilsker, CEO of the Washington D.C.-based Telework Coalition (TelCoa), said. “Good broadband and collaborative software provides all the tools needed for teleworking communication.”
Wilsker explained that technology is not a barrier to teleworking, but employer perceptions may be.
“The employer has to trust the employee to be able to work independent of location,” he said, “and have metrics in place to judge the amount of productivity that someone is putting in. Productivity cannot be measured by time spent, it has to be made on output.”
Not long ago, we interviewed two Gen Xers who encapsulated the search for a better work/life balance in our article, “Working in Mexico As a Digital Nomad.”
Rachaal Steele, 41, and her partner John Moroney, 47, both had been working 60 hours a week for many years before they decided there must be a better way to make a living. They found a work/life balance in Mexico that allowed them to live in a sunny, warm climate, pursue their passion for diving and live better with less money as remote workers, Steele as a small craft brewing company consultant and Moroney as a content creator for the automotive industry through his business, JoMoCo Editorial.
“It’s easy to live in Mexico,” Steele said. “The cost of living is much lower than most of North America so you can work less, and good food and drink are always plentiful.”
Steele said that they have met many other digital nomads in Mexico, both couples and singles – mostly women – and have developed strong friendships. Most are in their 20s to early 40s and very tech savvy.
We asked her if establishing a good work/life balance is possible for those who do not have Internet-based work.
“I think it would be hard,” she said. “Most expats are used to a certain quality of life and maintaining that lifestyle on a peso salary can be difficult. To do it effectively, you really need to speak Spanish fluently and have a work permit. The jobs that pay well are usually managerial jobs with either international corporations or Mexican companies, and there goes any work/life balance.”
Their untethered digital work life has enabled them to try on Puerto Vallarta, Guanajuato, La Paz and now Cozumel to pursue their more relaxed lifestyle in Mexico.
Although the couple is in their 40s, they represent a strong trend near and dear to the hearts of the Millennial generation, those currently in their late teens to mid-30s. Soon to represent about 75 percent of the global workforce by 2025, Millennials put a premium on work/life balance.
In most surveys on this subject, nearly 50 percent of Millennials would consider giving up a well-pad and prestigious job to improve their work/life balance. They choose time with family over work about 60 percent of the time. Other important factors they look for are flexible working hours, flexible working location and a convenient work location. They are prime candidates to be digital nomads, particularly in lower-cost, family-friendly Mexico.
Millennials are not alone. A 2016 LinkedIn study showed that nearly half of all American workers would forgo the corner office job and a high salary to gain more flexibility in their work schedules.
Unlike past generations who placed an emphasis on their careers and worked well beyond a typical 40-hour work week in the hope of rising to a higher paid position, the digital nomad teleworkers of Mexico are looking for something quite different: a better balance between their personal and work lives.
“Industries that employ many teleworkers are the information industry, information technology, bookkeeping and call centers,” Wilsker said. “If you can show you can work independently, you’re a good candidate for teleworking.”