Co.Unity founder Craig Austin was recently featured on Caledon FM’s Future Perfect show to discuss the rise of digital nomads, the need for co-working spaces and the benefits of working where you live. Chatting to Annette Jahnel, he shared his experiences working remotely from the town of Hermanus in the Overstand. Keep reading to find out more about this discussion.

Digital Nomads, Co-Working and the Need for Flexible Working Solutions

Craig has been in Hermanus for a year, after moving away from the busy city life of Johannesburg. Despite the huge impact that the pandemic and resulting lockdown has had on the broader economy, Craig’s tech business has continued to thrive.

As technology changes the way that we work, many things have adapted. Holidays and the traditional work to get paid model have given way to working on holiday and the digital nomad lifestyle. The gig economy has paved the way for people across various sectors to work where they live, embracing a better work-life balance in the process.

One of the biggest reasons for Craig’s move away from Joburg to a smaller town was the concept of ‘the world is my workplace’. The Overstand, and especially Hermanus, is in the unique position to take into the growing tourism market that is less about annual holidays and more about working remotely from a destination known for its beauty and balanced lifestyle.

The Overstrand has long had a traditional idea of tourism, catering to summer tourists who flock to the area in search of whales, beaches and fun in the sun. Winter months are typically quieter. The rise of remote work has let to a mindset change in the way that people work. Two years ago, Craig and his wife experienced this shift themselves. Initially, they moved from the big city to one of the Western Cape’s smaller towns – Pringle Bay. Although this town had plenty to offer in the way of scenery and activities, it lacked the benefit of infrastructure, which was a major challenge for working remotely. This prompted Craig’s decision to move to Hermanus, which combined the improved, reliable infrastructure with the same appeal offered by small-town living.

Initially, Craig travelled back and forth between Hermanus and Joburg, before he realised that the majority of his work could be done fully remotely. As time went by, he found the ideal balance of work and life, with a far better lifestyle that allowed him to enjoy mountain biking, surfing and other activities, along with a better quality of life.

When Craig and his wife arrived in Hermanus, they did not know anyone. Soon, they discovered one of Hermanus’ biggest drawcards – its sense of community. Compared to smaller towns, Hermanus has a balance of interaction, community, energy, innovation, and growth in remote work. Working from coffee shops is par for the course for many startups and entrepreneurs. This growth is an excellent sign that Hermanus can be a leader in the rise of working where you live. The ability to work and live in Hermanus without the need to be stationery allows Craig far more freedom compared to having a fixed location.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that we can live where we want, instead of being tied to living within reach of work. Traditionally, the trend was that people needed to migrate to cities, as that was where the work was found. Holidays were then spent in areas close to larger cities. Being in an area that is still central (less than two hours from an international airport) means less white noise, less pollution, less traffic, and less stress. Hermanus offers all of that with the added benefit of increased tech presence, a growing number of businesses, a thriving town, and plenty of innovation.

One challenge for businesses today is the need for flexible business space leasing. In small towns, this is especially important. It has become far harder for businesses to pay rent during the pandemic, with some landlords being far less accommodating than others. The co-working model offers a flexible solution that includes pay as you go rental for office space. As an alternative to working from home, it offers more professionalism as well as a greater sense of community.

Co.Unity will be officially launching soon. You can expect to find low-risk pay per day rental, good coffee, fast internet, and other exclusive benefits.

Listen to the full interview here to find out more about embracing the future of digital nomads in Hermanus.


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