The nature of migrant work has changed significantly since the Steinbeck, Dust Bowl era. A combination of technological enablement coupled with social, demographic and economic population shifts are resulting in a growing number of thoroughly modern migrant workers. These individuals are choosing travel-work-lifestyle options like “workamping” (work-camping) or a sub-segment called “van life.” As we often do when it comes to the future of work, we’ve turned to Steve King, partner in Emergent Research, to provide us an overview of the “workamping” trend.
Who and What is a work camper (workamper)?
The folks at Workamper.com (who have a wonderful small business story of their own) coined the term “workamper” (work-camper) 30 years ago and define it this way: If you sleep in an RV at night and work during the day, you are a Workamper. However, as you’ll see below, there are plenty of sub-sets with subtle differences. For example, Workamper’s publications and services are focused primarily on RV and campground seasonal job recruitment. Other nomads are driven by lifestyle reasons or the skills and ability to work anywhere there’s wifi.
53 years old | The median age of Workampers (according to Workampers.com)
And while more and more people are seeking work to subsidize their retirement income, there are plenty (as seen in the statistic above) who are far from traditional retirement age who are traveling between seasonal jobs that have nothing to do with either agriculture or the RV and campground industry.
For example, working at Amazon.
Amazon has a seasonal-worker program targeting work-campers and retired individuals. Called “CamperForce,” it is targeted at those who want to work 3-4 months during the lead up to the holiday season at warehouses in Kentucky (although the map above suggests they are expanding to Tennessee). According to the company, CamperForce employees receive:
- Paid campsites
- “Good wages” with time-and-a-half for overtime, plus shift differential
- A paid completion bonus for those who work through Dec. 23
- Paid referral bonuses
An interesting sub-segment of the modern-day migrant movement are those who travel and live in vans, working along the way. (A broad term for this is “vanlife.”) Search #vanlife on any social media service and you’ll discover a large community of those who are working and living the #vanlife.
This group can include a segment or workers called digital nomads. people with a location-independent lifestyle and professional or creative skills that allow them to work anywhere in the world there is a good internet connection and a place to park their vans. Think programmers, designers, writers, marketers, etc.