There has been an understandable growth in remote work since the pandemic hit and as this happens, the term ‘digital nomad’ has become a popular one on blogs and social media. Nomadism and the digital nomad lifestyle allow professionals in different fields to work big jobs from any location with a reliable internet connection. It’s not a bad deal considering how often a successful career can get in the way of travel, but how does it work? And are nomadism and the digital nomad lifestyle for everyone?
What Are “Nomadism” and “Digital Nomads”?
Unlike “remote workers” with a home base where they spend most of their time, digital nomads take advantage of not being bound to an office and use this freedom to travel and explore the world. They are workers who “embrace location-independent, technology-enabled lifestyle” and remain connected with colleagues and clients “anywhere on the internet-connected world.”
An extensive study by MBO Partners reported that there were 10.9 million Americans working as digital nomads in 2020, a 49% increase in nomadism from the previous year. And while the field has been dominated usually by freelancers and independent consultors, 2020 saw a rise in traditional jobs going nomad as some officegoers realized they didn’t need to be there to be at their best.
In fact, the study shows there was a 96% rise, from 3.2 million digital nomads with traditional jobs in 2019 to 6.3 million 2020. This means that “traditional job holders now make up a majority of those pursuing a nomadic lifestyle.” Some of the top jobs include computer programming and IT, web design, engineering, digital and traditional marketing and many creative fields.
Where Do Digital Nomads Go?
The pandemic showed many companies and employees that going to the office might not always be necessary, or even not necessary at all in a lot of cases. According to Olga Hannonen, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Finland, the pandemic also reinforced the idea that “people don’t live where their work is, but work where they live.”
The trend has become so popular, that companies have started to capitalize on it. The proptech company Blueground, for example, has a program called Blueground Nomads, offering 4,000 furnished apartments in 15 cities around the world. Likewise, Airbnb began making long-term stays for more guests available in some of their properties, creating work-friendly spots for the rising in demand. There are even RV clubs with members who work from the road thanks to how easy it can be to access technology for some of these year-long travelers.
Countries have also spotted the appeal of this trend, creating programs in hopes to attract digital nomads. Among some of the most popular temporal destinations for those looking to take up nomadism and the digital nomad lifestyle are: Croatia, Thailand, Georgia, Vietnam, Colombia, Barbados, Malta and Mexico
What Do “Nomadism” and “Digital Nomads” Mean for Companies?
Nomadism and the digital nomad lifestyle will mean that companies will have to look into developing a implementing a digital nomad policy, since having people living in remote places in their payroll can leave them exposed for legal and regulatory risks. Being prepared and creating programs that consider these risks will make it easier for employers to have access to these well-educated and digitally savvy nomads who are often influential talent with a strong social media presence.
So, while it might involve some creative thinking to keep these world travelers around, companies will want to go through the trouble of making plans to do just that. According to the Harvard Business Review, “successfully appealing to, managing, and retaining these employees will be a key component of any talent strategy.”
But while certain areas will see the numbers of digital nomads in their ranks increase, it’s a trend that probably won’t be a realistic option for everyone. For those with families, uprooting them to live by a month-by-month rental philosophy might not be the best idea. For countless others, relocating to some faraway location on a regular basis won’t even be a real option or an appealing one.
However, it works wonderfully for those who figure it out, with digital nomads reporting high levels of job and income satisfaction as they experience new adventures. Working from wherever feels right? It really doesn’t sound so bad.
Aline Cerdan Verástegui
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