What the buzz? Volume 3: Digital Nomad

Ghina Fahs
March 21, 2023
What the buzz? Volume 3: Digital Nomad
Employee experience

Welcome back to alfii’s What The Buzz series!

Once a month, we choose a trending industry term we see buzzing around LinkedIn statuses, blog posts, articles, lunch break conversations, or memes. We then explore what the term really means and come back to you with everything you need to know to be “in the know.”

Thanks to your votes on our LinkedIn page, this month’s selected term is digital nomad. Simply put, being a digital nomad means being free of the constraints of mandatory office attendance and instead, working while traveling. Whether they work independently or within an organization, digital nomads got their name primarily because they embark on journeys of exploration around the world, all while earning a living.

With just a laptop and an internet connection, digital nomads do their work from wherever they want, whether it's a beach in Bali or a cafe in Barcelona. As long as they can still produce the results required of them without compromising their output, where they do it from doesn’t really matter.

Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, the number of digital nomads with traditional jobs has more than tripled, and countries all over the world have created “digital nomad visas” to smooth out the process and make this lifestyle more attainable.

To add to that, when you consider all the amazing benefits of traveling, the digital nomad life starts to sound like a total dream, doesn’t it? Like anything though, it has its pros and cons, and it’s important for you to get real about that if you fancy exploring this kind of lifestyle or offering it to your employees.

So without further ado, join us as we deep-dive into what it really takes to be a digital nomad.

Buzz it, let’s get started!

Here’s what being a digital nomad is:

  • Working from anywhere in the world as a freelancer, entrepreneur, or remote employee for a company; basically anyone who isn’t required to work from an office or specified location.
  • Utilizing tools like laptops, smartphones, automation apps, and cloud-based software to stay connected and productive on the go.
  • Making an income while living abroad, as opposed to traveling and vacationing on a set budget.
  • Slow traveling and experiencing countries like a local, living there, learning about the culture, and creating a daily routine.
  • When seeking out locations, prioritizing good internet connection and quiet co-working or co-living space
  • Meeting communities of other like-minded remote workers.
  • Being adaptable and resourceful, able to manage their own schedule and troubleshoot technical issues.
  • Being self-disciplined, responsible, independent.
  • Embracing a location-independent lifestyle and prioritizing flexibility, freedom, and adventure in both work and personal life.
  • Actively seeking and adopting healthy habits and routines that encourage a successful work-life balance.

Here’s what being a digital nomad isn’t:

  • Being in constant vacation mode or traveling for leisure without getting work done.
  • Solely relying on passive income streams or trust funds to support this lifestyle without actively working or contributing to society.
  • Fast traveling and always hopping from one place to another.
  • Not adapting to the environment or respecting the rules of the country.
  • Working more or less than one would if they were at a stable location or office.
  • Moving through destinations without taking the time to learn about the culture and local way of life.
  • Not having a good work-life balance, letting the two spill into each other and not actively drawing boundaries where they’re needed.
Image shot from between palm trees looking up the sky while a plane is captured in the center of the image

Bearing in mind that traveling isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, we know that some of you might actually be wondering, why do people choose this life?

To break it down briefly, there are loads of reasons why people choose to be digital nomads. For starters, some people just want to find that sweet spot between work and play. Others have a serious case of wanderlust and want to explore new places and learn about the world while making a living. Some seek out the chance to meet and connect with people from all over the world and form bonds that run deep. Others get inspiration from new environments and cultures and feed their creativity through travel. Plus, there's the added bonus of being able to stretch your income further by living in a cheaper country while earning a stronger currency—the list goes on.

Now, while it sounds absolutely incredible to travel the world while working and making an income, it’s not as easy as it seems and it definitely comes with its own set of challenges. But if you’re a travel junkie and an adventurer at heart, then you’ll find that the rewards of creating such an enriching life will far outweigh the inevitable bumps that you’ll face on the road.

Time to get real—we made a pros and cons list so you don’t have to:

Here are the pros

For employees:

  • You can work from anywhere on the map as long as you have a reliable internet connection, obtain the right visa, and respect the rules and culture of the country you’re in.
  • You can explore the different countries and cultures of the world while earning a living, and without having to wait for your annual 2-3 weeks of paid time off to be able to travel.
  • If you’re working as a freelancer or entrepreneur, or if your company offers options for asynchronous working hours, you have the freedom to set your own schedule and work when you're most productive.
  • You're not tied down to one location, so you can easily move to a new city or country when you feel like you need a change of scenery and environment.
  • You can save money on rent and other living expenses by staying in affordable accommodations or using house-sitting services.
  • You get the incredible benefits of traveling such as improved mental health, stress relief, enhanced creativity, and more!

For employers:

  • You have access to a larger talent pool, including people who may not be able to relocate for a traditional office job.
  • By not having to provide office space, equipment, and other resources, you can save a significant amount on overhead costs.
  • Hiring digital nomads from different countries and cultures can bring diversity to your team.
  • Your employees may even work more efficiently. Studies have shown that digital nomads can be more productive than their office-bound counterparts, which is largely due to the flexibility and autonomy that comes with remote work.
  • Having employees located in different countries and time zones can allow companies to expand into new markets and provide 24/7 customer support.

Here are the cons

For employees:

  • Adjusting to a new environment and getting into a new routine can sometimes take time and trial-and-error before getting it right. This can be very tricky if you can’t afford the kind of time a transition period may take.
  • It can be challenging to maintain a work-life balance if you're constantly on the move.
  • You have to be self-disciplined and motivated to stay productive without the structure of an office environment or the comfort and stability that you might enjoy in your home city.
  • You will have to say “no” to many opportunities that you would normally say “yes” to if you were on vacation.
  • Things won’t always go according to plan; for example, you might end up on a bus for 10 hours instead of 5, or you might get a stomach bug and end up in the hospital, and these are things that may naturally get in the way of your work.
  • You may encounter challenges with unreliable Wi-Fi or other technical difficulties when working remotely.
  • It can be hard to establish roots and build long-term relationships, especially if you’re moving through locations quickly.

For employers:

  • Without a strong culture of open communication in place, it can be easier to run into misunderstandings, delays, and other issues that may impact productivity and morale.
  • Due to less face-to-face interaction, it may take extra effort to build relationships and trust among team members. This can be especially challenging for new hires or for teams that are just starting to work together.
  • Depending on where your digital nomads are located, they may be working in different time zones, and time zone clashes are very real! It may be easier to require them to work within certain time zones that overlap at least a few hours in the day with the company HQ, rather than being on totally opposite hours.
  • Digital nomads may not have the same sense of company culture as employees who work in an office environment, which could make it more challenging to maintain a strong and cohesive company culture.
Outdoor modern minimal workstation with laptop, phone, lights and fancy table

We’ll leave you with some things to reflect on…

Now that we’ve established all the highs and lows of being a digital nomad, do you think this might be the lifestyle for you? How much do you think your work might improve as a result of adding travel into the mix?

If you’re an employer, is the digital nomad flexibility something that you would offer your employees, or does it feel too risky? Would you be willing to give it a shot to see how it could benefit your business as a result of benefiting your people?

If you’re about this life and want to know what to do to make it happen, check out our tips for working remotely (and efficiently) from anywhere!

Images sourced from pexels.com

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