The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked an increased need for remote work for companies in nearly every industry. But even before the pandemic, employees around the world had been clamoring for more flexibility in the workplace, often combining trips to the office with a work-from-home setup. Already, the success of increased workplace flexibility, especially regarding employee satisfaction, has been well documented.
As remote work grows more common and looks less and less like a fad, a new breed of remote worker, the digital nomad, is emerging.
What Are Digital Nomads?
While many industries have not fully embraced remote work, some offer workers the option of a completely remote working style. Some of these remote workers make the most of their remote work setup by living all over the world in a variety of co-living and co-working spaces that cater specifically to them. These individuals are called digital nomads.
Even with the international travel restrictions in place due to the pandemic, many professionals expect to see digital nomads become the new normal in a post-coronavirus world.
Co-Living and Co-Working Spaces
For many digital nomads, the goal of this type of ‘work from wherever you are’ setup requires looking for long-term vacation rentals to use as a workspace. Essentially, the digital nomad looks for a combination of what companies like Airbnb offer (short or long-term vacation rentals) and what companies like WeWork offer (shared workplaces for technology startups or other workers to use). Some companies like Outsite and Selina do just that, and more could soon join the trend. For remote workers looking into the digital nomad lifestyle, these locations offer a combination of co-working and co-living spaces with essential amenities, such as high-speed Internet, that make remote work easier.
Remote Work Plus Travel
Though the coronavirus pandemic has forced many companies into a surprise test run of remote work capabilities, many experts believe that remote work is here to stay. Employees often report high levels of satisfaction when allowed a combination of in-office and remote work, which enables them to better attend to family matters and adjust their work around hours that work for them.
Remote work popularity is at unprecedented levels, and the numbers for homeownership among millennials between the ages of 25 and 34 drifted down to just 37 percent five years ago, significantly lower than the rates of homeownership for baby boomers and generation X. In addition to lowered instances of homeownership, a 2018 study from Switzerland-based company IWG showed nearly 70 percent of workers were away from their offices at least one day during the week.
What do these numbers mean? The rising trends of working out of the office and lowered instances of homeownership are coinciding with increased demand for flexible working and living spaces around the world. Digital nomads are taking advantage of the flexibility in their remote work and fewer physical ties to a location to look for unique travel destinations where they can work. Though initially, digital nomads were primarily professionals such as programmers and writers, today other professionals, such as lawyers and CPAs, are increasingly choosing this lifestyle.
The digital nomad trend addresses one of the common difficulties with remote work: a sense of isolation and loneliness. Despite the general satisfaction with the flexibility that remote work provides, many employees report missing the collaborative team element being in an office can offer. Without being able to see your coworkers during the day for casual so-called ‘watercooler’ conversations, a sense of connection and camaraderie can be difficult to develop. But the co-working and co-living situations popping up offer a way to address that problem. These setups offer shared common areas and planned social engagement for individuals from different companies to experience the companionship they may miss while working in a remote setup.
Remote work is likely here to stay, and as more industries embrace alternative lifestyles, digital nomads may as well.