Thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, the past couple of years have reshaped the working landscape. With many employees now working remotely either permanently or on a regular basis, and employers offering flexible working where it wouldn’t have otherwise been an option.
This drastic change has led the way for a whole new approach to recruitment and how we go about our working day, highlighting just how adaptable many job roles can be.
As the threat of the pandemic starts to fade and the freedom to travel becomes more of a possibility, the idea of travelling whilst working is becoming an increasingly attractive prospect. The digital nomad lifestyle isn’t a new concept, but more widely accepted flexible working and a progressively digitised world, has allowed more people to seriously consider their options.
But, what is a digital nomad and how do you become one?
A digital nomad is someone that’s able to perform their job remotely without the need for a static workspace. It often involves moving to different parts of the world whilst simultaneously continuing with their work.
Being a digital nomad may seem like the ideal choice for a better work/life balance, and it certainly can be. Still, there are things you’ll need to consider before venturing out into this world. Likewise, as an employer, opening up to new talent and diversifying your workforce is paramount, but there are considerations to be made when looking to hire a digital nomad.
Here, we take a look at the pros and cons of being a digital nomad, what you’ll need to get up and running, as well as the types of jobs suited to the digital nomad lifestyle and the locations that are most accommodating. We’ve also taken a look at what you’ll need to know when employing a digital nomad and how to make it work for your business.
The Benefits of Being a Digital Nomad
One of the main reasons people choose the digital nomad lifestyle is that it can offer a number of excellent opportunities in terms of personal development and teachable moments. Here are some of the great perks you can expect as a digital nomad:
- You can work wherever and whenever you want
- Visit inspirational places with the chance to fully immerse yourself in their way of life
- Depending on where you choose, living costs can be much lower than the UK
- Healthier food and lifestyle
- No office politics to deal with
- Living light with minimal possessions can be cathartic
- Learn new languages and meet lots of new people from different cultures
- Potential to work fewer hours for a better work/life balance with the lower cost of living
Whilst this sounds like the perfect way to spend every day, it’s important to remember the less attractive aspects too:
- Loneliness can be a problem, especially if you choose to travel alone
- Dating and family life can suffer if you move around regularly, not everyone will want the nomadic lifestyle
- Internet connection and connectivity in general can be unreliable in some areas, so it’s vital to take this into account when choosing where to go
- It’s quite easy to get distracted when surrounded by beautiful scenery and novel experiences, so procrastination can become a problem
- You might find that you’re not suited to the culture of the country you travel to
- Communication issues can arise if you’re not familiar with the language of a country, particularly in less tourist-friendly areas
- Getting homesick is very real and can put a dampener on your experience
- You may not have a support system in the country you visit, leaving you vulnerable
- If you have specific medical needs, this can be difficult to accommodate
- Most digital nomads work on a freelance basis, so you’ll be responsible for filing your own tax returns
The Digital Nomad Toolkit
Some nomads travel constantly, others choose a country to settle in. Aside from a few items of clothing and personal items, your ‘toolkit’ will get you to your destination and get you through your working day. Here’s a list of basics you’ll likely need as a digital nomad:
- A sturdy, waterproof backpack (carry on size)
- Passport and travel documents
- Credit card and local currency (USD is also widely accepted)
- Notebook and pen
- Travel insurance
- Medical insurance
- ICE contact details
- Travel size first aid kit
- Bike lock and padlock
- Laptop/tablet and charger
- Essential universal cables and travel adapters
- Phone, charger and powerpack (and relevant SIM card for the country you’re in)
- List of local WIFI hotspots
- Basic toiletries
Whilst this list isn’t exhaustive, it’s useful to know what digital tools and apps you might need to help make things easier:
- Accounting and banking e.g TransferWise, Borderless
- Time tracking for invoicing e.g Clockify, Toggl
- Video and internet calling e.g Zoom, Google Meet
- Messaging e.g WhatsApp, Telegram
- Translation e.g iTranslate, TripLingo
- Cloud storage and file transfer e.g WeTransfer, Dropbox
Where is the best place to be a digital nomad?
Choosing the right place for you and what you want to achieve as a digital nomad is vital. Looking at the 8 main factors that can affect decision making, such as temperature, cost of living, internet availability and speed, and the number of extra curricular activities on offer, these countries came out as the top 15:
- Sri Lanka
- El Salvador
- Puerto Rico
But, what are the best jobs for digital nomads?
The best jobs for digital nomads are web-based. As remote access is a big driver, there are a number of roles within the techsphere that allow for this. If a role can be effectively executed and communicated remotely, it’s ideal for a digital nomad. Such roles include:
- Web/App developer
- Digital marketer
- Affiliate marketer
- Customer and tech support
- Digital designer
- Virtual assistant
- Online tutor
Covid-19 pushed remote working into the mainstream and the amount of digital nomads almost doubled, rising from 3.2 million in 2019 to 6.3 million in 2020, and these numbers continue to grow. As more and more roles become web-based and reliable internet connectivity becomes more widely available, it’s plausible we’ll see remote working become the first choice as standard for many businesses.
Employing a Digital Nomad
As the working landscape continues to shift, one area that’s worth paying some close attention to as an employer, is introducing a digital nomad policy into your business.
If you’re planning to employ a digital nomad, here are a few things that are worth considering:
- Know their local employment laws as well as yours – Your nomadic employee may be afforded bonus rights or protections by their adopted home.
- Know the tax rules – Some countries will tax your employee as well as your home country, others will not.
- Data security – Consider things like GDPR, employees working remotely may face additional security and data challenges. There may even be increased risks of fraud or hacking.
- Health and safety – Isolation, being in a foreign country, disease etc can all affect workers based in another country. You should do as much research as possible to be aware of any potential risks or health and safety issues that might affect your employee.
- Insurance – Any policies you offer them as a benefit may not cover travel, or be eligible in certain countries.
- Can they deliver what you need? – Consider carefully whether your employee will be able to do the work effectively. Do they have the tech? Does their work ethic match yours? Does the country have the infrastructure? Could the time difference affect things?
- Experience – Look for someone who has some experience of travel or the nomadic lifestyle, ideally with 4-6 months experience as a remote worker to ensure they’re comfortable working in this way.
Benefits of Hiring a Digital Nomad
There are a number of beneficial reasons why you should consider hiring a digital nomad as part of your team. Here’s just a handful:
- You can hire a digital nomad on a per project, freelance basis. For some, this can be more cost effective in the long term depending on your needs, and can be easier to manage than a full time hire.
- Your talent pool is much broader. As you’re not restricted by location and commutes, you open yourself up to a much wider range of expertise and skill sets.
- Remote working encourages inclusivity and diversity. The flexibility of remote working means that more people from different backgrounds with certain requirements are able to take up a new role – thus broadening your talent pool even further.
- Lower overheads. Remote first businesses can dramatically reduce costs by removing the need for things like office space, energy costs, parking permits etc. Costs of which can go back into the business and directly benefit your employees.
- Adaptability. Seasoned digital nomads are by definition extremely adaptable and flexible, which is great for business.
- Valuable insight. If your business operates in the country the digital nomad resides in, they can provide you with valuable information that you wouldn’t ordinarily be privy to.
- Self reliance. As freelancing is commonplace for digital nomads, they’re often self-sufficient and pro-active when it comes to efficient completion of work.
As remote working has seen a sharp rise in popularity and shows no signs of slowing down, the need to reconsider how we spend our working day and what that means for employers and employees alike has never been greater.
Will you be considering a nomadic working life in the not too distant future? As a business owner, will you be changing things to accommodate for a more global approach to working? Whether you’re an employee or employer, we hope our post has given you some food for thought!
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