Digital Nomads vs Remote Workers: Why You Need To Know The Difference

Digital Nomads vs Remote Workers? Why You Need To Know The Difference
Digital Nomads are location independent people who run their own business or work for another company as they travel the world.
  • The percentage of millennials able to work outside of their primary office locations jumped 21 points to 64 percent
  • A digital nomad is a remote worker, but a remote worker is not necessarily a digital nomad
  • Knowing the difference can help coworking operators better target its marketing efforts

My name is Robert Kropp and I consider myself to be a digital nomad.

Until recently, I had been traveling the world, building a business working out of coworking spaces. During all that time, I never stopped to think about whether or not I was truly a digital nomad or if I was an independent remote worker instead.

It might seem like a trivial matter, but it got me thinking nonetheless.  Am I one or the other? Does it really even matter if I know the difference?

I believe it does matter.

By defining the differences between types of workers that are part of the coworking and shared workspace industry, we are defining two different buyer personas. By knowing the difference between one and the other, we are able to better market our space and highlighting and providing the right services for each target audiences; resulting in more members enjoying a better workplace experience.

Reflecting on my past 2 years of work and travel, during which I met several other digital nomads, I began to formulate an idea of how digital nomads can be defined and how they are different from remote workers.

First off, I’d like to start by defining and differentiating digital nomads, as they are a subset of the entire remote working community.

A digital nomad is a remote worker, but a remote worker is not necessarily a digital nomad.

I started off by focusing on the term “nomad” I thought back to the nomadic nature of people, before human civilization began establishing cities and towns. Back then, nomads traveled to search for means for a more sustainable lifestyle, setting up camp in forgiving and beneficial areas for themselves and their tribe.

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I believed the above best defines the nature of digital nomads and why they do what they do in the way they do it.

Digital Nomads are location independent people who run their own business or work for another company as they travel the world; they are constantly exploring new places and cultures, settling down for a period of time where they fit best in a particular point in time.

Digital Nomads aren’t tied to a location due to a job or business. This means they’re not tied to a home, a company owned office, or client site; work can be done anywhere for them. Digital Nomads don’t depend on any specific physical address in order to get their work done.

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Digital nomadism is about living in different locations around the world that match one’s personality and lifestyle; places that challenge us or give us a different perspective on the world. Digital nomadism is a mindset.

On the other hand, remote workers are professionals that don’t travel constantly and that tend to stay put and work from a centralized office, home, or town.

According to the 2017 Deloitte Millennial Survey, “the percentage of millennials able to work outside of their primary office locations jumped 21 points to 64 percent—likely a reflection of how rapidly technology has facilitated mobile work and how much more comfortable employers are with telecommuting.” This will not only have a large impact on how and where we work, but it will also create a boom in the flexible workspace industry.

If given the choice, many will choose to become part time or full time remote workers. Some of these individuals might also opt to adopt the digital nomad lifestyle; although for the time being, digital nomads will remain a small subset of the remote workers group.

While many are attracted to the idea of becoming a digital nomad, there are far more people that want the stability of a job and the provided by living and working in one location.

By understanding these differences between remote workers and digital nomads, coworking and shared workspace operators can fine-tune their offerings and marketing, in order to better target these types of workers.

Whether an operator decides to focus on remote workers as a whole or digital nomads specifically, I believe there are some advantages to attracting nomads specifically.

Digital nomads are arguably the most visual and public persona of remote workers. We can continue to grow the ability of people around the world to work remotely by showing off best practices of what we find along with our successes of working and traveling the world.

As I continue to research more into 2018 workplace trends, the growth of digital nomadism, and the impact of remote work and digital nomadism on the coworking and shared workspace industry, there are a number of questions that I will be focused on, including the following:

Should cities and countries care if they attract a significant group of digital nomads?

Should and how can cities and shared workspace providers partner in order to attract more remote workers and digital nomads?

Is there an impact by digital nomads after they leave a location?

Stay tuned to find out the conclusions as I reach as I continue to travel the world, and work while I’m at it.