How is a remote worker different from digital nomad? Or it is just a trendier way of saying the same thing?
Digital nomads work remotely (through a digital means) from anywhere in the world.
In this article, digital nomad Andy Stofferis explains the pros and cons of working with digital nomads and how to collaborate efficiently at a distance.
Working remotely has become increasingly popular over recent years. The traditional ‘9 to 5’ way of working has been replaced by the more flexible ‘working from home’, ‘telecommuting’ or ‘teleworking’.
The concepts characterizing the remote work are so many that there seems to be confusion between the terms and the way workers define themselves. How is a remote worker different from digital nomad? Or it is just a trendier way of saying the same thing?
In this article we are going to look at the differences between the two concepts and focus on digital nomads, and how hiring such can be beneficial for the company.
First of all, let’s make it clear: all digital nomads are remote workers, but not all remote workers are digital nomads.
Most remote workers are home-based, have a permanent residence, an employment contract and ‘regular’ working hours. The typical remote worker may be a freelancer, an independent business owner or a member of a virtual team. They are rather stationary and mostly work from their home offices, coworking spaces or coffee shops.
Digital nomads, on the other hand, are not bound to a specific working time nor are they tied to their home office desk. In fact, they are called digital nomads for a good reason. Just like nomads move from one place to another without settling permanently in one location, digital nomads can and are willing to work (through a digital means) from anywhere in the world.
Why is it important to differentiate between the two terms?
Understanding the difference helps companies decide what works best for them. Similarly, it can also help workers choose the type of work they’d like to do and the kind of lifestyle they want to lead.
Why Hire a Digital Nomad?
The obvious benefit of working with a digital nomad is the reduced overhead costs. You won’t need to cover costs associated with a centralized office such as rent, security systems, IT infrastructure, parking fees etc. If your digital nomad is a freelancer and not your permanent employee you can save even more. As an employer, you can benefit from not having to pay an annual salary, medical insurance, sick leave and employment taxes.
Because digital nomads are immersed in different cultures, they can bring a whole lot of international knowledge with them. They can help your business generate new ideas, creative solutions and provide some novel insights to your business issues. Their constant travel and awareness about cultural differences can also be in handy when closing deals with international stakeholders.
By constantly switching locations, digital nomads may have acquired such soft skills as flexibility and adaptability which can bring great value to your business. They have also mastered the art of meeting deadlines, prioritizing work and being target-oriented rather than process-focused. These are the skills that are highly important for the employer.
Less control – better productivity
Letting people get on with their work without controlling them can have a positive impact on the bottom line. Just because digital nomads can always pick their own work environment (working from a coffee shop in Budapest or from a hammock in Barbados) they create their own ideal work situation. This ultimately boosts their productivity and in turn, your company’s profit.
If you are struggling to fill skills gaps locally why not cast the net wider? Tapping into a pool of global talent can bring so much to the table. Skills and expertise are what matters – and you can now search for your perfect employee rather than limiting yourself to a specific location. What else can an employer wish for?
What Should EmployersKeep in Mind When Hiring a Digital Nomad?
It may be particularly hard for an employer to work with digital nomad employees when it comes to projects that are time-zone dependent or require real-time communication. It may be challenging for both parties to establish efficient communication with a time zone difference. Imagine constantly calling your employee in the middle of the night or receiving emails when you are asleep!
Communication is key
Managing a remote team is really challenging. Nothing undermines the digital nomad-employer relationship more than unclearly set expectations. By outlining working patterns and prospects from the beginning, you can definitely avoid a lot of work-related issues in the future. It is vital to clearly state the tasks, targets or deadlines. Always remember that virtual communication is harder than collaborating in-person, which is why you need to go that extra mile to get your message across. In general, it is also a good idea to determine what expectations you may have of a potential candidate before posting a job vacancy. Decide it for yourself first; this will make a selection process much easier!
When hiring a digital nomad, it is better if you make sure your employee stays in one place for a decent period of time (to be able to finish a project with you). You don’t want your worker jumping from one time zone to another, dealing with travel disruptions or poor internet connection. Ask your nomad where they are staying and for how long. Keep in mind that flight delays and cancellations may affect deadlines or overall performance.
Payments, taxes and security
Hiring a digital nomad on a permanent basis creates a whole new set of challenges. You’ll have to think about the legal ways to perform payroll and fulfill your tax obligations. Also if your company has a strict IT policy, you have to ensure the security for your digital nomad especially if working on public WiFi. You might even have to provide your employee with a laptop or other necessary equipment.
As you can see there are both pros and cons to hiring a digital nomad. All things considered, we believe that having an access to global talent and a digital nomad on your team is well worth it. Start small and take baby steps. Offer your potential nomad a project as a test to see how well they cope with it and whether you are ready for such cooperation. It’s a challenge to get it all right but in the end it’s a win-win. After all, freedom and flexibility – isn’t this what you’ve been looking for?
I run a blog about digital nomadism and remote work. I believe digital nomads are the future of remote work. I've been travelling over different parts of the world over the past 6 years while running a full remote digital marketing agency - Sendabee. I'm interested in cultural differences and in the local mentality of each destination I live in. I enjoy hiking in nature and discovering hidden gems all over the world.