Many employees are eager to continue working remotely, and some are taking a step further by becoming digital nomads.
In this article, digital nomad Andy Stofferis examines the pros and cons of having a location-independent team of digital nomads on your staff.
He also offers advice on how to shift your remote team to digital nomadism, and what to expect along the way.
Many companies and small businesses have experienced a massive transition to remote work since the start of the 2020 pandemic. Now that a return to ‘normal’ seems in sight, many companies are opting to continue having their teams work remotely.
And some employees, who have become used to working from home and remotely, are considering becoming digital nomads.
We take a look in this article at how companies and managers of remote teams can help support and manage this shift to digital nomadism. We also look at the pros and cons of having a location-independent team of digital nomads on your staff.
Digital nomadism is unlikely to appeal to everyone, and not all job roles are suited to it either. But many employees, now that they’ve had a taste of working remotely, are keen to continue in this new ‘remote first’ working model going forward.
In many cases, a hybrid system will probably also continue with staff working some days in an office and some days at home or remotely.
The Benefits of Employing Digital Nomads
Many people choose digital nomadism as a way to travel the world while working.
For others, it allows them to work in a country they have a connection to (like family) while being employed elsewhere. But since the start of the pandemic, many people who have had to transition from office-based to hybrid or fully remote jobs, have started considering the appeal and benefits of a digital nomad lifestyle.
There are a range of obvious attractions and pros to employees becoming digital nomads. But, there are also many attractive benefits for employers, which we explore in more detail below.
1. On Trend Cultural Insights
There’s a shift among the younger working generation. They are expecting, and embracing, more work-life balance and are moving away from traditional employment models towards freelancing and other flexible and varied working arrangements.
Most digital nomads are aged in their twenties or thirties. Research shows that the average age is 32 years old, with more than two-thirds of digital nomads classed as Millennials or Generation Z.
By attracting a younger set of employees who are located around the world, companies can benefit from cultural insights that the younger generation can bring to businesses. This includes ways of engaging and communicating with customers, and insights into what motivates customers and what trends companies can capitalise on.
2. Save on Office Space and Other Fixed Costs
If your entire team is remote, then you can reduce your fixed monthly costs associated with office space rentals. You may however want to contribute some funds towards staff home office setup costs.
If you opt for a hybrid work model, by reducing the overall number of employees in an office, this may enable you to rent a smaller premises (with fewer desks, chairs, computers etc.) which can also reduce costs.
Some companies also employ digital nomad freelancers, who aren’t full-time employees, and this can also reduce costs associated with annual salaries. It’s also a way to reduce your overhead costs.
3. Have Staff to Cover Multiple Time Zones
By hiring digital nomads, located around the world, you may be in a better position to provide efficient customer-service to clients around the world at any hour of the day.
You also then have staff who can do, for instance, server maintenance around the clock and can track insights and metrics and react appropriately at any time of the day.
4. Global Teams Bring Global Insights
With a team of digital nomads, living in different cities around the world, you suddenly have an international work team that can bring a wealth of knowledge and insights from across the globe to your organization.
With your teams being immersed in a range of cultures, speaking different languages, and having local knowledge about places and events — this can bring benefits to your global brand strategy and marketing efforts.
Global nomads who have travelled extensively become invaluable assets to companies, as they have the skills and adaptability to network effectively with a broad range of people.
5. Happy Staff = More Productive Staff
Quite often when staff are given the flexibility and option to work from home or from anywhere in the world, they are happier and more committed to their jobs.
This flexibility also means a better work life balance and reduced stress, leading to improved overall wellness. This can have positive results on a company’s bottom line, as productivity increases.
6. Global Talent Acquisition
When you have a fixed office location, your company’s talent acquisition is more limited to a geographical area. But when your team is fully remote, and particularly when it comprises digital nomads, your company has the opportunity to take advantage of global talent acquisition.
That means you can recruit from a broader range of talent and skills. That translates into obvious benefits for companies, especially if they have been struggling to fill certain skills gaps.
The Challenges of Employing Digital Nomads
Transitioning from a remote work or hybrid model to digital nomadism as an employment model can be challenging for many companies.
While there are many perks to digital nomadism for both employees and employers, the actual process of shifting to digital nomadism can be a bumpy road full of learning curves.
Not all companies are suited to having fully remote staff, and some remote positions need to be location-specific. But, for many companies, enabling and supporting employees in their transition to becoming digital nomads can bring with it a range of opportunities and benefits.
However, there can also be drawbacks. Below we outline some of these from the employers’ perspective with regard to digital nomads. Many of these can be addressed with proper planning and research before diving into a nomadic lifestyle.
1. Connectivity Issues
In certain cities and countries, digital nomads can experience problems with reliable, high-speed internet and even electricity supply — which can create significant connectivity problems.
These issues can be overcome by doing sufficient prior research into areas that offer reliable connectivity.
2. Different Time Zones
While it can be an advantage to have staff operating across a variety of time zones, it can also pose many challenges — especially when it comes to team meetings and quick responses.
3. International Taxes and Employment Laws
If you hire digital nomads as full-time salaried employees, but they live and work in a foreign country, then you may be faced with legal questions and implications regarding international taxes and employment laws.
There are many international payment methods that can be used for salaries like PayPal which can help to overcome some of these challenges.
4. IT and Cyber-Security
You may want to give all employees dedicated laptops and software to protect your company’s data security, and this can be more complicated with people living around the world.
You may also need to take steps to establish good cyber-security like setting up VPNs — especially if your staff are working from public computers.
How to Shift Your Remote Team to Digital Nomadism
You can support your remote staff in the transition to becoming digital nomads by introducing them to the concept, by providing supporting information and encouraging sharing of knowledge about digital nomadism between staff.
It also helps to have regular one-on-one meetings with staff to find out what they want, what challenges they face, and what type of support they need to make the transition.
There are also ways that employees can start off slowly to get a taste of the digital nomad lifestyle before delving in for long-term commitments. For example, taking part in a remote working community or retreat for a limited period of a few weeks or months.
1. Create an Engaging and Connected Remote Working Culture
There are many challenges that employees face when becoming digital nomads — these include a sense of loneliness and lack of connectedness with other teammates.
Employers can actively boost engagement and connectivity by hosting regular team meetings, through a mentoring programme for new staff, through an engaging and welcoming onboarding process, and by providing opportunities for staff to get to know each other informally through social and team building activities.
2. Allow Flexibility
Many remote employees and digital nomads embrace these new working modes particularly because of the freedom and flexibility it allows them. That’s why it’s important that employers continue to give their employees freedom and flexibility and make sure they don’t micromanage their staff.
For example, allowing staff to take time off during the day to exercise or fetch children from school, gives employees the flexibility they crave. And it can actually enhance performance and creativity by reducing stress and giving staff time to relax and recharge.
3. Use Collaborative Communication Tools
It’s important for employers to support their remote teams by providing effective collaboration tools and software so that they can communicate efficiently. This may mean setting up access to video chat software, digital whiteboards, project management software, etc.
You will also need to provide access to relevant data and information like a company CRM tool, while also protecting data through the use of relevant IT security software and applications like VPNs.
4. Have a Nomad-Friendly Work Culture
There are so many benefits to companies and staff when it comes to digital nomadism. But attracting and retaining talent can be tough, so companies need to develop ways of supporting digital nomads effectively.
This includes having a comprehensive onboarding strategy, streamlined communication tools, and easy payment systems.
It also involves having well-designed strategies for accommodating digital nomads and for supporting their needs and helping them with the transition.
Final Thoughts on Transitioning to Managing a Team of Digital Nomads
If your company already has a remote or hybrid working structure, you may want to consider the many benefits of helping your employees transition to digital nomadism.
You may also want to adjust your hiring process to look for desirable personality traits of digital nomads like a sense of passion and purpose, good time management, good problem-solving skills, and adaptability.
The digital nomad lifestyle may not suit all employees, and the transition will be made easier if employees are given information, guidance and even mentorship from other staff members who have experience in digital nomadism.
You can also support staff in the transition by connecting them with opportunities for short-term immersive digital nomad experience like digital nomad retreats or coliving experiences.
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.