digital nomad day

A new form of digital nomad has emerged since the start of the pandemic: the so-called “everywhere workers”.

Identified as a separate category by travel guide publisher Lonely Planet after conducting a global survey of over 1,400 people, this group is less made up of young solo freelancers with a laptop and a continuously moving WiFi connection from place to place. Instead, the term tends to describe older employees and people with families who choose to take advantage of long-term, digital nomad visas.

Their average profile is that of a 24-44 year old (70% of the total questioned) who works full time (61%). While slightly more men (56%) than women (44%) are living the dream, just under half are married (45%) and 70% are parents taking their families with them. when they move.

Compared to their digital nomad cousins, they tend to stay longer in individual locations, often three months or more (55%), to better experience the local culture. The most popular destinations to date are Thailand, Spain, Japan, Portugal and the United States, especially for domestic workers.

As for digital nomads in the broad sense, there are now 15.5 million worldwide. Around 19% work in IT, 10% in creative services and 9% in education and training, with just over a third employed by a particular organisation, 28% being freelancers and 18% owners of business.

However, over the next two to three years, about 24 million Americans alone are expected to adopt this lifestyle, and an additional 41 million plan to do so as well, a 20% increase since 2020.

Why now?

So overall, the trend seems clear – the digital nomad approach, which includes working anywhere, will only grow in the coming years, especially in the tech sector. As to why work anywhere is becoming a phenomenon now, it appears to be a consequence of the remote work situation imposed on knowledge workers during the lockdown, says Samantha Owen, senior employment lawyer at Harper James Solicitors:

The concept of working from anywhere has grown organically since when people were thrust into working from home due to COVID. Many employers did not always know where their employees were and whether they had moved to second homes, for example. But now that travel is back and companies are moving to more permanent flexible working models, it’s all up for discussion. And employees think “if I could work anywhere I wanted during COVID, why can’t I do it now?” So anywhere to work makes sense from the perspective of the employee.

But that’s not always true from an employer’s perspective, although there are definite advantages. Anna Richardson, vice president of human resources at cloud-based data management platform provider Aiven, explains:

To compete in a global talent war, we need to stand out. We compete with the big players, so we need to have a differentiator and we see that as our ‘work from anywhere’ approach. It is a key part of our talent, employee experience and retention strategy, as the principle is to treat staff as adults so that they have the freedom and autonomy to choose the framework which suits him best.

But there are also other advantages. As Emoke Starr, vice president of human resources at data integration platform provider Onna, points out, not only has this approach opened up a broader geographic talent pool for the company, but it can also be beneficial. for the well-being of employees:

Having the freedom to be where you want to be gives people the ability to truly live their lives. One of the biggest reasons for burnout is having too little time to do the things that make you happy outside of work, so it’s all about living a fuller life.

Understand the risks and challenges

But going this route also presents a number of risks and challenges. The most important is that labor law and tax law are very different around the world.

For example, says Owen, depending on the number of days per year an individual resides outside their own country, they could be subject to tax and social security payments not only in their country but also abroad. . As there is no international standard here, the number of days varies from country to country.

This situation became a challenge for Onna when one of his employees decided to travel and rent Airbnb properties, and another chose to live in an RV. The situation was resolved when the former agreed to retain their legal residence in New York for tax purposes, but in the latter case they made the choice to leave.

What that means, says Owen, is that it’s essential to research and, as an employer, establish in advance who pays what, especially in the case of high earners.

But the same kinds of questions also apply to employment law and the varying length of time it takes for a given employee to acquire employment rights in a new country of residence. As Owen puts it:

In the UK, for example, you can claim unfair dismissal after two years, but not elsewhere. So employers may think that UK law applies because they employ someone there, but they could still sue you from Spain or wherever they live, especially if the laws are more favorable there. When you allow someone to work abroad you don’t automatically think about it, but it’s a gray area and there are no hard and fast rules.

For some organizations in regulated fields, such as financial services, however, it may even be necessary to check with the industry regulator to see if a given role is allowed to work overseas. The same goes for data processors, who could end up violating local data protection laws. As Owen says:

The problem is that people don’t realize the complexity of this field. So if someone is a good, loyal member of staff and says they want to live in the south of France for a while, you would probably just say ‘yes’ without thinking of the risks. Why wouldn’t you, because the risks don’t jump immediately. But there are enough risks here to take it really seriously, think about it and make sure you are well advised. Think about what risks you’re willing to take and whether you can accept them – and if you can’t, absolutely don’t because it could end in conflict.

How to Mitigate Risks and Address Challenges

As for what can be done to mitigate these risks, Owen recommends undertaking a risk assessment and creating a clear policy to “put parameters around them”, including to prevent anyone from feeling discriminated against. This policy, which should include appropriate processes to follow, could include requiring individuals to have a clean disciplinary record before engaging in any work. It could also cap the number of days per year they are allowed to work abroad and limit them to certain time zones to ensure it is easy to talk to colleagues.

But there are also other considerations. For example, Starr believes clear communication is essential:

It’s about being very intentional in clarifying the business strategy and what success looks like for each individual based on that. But we have also introduced rules of engagement due to time zones [the workforce of 400 is mainly centered in San Francisco, North Carolina and Barcelona, Spain] in which we work, which means that there are only four hours we can rely on for meetings. Not everyone likes their working hours, but in a larger context, they’d rather have a meeting scheduled between 4-7pm rather than something shoved into their schedule at the last moment.

To avoid unnecessary meetings, however, everyone should have a clear owner, agenda, and outcomes. Each team member is also required to document what they did that day, why they did it, and anything that colleagues working in different time zones may need to know in order to be able to perform. their own tasks without having to wait.

Additionally, says Richardson, repeating key questions, such as company goals, vision, and product roadmap, across “a range of different messages and channels,” is key to driving customer engagement. commitment and a sense of purpose. She adds:

There’s not a big difference between managing remote workers and anywhere, although workers anywhere may experience particular issues related to loneliness and mental health, which is something to bear in mind. account. People working remotely often have support networks around them, but there may not be the same checks and balances in place if they move around a lot. This was certainly one of the driving forces behind the introduction of our Employee Assistance Plan to ensure that we could offer 24/7 support.

my catch

The idea of ​​“worker anywhere” is still a new concept for most employers, which means that while some choose to try it, others fear the approach is too risky. Therefore, while interest in this lifestyle may grow rapidly among staff, only time will tell if it becomes an established flexible working norm or just a short-lived flash in the pan.

Aubrey L. Morgan