As the last of the Baby Boomers begin to retire from the U.S. workforce, a longstanding approach to employment within American culture is being retired with them. The shift from a live-to-work to a work-to-live mindset , accelerated by the pandemic and a large-scale adaptation to remote work, is in full swing. The average worker, who once prioritized salary, retirement benefits, upward mobility and job security, is now being driven by flexibility, purpose, work culture and life experiences. Many of today’s workers are even taking things a step further, setting up operations far from both the office and home, and using remote work as an opportunity to see and experience the world. Often described as digital nomads, these employees have discovered the formula for mixing business and pleasure – and they are a rapidly growing section of the labor force.
A recent study found that 16.9 million American workers currently consider themselves to be digital nomads, an increase of 131 percent since 2019.
Thinking about joining their ranks? Know this first: There are plenty of perks that come with the digital nomad lifestyle, but it isn’t for everyone. And even those for whom it’s a good fit should learn about any downsides to combining globetrotting with gainful employment. Here are some thoughts to consider before taking the plunge into digital nomadism:
It takes planning. Lots of planning. Depending on wherever you may roam, you’ll need a visa, translation services, vaccinations and more. And for each change of address, those plans become exponentially more challenging. If you’re truly mobile (think van life or an RV), brace yourself for the inevitable: Somewhere along your travels, you’ll run out of water or clean clothes, and your wifi connection will let you down. It happens. But thoughtful preparation can mitigate most issues that may detract from the joys of life as a digital nomad.
There are no borders. This is what you signed up for, yeah? The open road, no-holds-barred wanderlust and absolutely no cubicles. The ability to indulge nearly any travel whim is one of the key features of the digital nomad lifestyle, but remember: indulging every travel whim can derail your work productivity. You still have a job to do, and every detour creates a new set of circumstances – and, potentially, unintended consequences. Again, have a plan. Work ahead when you can. Build buffers into your schedule to allow for the occasional bounding down the rabbit hole.
It’s not a working vacation. As alluded to above, you’ll need to maintain a certain level of focus while on the road. That can be difficult for the art lover who has found a cheap Airbnb in the heart of Rome or the history buff in a cute rented cottage just outside Dublin. You may have decided to no longer live to work, but you do still have to make time for work to live the digital nomad life.
Contract work is the key. Most companies have certain expectations for where and when their staff employees show up to work. Even if yours offers a certain amount of flexibility, chances are you have project deadlines, client meetings and other workday rhythms that aren’t all that conducive to life on the road. In that case, contract work may be the perfect alternative. By seeking out contracts with durations that match your preferred lengths of stay in any locale, you can plan in stages and handle your big moves between gigs.
PeopleCaddie posts thousands of contract roles for contractors to select from on our proprietary platform, many of them featuring flexible schedules and responsibilities that align with the digital nomad lifestyle. Who says you have to put off travel until retirement or jam a tour of Europe into a two-week vacation? With contract work and a professional network partner like PeopleCaddie, you can have the best of all worlds.
Interested in becoming a digital nomad? PeopleCaddie can help. Check out how our talent cloud can help you secure contract labor.