Digital nomads: work on the road
Every morning, 28 million Germans get up and go to work. On average each of them spends two hours per day travelling to and from their place of work. One-third of these people would prefer a more flexible, more independent way of working – but hardly any are brave enough to make this wish become reality. The people who try it call themselves “digital nomads”. In this article I’d like to find out more about this new generation of workers who can work anywhere, and how companies can profit from them.
During my research into digital nomads, there was one thing I found out quite quickly: they are real free spirits. After a quick foray into the world of work they all feel a strong urge to abandon social norms with their 9 to 5 routine and build up an independent business that isn’t tied to one location. The thing is, they view working for a boss as “working to fulfil other people’s dreams”. They are happy to take into account the fact that they no longer have a strict delineation between their professional and their private life. The most important thing for all to them is that they can plan their own time flexibly.
What defines a digital nomad?
There isn’t really a precise definition of a digital nomad, because their salient characteristic is their individuality – they are people who won’t be pigeonholed. So at this point I’m going to invite Connie Biesalski to say a few words. Germany’s most successful travel blogger is – of course – a digital nomad herself, and she knows what she’s talking about:
“Digital nomads use digital technologies to work wherever they want, without being tied to a location. We don’t need offices or permanent desks, we’re quite happy with an internet connection in cafés or hostels/hotels, at airports or co-working spaces, and then we can get started.”
What’s life like for a digital nomad?
So digital nomads are reliant on digital technologies. But although most of them own expensive high-end devices, they live an otherwise minimalist lifestyle. The lifestyle of the digital nomad often involves dispensing with material goods for practical reasons – but also financial ones. Having their own car or owning expensive status symbols just isn’t compatible with a life on the road.
Job searching on the World Wide Web
The maths is easy: if you are content with little, you need less money. So it isn’t usually a problem for digital nomads to keep their heads above water with irregular work, which they find – where else – on the internet. Freelancers are desperately sought in special job agencies. These nomads have diverse professions – ranging from web developers and copywriters to social media managers. Digital nomads often run their own websites, blogs or online communities, a high percentage work in online shopping / e-commerce. But although the jobs are extremely varied, there is certainly one thing in common, they can all be done anywhere on a laptop owned by the freelancer. Many employers can use this to their own advantage.
How employers profit from digital nomads
For many digital nomads, this freedom by choice goes hand-in-hand with a side-effect that proves extremely interesting to employers: an iron resolve to succeed. Since digital nomads are not salaried employees, they don’t see their changing jobs as a tiresome routine, but as an exciting challenge. Payment is of secondary importance to the purpose of the activity. So their self-motivated nature and willingness to self-educate makes them especially attractive to employers who are not necessarily dependent on employees being physically on-site. This also makes it possible to counter the current personnel shortages on a transnational scale. Many modern companies, mostly within the digital industry, are trying out new and more flexible working methods right now. To achieve this, they source projects, working in virtual teams and using co-working spaces – and this makes them the perfect port of call for digital nomads.
The downside of independent working
Nice though it may sound, there is also a downside to life as a digital nomad, because constant relocation can be fairly strenuous. Factors that a normal office worker takes for granted make working harder for digital nomads. For instance, not having a power point, a bad WiFi connection and uncomfortable seating are the three main causes for complaint to mobile workers. Because of this, many digital nomads invest in co-working spaces, which are office units accessible to the public and rented on a timeslot basis. The advantages of premises like these are not to be underestimated: locking rooms, a functional infrastructure with PC, printer, scanner, telephone and WiFi – and last but not least ergonomic office chairs – make it much easier to remain focused on your work for several hours at a stretch.
New incentives for the office
It seems the traditional office is far from obsolete. It’s more a case of thinking up new incentives for digital nomads. With the help of dynamic and flexible working environments that provide space for focused working and retreat as well as communication and cooperation, the mobile workers can enjoy the benefits of a fixed workstation – at least while they are there. Essential features here are adjustable furniture to allow scope for creativity and plenty of storage, as well as conveniently-positioned plug sockets to power the digital devices. So it’s important to create temporary workstations that can be occupied by the digital nomads for short periods without a lot of fuss.
What do you think about the subject of working anywhere? What effects will digital nomads have on the working world of the future? I look forward to receiving your comments!