Who are the Digital Nomads?
Digital nomads are mostly self-employed workers who value the freedom to travel and are leveraging the power of the internet to work wherever they journey. They spend months or years abroad, changing their destination regularly, all while earning a living by working online. Often toiling in coffee shops, public libraries or co-working spaces, they work anywhere they can connect to the internet with their smartphones and laptops. The nomadic lifestyle enables them to travel in foreign countries, take advantage of global opportunities, make their own hours, experience desirable climates and enjoy a sought-after work-life balance.
Who are these Digital Nomads?
Digital nomads share a passion for adventure which they have prioritized over job security. Since future work is seldom guaranteed, they take that risk to stay mobile and pursue travel often in exotic locations.
While digital nomads tend to be younger and male, people from all age groups are employing this lifestyle. Nearly one-third are female and over half are older than 38 years old. Most are full or part-time independent workers – freelancers, independent contractors, self-employed, etc., and in creative jobs such as writers, designers, IT and marketing professions. Some are remote workers with traditional corporate jobs working for companies who have embraced a mobile workforce. All are working in location-independent jobs that can be done remotely using digital tools via the internet.
Digital Nomad Lifestyle is Growing
In the recent MBO Partners State of Independence in America Research Brief, 4.8 million Americans described themselves as digital nomads. Among traditional U.S. workers, 27% said they "might" become digital nomads in the next 2-3 years, and 11% said they planned to.
The growth of this lifestyle is spurred on by several factors. Most importantly is the spread of fast, cheap internet around the globe. Wi-Fi is now available everywhere and at increasingly faster internet speeds. Similarly, the ability to travel cheaply to every corner of the world via budget airlines is a motivating factor.
Another driver is the growth and acceptance of freelance and remote workers. Businesses today value the cost efficiency of outsourcing short-term projects to skilled freelancers. The Freelancers Union together with the platform Upwork predicts that by 2027 more than 50% of the US population will be working as freelancers. Likewise, the NY Times reports most industries have embraced the idea of working remotely — none more rapidly than the finance, insurance and real estate industries. The share of workers in those fields who report working remotely at least sometimes rose eight percentage points, to 47 percent, from 2012 to 2016. In the transportation, computer, information systems and mathematics industries, over half of employees work remotely some of the time.
Add to that the millennial mindset of working remotely. Studies find that millennials are more likely to want to work for an organization if they offer flexibility including the ability to work remotely. And a FlexJobs report disclosed that 82% of millennials said they are more loyal to their employer if they have flexible work options. Also, this lifestyle provides an option for the many baby boomers looking to work past retirement age and travel.
Supporting the Digital Nomad Lifestyle
For these ‘citizens of the world’ who prefer a place that enables them to focus on work, co-working spaces are a great option. Co-working spaces provide a quiet and productive atmosphere plus the opportunity to collaborate, socialize, network and even make new friends. Co-working spaces also offer a high degree of flexibility.
Co-working space is growing rapidly and is expanding beyond office buildings and warehouses. According to research by Horwath HTL, hotels are transforming their business centers and meeting facilities into co-working spaces and introducing more shared spaces and common areas for guests and locals. In addition, these hotels are creating guest room options designed for both short and long stays by using both traditional hotel rooms and serviced apartments or suites with kitchenettes. In this way, co-working hotels offer a hybrid of working, sleeping and living spaces that anticipate the needs of the growing group of digital nomads. The trend is also finding a home in apartment and condominium complexes that are converting their business centers into co-working space.
Many companies and technologies support digital nomads making this lifestyle easier. For example, Roam is an international network of co-living spaces that has hosted more than 2,200 members. The company offers everything needed by digital nomads including the tools to be productive and comfortable, redundant high speed internet, a co-working space, and a diverse community. Jobbatical is an online job site for tech, business or creative jobs anywhere in the world. There is also the Nomad List, a database with helpful demographics on cities around the world to help digital nomads decide where to go next.
As companies continue struggling to attract and retain employees, offering greater flexibility for workers is a critical way to preserve both employee and freelance relationships while lowering overhead costs, improving productivity and engaging staff. As the digital nomad movement continues to explode so will the need for co-working spaces.