Understanding the World of the Digital Nomad

It’s a term we hear all the time, yet who are ‘digital nomads’ in reality? Often romanticised as footloose freelancers with a laptop and a beach view, digital nomads are in fact more difficult to define than we might think. After all, as technology reaches more and more corners of our lives, the time and the places that we dedicate to work, rest and play have become increasingly blurred.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, ‘blue collar’ workers around the globe were starting to act on their desire to work remotely or travel for various purposes and lengths of time, across the globe or in their home country. As many of us have witnessed, the pandemic has cut the bonds between the classic formula of ‘office = work, home = rest’. Where this was once unthinkable, major employers in the public and private sectors are introducing flexible work policies requiring only partial attendance by employees at their workspaces, or even none at all – bringing teams together only when it’s strictly required. Unsurprisingly, as this report explains, this has led many millions of employees around the world to consider changing their career path, to take time out or just to do a job with an ever-changing backdrop.

Ultimately, digital nomadism can be defined as a lifestyle choice, for people who choose to travel the world while they work online. Here, it is important to make the difference between digital nomads and remote workers. We can classify digital nomads as remote workers but not all remote workers can be digital nomads, since not all remote workers are necessarily open to travel. Thus, the term digital nomad describes a category of mobile professionals who perform their work remotely from anywhere in the world, utilizing digital technologies, while digital nomadism refers to the lifestyle that is developed by these highly mobile location independent professionals.

In general, digital nomads are typically considered to be highly skilled, and digitally savvy, with many working in fields such as computer programming and IT, web design, creative fields, engineering, finance and digital and traditional marketing. However this list is certainly not exhaustive, and the nature of the work that a digital nomad might do is constantly evolving, as more individuals undertake careers while on the move. In this report, our attention focuses on remote workers both with traditional jobs that experienced a steep increase during the pandemic and independent workers such as freelancers.

This report examines the digital nomad lifestyle in more detail and explores the opportunities and challenges that the digital nomad market could bring to cities that want to become more attractive to the ‘long stay’ market.