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How digital nomads differ from remote workers working from home

Search Remotely Characteristics Of Digital Nomad Vs Remote Worker

Do you often wonder the ways in which digital nomads differ from remote workers working from home? Is the distinction as simple as saying that digital nomads, “work from anywhere?”  This article seeks to answer the question. Please follow along with us.

Remote workers: the default umbrella term

As a background, many include within the umbrella term, ‘remote workers’, digital nomads. Other terms are also included:  gig workers,  telecommuters, freelancers,  WFH (work from home), location-independent workers, and online entrepreneurs writes Hannonen (2020).

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What does Alma Andino Frydman who prepared her report, “Work and Pleasure: Investigating the Rise of Digital Nomads in Mexico that appeared in the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy (SIEPR) have to say about digital nomads? She explained the following.

Unique characteristics of digital nomads

A digital nomad is someone who is detached from a particular location. They work simultaneously while also traveling the world. Unlike those who work from home, digital nomads do not use their ‘home’ as their base of operations. This ability to work independently from one set location may allow them opportunities to dedicate more of their free time to adventure, personal fulfillment, hobbies; and yes, travel!

Now that we have defined digital nomads, who are they? Research indicates the following characteristics:

  • 35 million digital nomads globally,
  • 16.9 million Americans consider themselves digital nomads,
  • 46 countries as of 2022 offer digital nomad visas.
  • young workers within the Gen Z and Millennials age group,
  • highly motivated, highly self determined,  and free-spirited (Macgilchristet al.,2020),
  • often share their way of living on social media,
  • 76% had their own business or worked independently before becoming a digital nomad (MBO Partners, 2022),
  • 66% work traditional jobs (in employer/employee relationship),
  • 59% have a college degree, and
  • 26% hold advanced educational degrees,
  • 69% plan to continue working as a digital nomad for the next two to three years.

But, you may ask, “beyond the freedom to travel, why do individuals prefer digital nomadism over a work from home position?”

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Tereza Simova, in her article, “A research framework for digital nomadism: a bibliometric study,” published in the World Leisure Journal (2023, volume 65, no.2, pg 175-191) suggests that digital nomads take the opportunity to “combine work and travel.” Digital nomads  simultaneously work while permanently or semi-permanently traveling so as to (a) obtain new skills or to (b) experience fun and exciting adventures.

Digital nomads: self guided travel or employer directed travel ?

According to Simova’ study, digital nomads seek to take advantage of remote work job opportunities to select exotic destinations from which to work that are closely aligned to their lifestyle as well as provide the requisite requirements necessary to complete daily remote job tasks and assignments.

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For this reason, the term ‘digital nomad’, to be adequately defined includes someone who combines remote work and travel that offers the maximum work-life balance and work-leisure lifestyle combinations (Makimoto and Manners, 1997).  Twenty years later, Orel posited digital nomads are people who have an optimal work/leisure ratio, who value freedom of movement quite highly, and who like to work in community-oriented workspaces.”

Muller, in 2016 made further distinctions within the digital nomad remote work and traveling workforce. He suggested the following:

  • digital nomads are ‘flashpackers’ who may impulsively or painstakingly identify an exotic travel location, travel there taking all of their digital equipment with them and
  • digital nomads are those who move and travel at the behest of their employer

Simova, in the most simplistic and pragmatic terms,  defines digital nomads as “individuals with a mobile lifestyle that combines work and leisure, requiring a particular set of skills and equipment.” (pg. 177).

6 challenges of digital nomadism

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Even though one may envy the lifestyle of a digital nomad, it is not without its risks. MBO Partners identified these challenges related to the digital nomad way of life:

  • personal safety,
  • separation from longtime friends and family,
  • differences in time zones,
  • loneliness,
  • travel logistics, and
  • concurrent management of work and travel.









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