Digital nomads travel light. They take full advantage of our ultra-connected world to work wherever suits them. At the moment, they are still part of a minor trend but the nomad worker phenomenon is nevertheless well and truly underway.

Digital nomads: a burgeoning species

A laptop, a smartphone and an Internet connection: these comprise the basic toolkit of the digital nomad, a new type of worker who likes to combine work and freedom to travel. So far, however very few people have adopted this lifestyle full time, Emmanuel Guisset, founder of co-working space provider Outsite, told the audience at the Future of Work event hosted in San Francisco by the Mangrove group of tech freelancers and entrepreneurs on 30 November, underlining: “True digital nomads, those who practice this way of life full time, still represent a niche.” In fact, in spite of all the freedom that we might all dream of having, the life of a digital nomad is not without its serious challenges.

 

 

Tomorrow’s mobile worker will face a number of challenges

“It’s inherent in our human nature to need some fixed reference points – a home for instance. Being surrounded by our ‘tribe’ – family and friends – is also important,” argued Sondre Rasch, founder of Konsus, a startup which specialises in putting companies and freelance providers in touch with each other. The freelance nomad may find it difficult to stay in sync with his/her contacts, not least the customers, pointed out Tessa Greenleaf, ‘matching specialist’ at Cloudpeeps – a community, marketplace and platform that helps freelancers and businesses to work well together. “Customers and other partners don’t always share the same lifestyle as the digital nomad, so he or she has to strike a balance,” she stressed. However, being a ‘digital nomad’ doesn’t necessarily mean working while travelling 12 months a year; a few weeks at the other side of the world or a month’s seclusion in the countryside to concentrate on a business venture are also variants of the digital nomad phenomenon.

Digital nomad community expanding

Whatever people say, the phenomenon is clearly well and truly underway. Lots of companies nowadays try to motivate their employees to think outside the box of traditional workstyles. According to a report by Polycom, a US multinational that develops video, voice and content collaboration and communication technology, 48% of US companies now encourage their staff to work from home and on any type of device. Moreover, freelancers are now said to represent a third of the total working population in the United States, and this figure is steadily increasing. True digital nomads, who are undoubtedly the standard bearers of future work practices, are still a smallish community right now, but their numbers are certainly on the rise.

 

By Pauline Canteneur