REMOTE WORK

Working with digital nomads – the comprehensive guide

According to the Adventure Travel trade association data, up to 20% of US employees have become digital nomads due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet the core reason behind abandoning office-based work and replacing it with traveling is not the pandemic itself, but the spread and popularization of remote work and hybrid work.

The respondents from the research quoted above point out that the top reasons behind adopting the digital nomad lifestyle are the ability to work travel constantly, experience different cultures, and meet local people.

After the pandemic and the sudden transformation of office workers to remote workers, there are roughly 10.9 million digital nomads in the US-only, with a whopping 81% satisfied with their lifestyle and work choices.

But what is the digital nomad after all?

Digital nomad meaning

A nomad is a person or a community of people without a fixed habitation, yet who regularly move from and to the same areas. The livestock herders or seasonal travelers are great examples of people who change their place of living regularly, for various reasons.

Traditional nomadism was tied to a particular lifestyle and trade that can be done while traveling. It can be for example trading, small-scale craftsmanship, and herding.

The digital nomad shares the quality of living without a fixed habitation or regular switching while moving to and from some particular location. The key difference is that the digital nomad is working remotely in a more traditional company, delivering the typical job like social media marketer, graphic designer, content creator, or web designer. Any job can be done as long as it can be delivered using the internet connection and a computer.

How to be a digital nomad

Considering the definition delivered above, becoming and living as a digital nomad is today more a choice rather than a heritage. Also, one can choose to become a remote traveler for some time and then plug in back to the stationary system.

Digital nomad jobs

According to the information gathered by passport-photo.online the (non-dominant) majority of digital nomads (19%) work as IT specialists. Others provide creative services like writing or graphic design (10%), provide consultancy services (8%), marketing support (8%), and financial and accounting services (8%).

The data shows that 36% of them work as freelancers providing their services for multiple companies. Also, 33% own their own business, 21% work for one company only and 5% provide consulting services for one company.

A good indicator of how highly desired these specialists can be is the fact that 64% of them perform jobs that require specialized training, education, and some uncommon expertise.

How to work with digital nomads

Digital nomads are – well – digital, so first and foremost, the company needs to be digital as well. This means that the more traditional and conservative organizations can find it difficult to incorporate a traveler with a laptop into the team.

But it doesn’t mean that the more advanced and digital organization will do it seamlessly. Not even close – the digital vagabond comes with all pros and cons of his or her lifestyle.

Flexibility

The flexibility and ability to work from any place and nearly any time given is one of the key aspects of digital nomadism. As with everything associated with this group, this can come with some pros and cons.

Pros

Getting the job done – without the office-delivered illusion of working when not working, the digital nomad feels more obliged to deliver the job. So obliged that being overworked is cited as a block from productivity for 29% of remote workers cited by Fiverr.

Cons

The flexibility needs to come from both the company and the specialist. Living and working as a modern digital traveler requires traveling and assumes there is some sightseeing done. Thus, the working day of the remote specialist can be chopped into chunks summing up to the desired length, yet scattered throughout the day.

In the end, it may end with the employee finishing his job in a short time net, yet long time gross due to the breaks and trips done in the meantime.

Time tracking

Due to the reasons mentioned above, time tracking is crucial when cooperating with the digital nomad – assuming the contract requires one to deliver a fixed working time. If the remote employee’s job is to provide the employer with the desired outcome, it is not necessary. And it is a common practice when working with a freelancer.

When looking at the profile of the typical digital nomad, the majority share is composed of jobs that require hourly billing, for example, IT specialists, accountants, and consultants.

Pros:

Time tracking provides both parties, transparency and ensures that the agreement is stuck to. Also, the tool prevents the remote worker from over hours, kindly reminding them about finishing the job and transferring it to the next day.

Cons:

With the time tracked, some individuals may feel uncomfortable. This is nothing to be surprised by, yet it requires a deal of management. The company needs either to ensure that time tracking is about protecting the rights and responsibilities of both parties rather than overcontrolling and micromanagement.

In some scenarios the time tracking can be actually a benefit for the employee!

Time off management

Similar to the time tracking, the digital time off management is vital when it comes to working with online nomads. One can be non-responsive due to the day off, a sudden sickness or multitude of other reasons. Having it all managed and stored in one place comes as a must for the company.

Also, the tighter the relationship between the company and the digital nomad, the more important it is to ensure the availability of his or her skills in crucial time. The time off manager enables the company to manage the available skill pool in the upcoming future, making any plans and estimations much easier.

More about the time off management for remote workers and employees was delivered in one of our recent blog posts.

Accountability and Transparency

Probably the most important part of working with all people, not only digital nomads. Companies willing to use remote work and hybrid work on a regular basis need to prepare and implement procedures regulating the matter. The policy needs to regulate as many aspects as the company finds suitable, depending on the type of work done.

Among the typical aspects that need to be considered when preparing the police one can name:

  • Meetings – setting a particular timeframe to run meetings, fixed to one timezone, is a great idea to express the expectations and set the boundaries regarding the availability. Thus, when having this matter regulated neither the nomad nor the on-site manager should be surprised with a request to meet at a certain time or with decline of so.
  • Availability on the contact tools – this applies for responding with Slack or replying with emails. Similar to the case above, yet less engaging for the employee residing in another timezone.
  • Project management – the policy should regulate the way the projects with employees in different time zones are managed and what techniques are used to keep all parties synchronized. For example – is it allowed for the IT specialist to deliver a daily report in a written form instead of attending the scrum meeting.
  • Time off management – the policy should also set the rules regarding the time off, vacations, workcations and other types of leaves. For example – is one entitled to have a day off for the national holidays in the country one leaves if he or she is not a citizen? Is the citizen of another country entitled to have a day off for his or her independence day, even if residing in another country? Having these matters unspecified can lead to unexpected complications, with employees being unavailable for apparently no reason, or working when the rest of the company has a granted day off.

Right tech stack

Last but not least, the company that wishes to work with digital nomads and distributed employees in general needs to build the toolset that supports getting the job done without sharing the space. This includes:

  • Meetings – the online tools need to provide both the infrastructure to meet and the supporting tools like online whiteboards and planning. Microsoft Teams are one of interesting picks in this area.
  • Collaboration – there is a plethora of tools used to ease and support the collaboration in the office, be that Google Workspace or Microsoft Office. The challenge is in choosing one and sticking to it in the whole company, regardless of the internal workflows used by separate departments.
  • Project management – the distributed team needs a point of reference when it comes to managing the tasks and project progress. Depending on the company’s industry, Asana or Jira are good picks.
  • Time tracking and time off management – as mentioned above, resolving the issues with billing, overtime and time off is one of key challenges in working with digital nomads. Picking the software that is easy to use, reliable and flexible provides both sides with both the security and the convenience.
  • Communication – last but not least, the company needs an asynchronous and reliable way to communicate. With the email overwhelming, solutions like Slack are the best pick currently.

Summary

Digital nomads are an interesting group of specialists who bring the new lifestyle to the conservative landscape of established companies. When properly managed and supported, they can bring the rocket fuel of their skills and fresh minds to the company.

If you wish to talk more about the ways digital nomads and Calamari can support your company, don’t hesitate to contact us now!

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