Digital nomads and remote workers on the rise in the world
May 11, 2021
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by Arabella Seebaluck

Digital nomads and remote work defined

Google some news about digital nomad trends or remote work and the results you yield are all about working incentives in Costa Rica, the legality of such workers in Asia or how to live la dolce vita in Italy.

The term itself has me slightly bothered, much like the term ‘influencer’. I am a GenX mother to a millennial, but that doesn’t help. Neither does it that I work as a consultant for a distributed company and suddenly find myself in the same category. (I want to add a sticker or hashtag here… eeewww.)

The case of Youpal Group

So why are digital nomads such a hyped up class, or gig workers, or those working in remote companies like myself? Uteckie’s cover story on 11 May refers to an attempt to classify such workers, so that they are empowered with benefits such as sick pay or leave. Youpal Group, the company which I am part of, is itself is joining in this endeavour, as COO James Baker-Duly said:

“We want to have some elements of social security, which doesn’t currently exist in the gig model. So, let’s say you face some form or other of employment severance, you simply don’t get paid in this type of model. What we want is to put in a place a mechanism which will offer some sort of social assistance. It’s very difficult, but we are determined to see it through, eventually.”

There’s no place like home

Another interesting reason why digital nomads were pointed at in recent times is because Nashville came up in a study as being among the best cities to live and work remotely for digital nomads. Yes, Nashville. Other than it being a hub for country music, it appears that rent and lower costs of living were also the appeal.

The respondents mostly hail from the U.S. in this case, which has one of the largest communities of domestic nomads. A survey says 53% of remote workers in the U.S. prefer to stay in their own country, for better internet and other technological infrastructure. These being the crucial elements of being able to adopt this lifestyle. But what about the other nomads, from other parts of the world?

From Nashville to Napoli

Italy is the latest candidate of an incentive programme to attract more such workers to its country. Hardly hit by the pandemic last year, we all witnessed the scenes of desperation in the many cities across the nation.

Italy wants to bounce back from that. It apparently already has, Michele Capecchi writes in The Florentine: “A side effect of Covid in Italy, according to a study by the Smart Working Observatory of the Politecnico di Milano, is that agile workers increased from 570,000 in 2019 to 6.5 million during the spring 2020 lockdown. An estimated five million people will continue to work permanently on a remote basis in coming years.”

Italy is far from being the only place to have facilitated entry and stay regulations for remote workers on the move. Eastern Europe has been designed by an article by the Nikkei as a hotspot for this category of the worldwide labour force. It is joined by picture-postcard destinations such as Barbados and Bermuda, among those publicising incentives for those in want of a corner window on the ocean.

More beaches, please!

In Asia, the Nikkei article advances, Thailand and Bali are among the favourites. But it also notes: “Yet, not a single Asian nation has seized on this trend to introduce a dedicated digital nomad visa to capitalize on the economic benefits of attracting such a population. Instead, most digital nomads in the region have existed in grey areas of the law by using short-term tourist visas that technically prohibit them from doing any kind of work.”

Costa Rica, known for being a champion of sustainability and one of the positively-emerging countries of Central America, is taking it up a notch. It is planning to vote a Law of Attraction of a different kind. Law no. 22215 will be a “Law to Attract International Workers and Remote Service Providers”. With 2.5% of its population already composed of ex-pats lured by its ‘Pura Vida’ lifestyle, tons more are likely to flock to the already idyllic location.

Digital nomadic skills

Interestingly, many digital nomads have… digital skills. That is, they work in the online environment, as web developers or content creators. A section of this workforce does other jobs such as online teaching, with English as a Second Language being the most popular for native speakers.

A Facebook group dedicated to posting jobs for remote workers offers tips and advice to noobs from the more ‘experienced’ cog of the wandering lifestyle. The most common jobs available are customer service representatives, graphic designers, content creators and social media managers. Entrepreneurs with online businesses or ‘influencers’ (yikes!) also tend to trend high on the job postings. Yougig is the latest kid on the block to offer opportunities in the IT field.

The digital nomad’s age

That’s the question which I ask myself, being someone who is way past what Pixabay or Canva show as their typical representations of ‘digital nomads’. I mean, these usually are people in their 20s, mostly of a particular ethnic profile. But if I go back to my Facebook group, it’s not quite the case.

A blog post gave me a shock. It said: “According to a survey by FlexJobs, the majority (54%) of nomads are over 38. The stereotypical millennial and generation Z nomads only comprise 27% of the entire nomad population. Baby boomers make up almost a third of digital nomads, and over 40% identify as generation X.”

The future of work

Although I am a GenX remote worker, I am yet to be able to classify myself as a nomad. I work with Youpal Group, which is a distributed company. That means, I work remotely. My company doesn’t have a physical structure that I need to go to every day. It has offices in a few countries where I could go, should I wish to travel. And that’s the closest I am right now to being a nomad. Yet, that’s not because of the company’s culture.

“The rules aren’t applied to where you are or when you work. It’s goal-oriented. That means that the company is happy as long as you deliver quality work, as per expectations and on time. People at Youpal can work wherever and whenever they feel comfortable,” Ruben Teijeiro, CTO of Youpal Group said.

I call this the future of work. I often tell people around me that this is how I see myself working as from now on. I cannot envisage a return to an office setup, although I would like a once-in-a-while drop-in to be able to get the human touch of a workplace again.

However, there is a danger to those, like me, who mix up working remotely and working from home. An article in Forbes refers to Eric Plam, president at Skyroam, a global WiFi company: “[He] suggests companies should prepare to do more than just catch up with working from home. He warns that it would be a mistake to try to simply replicate the sterile office environment into employees’ homes. “Don’t be in a rush to have staff buy a big desk and monitor to set up in their home. Instead, embrace that a great deal of office work can often be done from just about anywhere.””

Word.

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