How Digital Nomads Are Reinventing Work

Working without an office, living without a home: this is what a Digital Nomad’s life looks like. Tired of working in a closed environment, digital nomads push back the limits of their work-life environments.

A digital nomad is someone who works remotely while traveling. Constantly on the move, digital nomads just need their laptop to work, and thus they can do it everywhere in the world. It’s a way of thinking out of the box, a rejection of the conventional idea of working in an office and all the routine that goes with it. Being a digital nomad is not only a new way of working: it is a lifestyle.

Indeed they question the idea of work space and time. They can work wherever they want as long as there is wifi, and moreover they can work whenever they want. If they want to stop working for some days or weeks they can. Digital nomads usually spend a few months in each country before moving to a new one. “To me, the good rythm is to work one month in a city, so you can explore and get used to it, then get two weeks of vacations in the country to visit”, says Marie, a consultant in digital marketing who has been living as a digital nomad for 6 months.

Who are Digital nomads? Usually they used to work in traditional companies as web developers, marketers, consultants… and wanted a change in their life. Marie said “it seemed obvious to me, I wanted to leave and I realized my job allowed me to do it.” Do you regret it ? “Never. There’s no day like the other. I recommend it. Everyone should experiment this way of life.

Thus, being a digital nomad means working on your own: this way of working means a kind of individualism and even isolation. Digital nomads plan their work schedule as they want, often allowing themselves more vacation time than a traditional employee, they are usually entrepreneurs and they are not accountable to any colleague or manager: their only constraint is to earn a sufficient income, which means satisfying their clients.

In that sense, there are some managerial issues you have to take into account: how can we consider collectively the digital nomad status? To what extent can a digital nomad work for a standard organization or take part in a project involving other people?

Indeed, an organization is characterized by a unit of space and a unit of time. The workspace is part of the organization’s identity: it hosts its rules, protects employees and guarantees the transmission of information throughout the different services. It also outlines the position of the workers and a hierarchic structure. Furthermore, corporate life is punctuated by the beginning and end of a workday: work times are strictly defined. All these characteristics enhance collaboration and allow the achievement of common objectives.

Given that theoretical situation, it seems hard for a digital nomad to work for an organization and to abide by its rules. As digital nomads choose when and where they work, it is hard for them to be part of a traditional firm. Belonging to a work group would potentially mean that their coworkers would have to adapt their work schedule to that of a nomad.

Working as a digital nomad is a marginal phenomenon; a lifestyle choice which is not compatible with all kinds of jobs and profiles. In any case, unlike the dominant philosophy, the digital nomad understands work as a means rather than an end.

Etienne & Claire-Marie

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