The extraordinary rise of the digital nomad

The extraordinary rise of the digital nomad

The number of full-time employees who described themselves as digital nomads doubled in 2020. How does flexspace and hybrid working meet the needs of this rapidly growing demographic?

The past two years have marked the rapid expansion of hybrid working, where employees are empowered to split their time between working from home, from the head office and from a neighbourhood coworking space. But some companies are taking it one step further and have fully embraced the idea of WFA (Work From Anywhere). They have recognised that their employees really can WFA - all they need is Wi-Fi and a laptop.

Having an IWG membership, whether you’re part of a multinational corporation, a start-up or a self-employed consultant or freelancer, means that you - or your employees - can drop into any one of IWG’s 3,500 locations across the world. With a presence in 120 markets, digital nomads can operate from a professional workspace, from Regus 8 Rue Charles de Remusat, in Toulouse, France, to Spaces Exchange 106 in Kuala Lumpur and HQ Northriding in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The growth of these flexible workspaces helps to explain the extraordinary rise of digital nomads, who are defined as those who live a ‘location-independent, technology-enabled lifestyle that allows them to travel and work remotely, anywhere in the internet-connected world.’

A 2020 study by MBO Partners on the sector found that nearly 11 million American workers consider themselves digital nomads – up from 4.8 million in 2018 – while 17 million aspire to become location independent over the next few years.

While previously a lifestyle reserved only for freelancers and travel bloggers, the report also shows that the number of digital nomads in what are considered to be traditional, full-time roles has risen dramatically – from 3.2 million in 2019 to 6.3 million in 2020.

This has resulted in big name companies such as Spotify, Twitter and Salesforce announcing that their employees are allowed to work remotely as a permanent option. Spotify’s Work From Anywhere model not only allows its employees to choose the country and city they work in, but will also provide coworking space membership for all of its workers.

It’s important that companies wishing to attract and retain talent in the new world of work adapt their businesses to consider the digital nomad community. Here are a few tips on how to meet their needs.

1. Introduce ‘digital nomad’ work policies

Unlike employees who base themselves in and around one location, digital nomads travel around so it’s important to have suitable policies in place. Companies must consider the regulatory and legal risks of having ‘location-independent’ employees who work while travelling through different countries. US law firm Littler has compiled a report that unpacks some of the legal issues surrounding employees who work as they travel.

2. Work in similar time zones

Working in similar time zones to head office will mean that remote ‘travelling’ teams are reachable within standard business hours. “For the sake of maintaining your productivity and open team communication, you need to set clear guidelines about availability,” says Janelle Owens, HR Director at Test Prep Insight in a feature for Ivy Exec. “For us, this means that overseas employees have to be logged on for at least four hours of every workday that overlaps with our team on the US West Coast.”

3. Ensure access to secure, reliable internet

In some countries, internet connection is too weak and this will be an issue for the digital nomad community. Companies that can provide access to a professional coworking space will address the key issue of finding safe, secure and reliable Wi-Fi to work from. IWG memberships will ensure that digital nomads have everything they need to keep working on the road.

The rise of digital nomads reflects the broader worldwide shift towards hybrid working, with an increasing number of progressive companies taking the model a step further by allowing their employees to WFA. And with 90% of digital nomads happier in their jobs, and another study showing they are 13% more productive than their office-based colleagues, companies are only set to benefit from the change.

Even more locations for digital nomads

IWG has recently partnered with the world leader in airport hospitality, Plaza Premium Lounge (PPL), to offer all IWG customers a discounted rate on airport lounge access across the Plaza Premium Lounge network.

Located in 70 international airports across 30 countries and regions, the lounges offer a comfortable and convenient base for business travellers and digital nomads on the move. With its strong presence in Asia and Europe, and continuous growth in the Americas – from their award-winning London Heathrow T2 departure lounge to its recent debut at Budapest Airport, and the recently introduced São Paulo/Guarulhos International Airport T2 departure, an architectural masterpiece of modern design and sustainability – the partnership allows immediate accessibility to IWG members, enabling them to operate on a safe and secure network, ensuring peace of mind through a comfortable and relaxing airport experience.

All that IWG members need to do is show their membership card on their Regus or Spaces app to get the discount and to access any of PPL's walk-in lounges.

Discover how IWG membership can help you or your team embrace the digital nomad lifestyle, with access to 3,500 flexible workspaces worldwide.