Digital Nomadism’s Impact on Returning to Work Post-Pandemic

Updated: Jul 8

During the covid-19 pandemic, many businesses were forced to use virtual employment practices. This created a new type of employee: the digital nomad. Since 2019, the volume of digital nomads in the United States has risen by almost 50% (MBO, 2020). As we begin entering the post-pandemic workplace, what is to come of the digital nomad? Will they return to the traditional in-person workplace or will they look for new employment opportunities? What is a digital nomad and how do they feel about returning to the workplace? Understanding the plight of the digital nomads will help executives better understand the wants, needs, and experiences of their new virtual workplace—which could, in turn, lead to more informed decision-making and more effective business decisions.

“Adventures are the best way to learn.” - Anonymous

What is a digital nomad?

Digital Nomadism has been a “mainstream phenomenon” since 2014 (Schlagwein, 2018). According to a recent article from ePraxis, the digital nomad is an employee “who [travels] and [lives] a nomadic lifestyle, whose work is location-independent and performed using information and communication technology.”

Instead of working from home, they have adopted a lifestyle of travel. They are at times “constantly on the road” and other times traveling only occasionally for a change of scenery (Bachar, 2021). Digital nomads live a life that is “location-independent” moving from place to place at their leisure (MBO, 2020). They are different from work-from-home employees because what they call “home” is subject to change at their will. These people are not bound to a single location because of the traditional 9-5 office position and have adopted a unique work-life balance that allows them greater flexibility and freedom.

The digital nomad’s decreased barriers to travel

In 2018, the U.S Government conducted a survey on the state of American vacations (please note that these numbers are unaffected by the Covid pandemic and were gathered before the pandemic was present. Because of this, we can presume that travel will most likely return to statistics similar to these in upcoming years). The U.S Government outlines several key “barriers to travel” of which, the top three are:

  1. Fear of looking replaceable

  2. Too heavy of a workload

  3. Lack of coverage at work

Digital nomads no longer face these barriers. In the digital workplace, they do not worry about “looking replaceable” because they are still able to complete their tasks virtually. Heavy workloads are not concerning, as the workload can be managed from any location. Lastly, they do not need co-workers to cover their duties because they can continue working as they travel.

These barriers, overcome by access to the virtual workplace, no longer apply to digital nomads. Digital nomads no longer have to use vacation days or risk getting behind in their tasks, allowing them to travel at their own leisure and develop their own unique work-life balance.

Key facts about the digital nomad

  • 42% of Digital Nomads are Millennials

  • 59% of digital nomads are men

  • 81% of digital nomads are “highly satisfied” with their work and lifestyle

  • In 2020, 53% of digital nomads plan to continue being nomadic for at least the next two years

  • 76% of digital nomads report being satisfied or very satisfied with their income regardless of salary

  • 17% of American digital nomads are “VanLifers” or travel in vehicles “that have been converted into roaming residences” (MBO, 2020)

The experience of the digital nomad