With pandemic life winding down to a close and the world showing signs of a slow but sure return to normality (hopefully), many are being called back into the office and relinquishing their freedom to wake up at five to nine and sit in their pyjamas all day.
This abrupt return to a more structured life might be a godsend for some, but others might soon realise that they crave the flexibility that teleworking offered more than they initially thought and wish they could see how to take it further.
Welcome to the world of the digital nomad
So, what is a digital nomad? A far cry from a desert-wandering loner, a digital nomad is someone who packs up their devices with them and works remotely from wherever they want, whether somewhere as exotic as a beach in the Bahamas or as homely as the Starbucks 10 minutes down the road.
Digital nomads are mostly free to create their own schedules, due to the vast majority of them being freelancers and working for themselves, but with that comes risks and responsibilities that might not suit everybody.
Is this way of working right for me?
You might now be contemplating this type of lifestyle for yourself, whether you like the idea of travelling the world whilst working or you would prefer something more close to home and comfortable, but you have to decide if it suits the skill set you have or – if not – if you are able to develop what’s required to juggle the freedom provided to you and the responsibilities you have.
Let’s first weigh up the pros and cons of working in a more structured environment such as an office:
A more regimented lifestyle can make it easier to plan around your work, both with the free time you have for other activities or commitments and also financially.
Working in an office environment or around others in general is better for your wellbeing.
According to the Mindspace Employee Happiness Survey (2019) out of 5000 people across the world, 75% of them feel that working in a collaborative environment makes them happier and that happy employees prefer working from an office, whilst more unhappy employees prefer to work from home.
That’s a lot of happy people.
Work / Life Balance
Turning up to a specific place to get work done and then returning back home to relax separates the spaces you are physically and to some extent mentally in. This trains your brain and instills discipline, as you associate being in the office with working hard and at home as playing hard or relaxing.
This helps you avoid burnout from working too much and also avoiding distractions that are present at home, the place you associate with taking it easy.
Depending on the type of person you are, this may view this as either a great thing or a terrible thing. On the one hand, having to travel to work provides time to prepare yourself for the day and reflect on life, listen to some nice music or catch up on news, reading or making notes (hopefully not if you’re behind the wheel yourself!).
On the other hand, this requires waking up earlier and getting ready and depending on how far the office is from you, a long journey that might be a hassle especially if you rely on public transport.
But whether the travel to work is a positive or negative factor depends on the type of person you are, so we’ve listed this one as neutral!
Less free time
Structure has already been mentioned as a positive, but it isn’t without its drawbacks. Having dedicated time to spend in an office and travel times there and back limits free time quite a lot, depending on your working hours and commuting distance.
This may require you to make compromises and tough decisions, as with only a finite amount of time during the day it’s impossible to do everything at once.
You’ll have to decide if you want to have your cake or eat it.
If you decide to work at an office, you’ll likely spend money not only on getting there but also on food.
Of course you can prepare food in advance at home and save money that way, but nothing can save you from being next in-line to buy a round at the work Friday social!
The “Digital Nomad” Lifestyle
Being a freelancer or working remotely gives you a lot more variety to your work day, even in small ways such as being able to afford the luxury of abusing the snooze button and choosing a full English for breakfast over waking up at 7 and having a granola bar and the blackest coffee physically possible.
You’re more in the driving seat, than along for the ride.
Which is ironic, as you don’t really have to worry about making your way to work (unless you really want to)
If you’re the one making the rules, you get to decide the times for work and the times for anything else you’d like to do. If you’re not the one making the rules, you still have the benefit of finishing for the day and already being home and this opens up a lot of options.
Having more time doing things you enjoy is invaluable. So feel free to catch up on your backlog of movies and TV shows that you previously didn’t have time to, as well as going to the gym and cooking dinner for yourself or your family.
In the case of people who are their own boss, they can choose their own working hours. But even for those who aren’t self-employed but living the digital nomad lifestyle, there exists the freedom to work from wherever they want.
This allows people to visit the places they always dreamed of without it eating into their holiday allowances and be able to experience what it is like to work in a different country in their culture. From joining a video conference from a ramen bar in Japan to completing your final proposal in an Alpine lodge, the possibilities are as endless as your imagination…and what flights are still running!
Choice of device and operating system
A lot of the time when working in an office, your hardware will be provided to you and more often than not, what you get is what you get. When you travel around to work, you’ll likely be using your own device which means you can have the perfect experience for you.
You could be typical and do video production on a MacBook in an upcycled coffee shop, travel the Lake District in a campervan whilst doing web design on a Linux ultrabook or pen your latest blog post on a Windows desktop in an Airbnb.
When it comes to the choices given to you with this style of working, the world is your oyster
Cost variability (depending on your style)
If your desire to work whilst seeking adventure extends only as far as your home office or cafe of choice, this doesn’t particularly apply to you. But for those of you who want to explore uncharted territory and head to the horizon, keyboard in hand – it’s not going to be cheap!
If you decide to head out in a campervan and hit the road for a true digital nomad lifestyle, there are conversion costs associated with equipping your vehicle with suitable facilities for power, storage and a place to work and sleep. Not only this, but petrol isn’t cheap either!
These costs are greatly magnified if you are wanting to catch flights to other countries or even continents, as not only is it expensive to get to many other places but with so many different economies at play and different costs of living, you may find it difficult to not only keep yourself afloat but also pay for all the activities you plan to do whilst you’re there.
This level of managing a budget can be scary on its own, but with the risk of potentially being stranded in foreign lands you need to make sure you have backups in place and you can support yourself effectively!
If you plan on heading off to pastures new to work in, if you don’t know anyone there or have anyone else coming with you (which will be more unlikely if you have a family and strong roots at home) it might be quite a lonely experience.
You might meet people of similar backgrounds and new people wherever it is you go, but it might prove difficult to hold onto relationships and friendships in such a non-fixed way of living
As most digital nomads usually work for themselves, either as freelancers or contractors, it may be hard to organise your own workload, get the work done and maintain existing clients if that will be the case for you.
If you are employed by a company and allowed to work remotely, this is more stable than finding work for yourself, but it is easy to lose track of your obligations and workload. Communication can easily go by the wayside if you are not careful!
What side are you on?
After reading this article you will have a decision to make:
Would you prefer the more organised and structured approach of office work, or the freedom of being able to work from whatever you want, wherever you want?
Whichever balancing act you choose, or if its a completely different approach to working we haven’t talked about – let us know your preferred approach to your working life!