What's next for remote work and digital nomads?

We’ve seen A LOT happen over the past 2 years. Digital nomads have gone pretty mainstream and about half of my normal friends in some way or another travel a lot and are starting to work remotely for their companies now. Over half of startups have people working remotely.

The housing problem that we talked about back then? Lots of companies have popped up to try coliving projects and there’s now countless fixed and temporary retreats around the world.

I tried to add my bit by adding the social grid to the digital nomad scene letting people meet each other on here, organizing meetups and building out this site.

But…what’s next? What can we do/organize/build now?

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That’s a good question.

As for me, one of the biggest painful moments (which can be somewhat enjoyable if you’re into planning) in being a DM is figuring out the visas. Since I have a Russian passport it’s not so straightforward as it could be. At the same time, questions like ‘what’s the cheapest way to stay in Bali for a year, visa-wise’ are universal.

If there was a single organized, open-sourced website where you could find all the answers regarding visas, that would be awesome. It’s not sexy, though, so I doubt that it’s going to be the next big thing.

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One thing I’d like to see is a site like Airbnb with the listings curated and verified.

I think Airbnb are trying to do that with their business site but are not hitting the mark, eg. having a “laptop friendly workspace” is not the same as having a properly set up desk. It can mean a kitchen table or bench with a power outlet nearby.

I’d pay extra to know I was booking somewhere that was clean, had a smooth check in and had a functional/ergonomic workspace.

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Medium-term accommodation is still a pain point. Airbnb works fine for <1-month, and rental leases are typically 1-year. Difficult to find an economic 2-3 month option.

I see a gap for a collection of properties in common DM hotspots, much like Roam/Common/similar, but more humble and priced more like an Airbnb. Nomad House comes close, but I think the properties need to be company-run so that there is a consistent experience. Just needs someone to make it happen and there doesn’t appear to be a big enough upside to incite anyone.

Meeting people is easy enough. With this forum, DC, Facebook, and others, it just takes the person to be proactive. I don’t see a big need for a super DM social network, that said it would be a nice-to-have if there was a single destination with the network effect of being “the” place to meet who’s in a city, organise a meetup etc. Nomad Forum/Trips is best poised to make that happen.

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There’s no way that remote work is even remotely close to being mainstreamed in the labour market. Maybe it’s the case with developers, but I don’t know a single person outside of the organisation that I work at that works remotely (and my organisation only shifted to encouraging remote work a couple of years ago because nobody wanted to move from Geneva to Nairobi).

It’s probably more of a supply problem than a demand problem, but there really isn’t much out there for editors and communications specialists.

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I worked at both Google/Facebook. Two very modern, technology-driven, organisations. Although “older” than most people think and still with plenty of old-way practices. Still, interesting to observe that even these companies don’t really promote/support remote working. Offices aren’t quite dead. Photo realistic VR might start to make a dent.

I believe we are still far from making remote work the norm. However that’s something I plan on changing. I’m in the process of building a new business which will setup remote work for businesses, thus enabling them to send a group of employees to work from one or several locations for a certain duration. Think remote year for businesses. I believe the future of DN is going to be company driven, part time remote work.
As DNs ourselves we know the benefit of working remotely both for our personal well being and for our productivity/creativity. What I’m struggling to find is any data proving that companies (my clients) will benefit from this. I’d like to be able to show them that their remote employees will perform better, be more loyal, drive productivity and creativity, etc. Would any of you (Levels) know where this type of data could be accesses or aggregated?
Side note, a great idea would be to create a reverse job board where companies could pick DNs based on their skills, time zone, rating and cost.

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Guys, I suspect a good bet would be office space sharing for nomads! Think Airbnb or even Couchsurfing for desks within non-DN companies. You travel somewhere and find a proactive local company (e.g. a creative agency) that has extra space. You pay them or trade favors (e.g. you help them design their new website) in exchange for access to their office space, WiFi and especially their workers. Think “crowdsourced coffee machine chit-chat”, in a way.

As a nomad, you get a semblance of teamwork with locals. The companies get someone that their employees could share ideas and perspectives, as well as some extra cash for space that is not being fully used anyway.

I don’t see this becoming mainstream, mainly out of security concerns (trade secrets, stealing equipment etc.). However, I bet you tons of progressive startups would be happy to give it a try: it’s all about the networking, after all, and who knows what perspectives could some creative from abroad bring to your business?
Whaddaya think?

I don’t think meeting people is all that easy, though you’re right about several tools being spread thin out there. The UX of NomadBase and NomadTrips need help - they are both hard to use, and unless you make it super simple and casual, people won’t get in there and hunt around. @levelsio - message me if you’d like any help there, I could definitely improve it. It would be really great just to post meetups (as events) in cities here too – I’m not really sure of the way to do that.

I’m still waiting for the day, which I think will have to come, where companies support remote work for environmental reasons or even law (to cut down on pollution/ carbon). But of course digital nomadism doesn’t really support that goal, though I’m always keen to meet nomads who want to discuss and co-create community solutions for a lower impact lifestyle. But those of us who express interest in this type of thing seem to be so spread out.

Which brings me to my next point. One thing nomads suffer dearly from is lack of networking. I’d love to see smart online networking – targeted but casual hangouts and such – where people can just get to know one another better.

After about two years of doing this and reading the job posts, I’d say most organizations who are OK with digital nomads working outside their own countries are either looking to pit freelancers against offshore labor for scrappy wages, or – on the much more positive side – have a vested interest in an internationally-minded resource, multi-cultural workforce, or distributed team – for reasons related directly to their business concept or organizational mission.

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Yes! I’d love to improve it. Can you tell me what you’d change?

But it kinda does though. The amount of stuff people buy creates more pollution through the supply chain I think. Nomads are relatively minimalist.

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You’re right – it kind of does… but it kinda doesn’t. You make a good point, but I don’t have to mention the jet-setting and ship-cruising as negatives… I do tell myself at least I don’t own a car, or drive one (often) though people who live in big cities can argue the same. As far as amount of stuff goes… not to overthink this or get off on a tangent, but unless they are nomads forever, most people have owned Stuff (big Stuff, capital ‘S’ :wink: ) in the past, and/ or will own it again some day. (Though a small segment of us are looking at longer term communal arrangements.) So while the net impact of not buying Stuff temporarily is there… not sure how great it is. It’s something though.

Anyway, even if I wasn’t doing this myself – I would still fully support a person’s right to wander long-term, reflect on their life and earn a living remotely at the same time. I think the greater positive impact we have in doing so is being exposed long-term to other cultures, and for many of us, we’re often in places with a lot less wealth than what we had growing up, and it gives us more perspective, makes us more resourceful, makes us better humans. So maybe that’s part of the bigger story to tell to companies…

  1. Make it easier to acclimate into a local place. It takes me a bit of time to get to know where’s what in the city; what style each neighbourhood is like; where are good local places to go out/eat/do jogging, etc. It’s not really difficult right now (it either just requires a bit of research on the internet, or requires you to go out and make local friends and ask them), but still it takes some time and brings a bit of stress to the whole process of ‘changing place’ every time.

  2. Make it easier to build local friendships. That’s a broader subject of course. We have websites right now like meetup.com, DN events, language exchange clubs, but in many of them you’ll meet only small extent of the local population. Other option is to start doing some local activities (dance, sports for example); or just start approaching random people on the street ;> ; but I’d love to have some other ways for it.

The problem with Facebook is that it limits you to your own friends network. I’d love to see another platform like that, but instead of being focused on your friendships, be more focused on your interests and geographical location. Just the question is if people would actually use it.

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First, I think there are different opportunities for co-living vs. co-working. In general, both might benefit from adding services that all participants need in the same way that cooperatives offer reliable wifi.
Let’s start by identifying what most DN’s see as pain points: shipping, storage, travel/medical insurance, visas, veterinary care (for those that travel with pets), laundry, computer repair, banking, transportation…
Next, is there an opportunity for multiple locations to band together to negotiate group discounts for DN’s? Or at least develop consistency from location to location?
Finally, maybe more co-working AND co-living spaces customized for specific demographics (ie over age 50) or special interest groups (ie foodies).

Sorry I’m not hiring more people, but if you tell me exactly what’s wrong I can fix it.

To me, we need to educate people about the DN lifestyle.
There are so many people who have never heard about the term digital nomad and when told ‘‘remote work’’ they understand it as WFH (working from home). There are still many companies who still don’t even accept employees to WFH.
I’m not a digital nomad (yet) but I a working on a project that will hopefully soon allow me to experience this lifestyle.
I’ve lived and worked in several countries (France, UK, USA and now Australia) and I had never heard about DN until a few months ago.
I’ve talked about my project to my friends in France, UK and USA (some of them are startup owners and are able to work remotely) and none of them had heard about anything like it.
There are a few people helping others become digital nomads but I don’t know how far their reach goes. It is also a huge challenge as there are many roadblocks on the way to become a nomad.
There are so many souls working 9 to 5 in an office doing work they hate and surrounded by people they dislike. We need to reach out to those guys and help them uncover and realise their dreams.
Developing professionally and personally, doing things you like, surrounding yourself with like-minded people, experiencing new things, discovering the world and making a difference, living a life with purpose sound like a far away dream for most people living in the situation that I’ve just described.

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I’m taking from my experience helping setting up digital nomad retreats. I see there is a trend of experiencing the digital nomad lifestyle in traditional company through a [workcation]
(https://medium.com/@No.Location/workcation-in-bali-how-the-workplace-is-changing-f99cf49af58#.odysp0c0f).

Not every company is going to be able to be distributed or even wants to be distributed, in fact some rely on the team being present together or find that physical togetherness is essential to achieving quality. A workcation allows these kinds of companies to be location independent together, taking a certain amount of time during the year to move everyone to another location where they work like normal (work) but live in an exotic environment where everyone can be adventurous together (vacation).

So my company, No-Location, organized a workcation for a Polish android development company few months ago. They brought their entire 32 team members to Bali. The workcation and digital nomad retreats are very simillar: they lived together for a month, worked from a co-working space (or even made their own workspace in the villa), went for excursion on the weekend, and worked on their own project or personal development plan. Since we worked very closely with the team, we saw how much the team evolved and got benefit from just doing a one month workcation.

I personally think that more and more companies who hire people to work remotely will adapt the workcation as part of their team building activity, team member retention and also a strategy to hire new team member. And I guess this is the next step of remote work and digital nomadism.

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Yeah we see this also as an issue as digital nomad. So we are currently building a solution for that, and will launch it next year.

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Adding to this - I have a remote company, but hiring nomads is hard because nomads all want to work as freelancers etc. Whenever you try to discuss a role or work they are like ‘let me send you my proposal’ etc. I feel that nomads have a mindset that they will be freelancers / entrepreneurs and not part of a team.

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I am quite new to DN community. But being a beginner I would love to see a career guidance website which can help you step by step on how to become a digital nomad. Especially for the ones who are stuck in non-digital jobs.

There is so much info that it becomes tough to identify genuine guys.

I don’t see any problem in this. You can make them part of your team as consultants :slight_smile: