From 2019 to 2020, there was a marked increase in the number of self-proclaimed digital nomads in the US - those who travel as they work. Specifically, MBO Partners reported that there were 49% more digital nomads in 2020 than the previous year, taking the total number up to 10.9 million.
This trend shows no signs of slowing down, as MBO Partners reported a further 42% increase from 2020 to 2021, consolidating on the initial burgeoning of the digital nomad ranks that was in large part caused by the early stages of the COVID outbreak.
With more than 15.5 million digital nomads in the US, companies must shift their priorities to accommodate this new way of working. The hunter-gatherers of the modern era, digital nomads are becoming an increasingly valuable asset - provided you can make space for them in your organization and support them with the right remote workforce optimization strategies and tools.
Best Ways to Accommodate Digital Nomads
Digital nomads can be a huge asset if you can effectively embed them in your work culture and accommodate their way of working. Just like hunter-gatherers, digital nomads take pride in their independence and ability to source everything they need for themselves.
As such, there are certain freedoms and accommodations that they’ll look for in a company because they need work that will support their adventurous lifestyle, not detract from it.
While this might seem as if you’re hiring mercenaries that come and go as they please, there’s a different way of looking at it. Digital nomads generally take their happiness and mental health into their own hands, choosing to escape the typical 9-5 existence and live an unorthodox life.
As an employer, you should be able to appreciate this level of independence provided you get the result you’re looking for. Besides, with the right remote work monitoring software and productivity metrics, which we’ll touch upon later, you can ensure it’s a mutually beneficial work arrangement.
Here are some of the best ways to incorporate digital nomads into your workforce:
1. Encourage Collaboration
Hunter-gatherers are able to go out and provide for their families because they have just that: close-knit communities and strong social bonds. Without them, they would be cut off from any sense of communal spirit and their job would be much more difficult.
Even in our busy civilization, it’s clear that the experience of a digital nomad closely mirrors that of a hunter-gatherer. While the digital nomad lifestyle seems like an idyllic all-thrills existence, feelings of loneliness and isolation at times can be inevitable.
How can you help your digital nomads feel like part of the tribe?
Encourage collaboration where possible, so that work for your digital nomads isn’t just a case of switching on their laptop and typing away. Make it more meaningful for them by connecting them with their coworkers virtually, and setting up one-to-one meetings for regular check-ins and status updates.
2. Promote a Flexible Work Environment
For hunter-gatherers to thrive, they would have to go out and find food and other resources at any time of day.
For digital nomads to thrive, they need a flexible work environment.
To best support your digital nomad workers, it’s best to implement flexible working policies that allow them to do their best work on a schedule that works for them. There is no 9-5 for many digital nomads, since this doesn’t account for traveling times, logistical issues, Wi-Fi outages and all the other issues that they can face.
As a result, it’s worth considering a results-oriented work environment (ROWE) structure where you empower them with the freedom to work on their terms - on the condition that they yield expected results.
If you’re wondering how to measure operational performance of a company, in a ROWE work model all that matters is the most important work metrics - be it hours worked, tasks completed, or strategic goals accomplished.
3. Prioritize Communication
Storytelling plays a vital role in hunter-gatherer community, as it bringst communities closer together and helps forge closer connections.
It’s essential to keep your digital nomads in the loop, even if you’re not regaling them with tall tales. You need to establish clear communication so that each digital nomad feels like part of the fabric of your workplace, and can easily contact coworkers and managers alike.
Asynchronous communication is best as it allows your remote employees to check in and respond to messages whenever they wake up in whatever part of the world they’re in. Meetings can be more tricky to schedule with digital nomads’ fluctuating work schedules, so using a centralized hub for asynchronous communication can be the best way to support productivity.
Tools to Support Digital Nomad Productivity
Once you’ve made internal changes to accommodate digital nomads, it’s time to turn your attention to the tools that support remote employee productivity.
The following tools can help you manage digital nomads - wherever they happen to be - and get the best out of them:
Employee Monitoring Software
Remote workforce management tools let you visualize and track employee productivity and performance wherever they’re working from.
Insightful, for example, allows you to monitor employee internet usage with a real-time dashboard so you can see what each digital nomad in your workforce is working on.
With employee activity monitor software you can make sure that both you and your digital nomads benefit from any accommodations you make. You can monitor for working from home performance by evaluating trends in productivity, and use that data to suggest alternative ways of working that may better suit each team member.
By monitoring employee computer use, you can effectively remove the risk from the equation when it comes to hiring and working with digital nomads.
Project Management Platforms
Project management software is the glue that holds all aspects of work-related projects together. It supports an agile approach to organizing your tasks, streamlining workflows, and generally collaborating effectively as a team.
With the right project management platform, you can bring digital nomads into the fold and keep them up to date on various tasks while pinging them with notifications when the ball lands in their court and they need to take action.
A necessity for any forward-thinking company are communication hubs such as Slack, which centralize communication while leaving space for context-specific conversations.
With Slack, you can set up channels for various teams and departments so that everyone can stay in touch without inundating the whole team’s inboxes. Plus, you can even set up a channel just for the digital nomads in your workforce to discuss the work-related challenges they share.