When many people think of remote workers, they picture digital nomads working on laptops in a picturesque remote paradise.
The problem: This image of the carefree vacationer on a laptop is being confused with the wider concept of working remotely. This confusion is also slowly damaging the perception of remote work. This isn't because there is anything wrong with working while you’re away, or traveling while you work, but because this beachy, chill lifestyle is becoming the perceived image of all remote work.
Actual remote workers would agree and shudder at the erroneous image of the carefree, possibly distracted professional. For starters, the large majority of remote workers aren’t working with a constant change of scenery.
Remote work has evolved to allow digital nomadism as an option for some, but make no mistake: Remote workers are not necessarily digital nomads, and it is incorrect to think the two concepts are the same.
Digital Nomads are people who choose to embrace a location-independent, technology-enabled lifestyle that allows them to travel and work remotely, anywhere in the world. As the name implies, they are nomadic in nature, moving from place to place as they feel like, whenever they like, motivated by wanderlust or attracted by cheaper living costs.
However, it’s not all sunshine, and it is definitely not a lifestyle suited for everyone. Seriously, some of us can’t live out of a suitcase for extended periods of time, and need our own private space (and bathroom). There are various advantages to being a digital nomad, but, as with anything in life, it has its fair share of disadvantages.
Being a digital nomad means you will spend a lot of time by yourself and away from family and loved ones, which can lead to feelings of loneliness. You also spend time in spaces that aren’t your own, meeting people you won’t (necessarily) get to know very well. Depending on where you travel, you might have a hard time communicating with others due to language and cultural barriers.
Lastly, contrary to what social media would have you think, digital nomads don’t work from the beach. They usually work either from their lodgings or a coworking space. So when you’re a digital nomad, it’s not all travel and fun, and sometimes you end up spending most of your day in the hotel rather than roaming around.
Remote Workers, on the other hand, tend to stay in one specific place, whether it be because their job doesn’t allow them to travel that much, or because they are comfortable where they are tied to one place. You’re a remote worker when your company allows you to work outside of its offices or headquarters, but rather than traveling, you typically work from home, your favorite coffee shop, or a local coworking space.
The distinctifying between digital nomads and remote workers is important. The understanding of remote work as a separate integrity from digital nomadism and knowing the difference between remote workers and digital nomads can benefit both employers and employees.
The lifestyle that comes with a type of work is a vital part of its appeal to both employers and employees. As such, portraying the lifestyle correctly helps maintain a sense of comfort and stability for both parties. Without the weight of two different lifestyles being combined into a single concept, the overall brand of remote work can continue to grow freely and stabilize into something much more approachable to employers.