By some estimates, remote workers will comprise a full 50% of the workforce by 2025. Digital nomads, digitally-dependent remote workers who travel from place to place, will doubtlessly comprise a large percentage of that remote workforce.
What’s not to like, after all? You get to do your spreadsheets at the beach while sipping at a margarita, without the social annoyances that come with working full-time at the office. Well, as you probably figured out just from the title of this article alone, there’s a heck of a lot more to it than that At the end of the day, work is still work.
As a matter of fact,being a digital nomad also brings its own set of unique challenges that you won’t find with regular office work. Here are a few things about the lifestyle that most first-time digital nomads don’t always expect.
1.) You still need a home base
Sure, you might be visiting a different part of the world every week, but you will still need a permanent address for tax and billing purposes. Your banks and employers will need you to give a permanent address as well, so the vast majority of digital nomads are likely living a life far less nomadic than they may want you to believe. And if you’re doing much more than basic writing or spreadsheets, chances are you also won’t be able to do all the work you need to be done on just a laptop.
Even when you’re traveling, you’ll also want to make sure in advance that you’re well-prepared as far as forwarding addresses, connectivity and tools go. In most cases, this means booking a room with good Wi-Fi and security and getting in touch with local mail providers. This isn’t always easy to arrange when you’re traveling through less-developed areas of the world. In some countries, you might find that you can mostly do your digital nomad dreams in tourist-ey areas, which can be a downer.
2.) You might miss the camaraderie of the office
Do you love shooting the breeze by the water cooler, talking about the exact same things to the exact same people day-in and day-out? Or to put it another way, do you like having the foundation of coworkers with whom you can discuss relatable things with on a daily basis? Depending on your personality you may hate or love the environment of a regular workplace. If you love it, maybe you should stay in the office for your own sake.
Regardless of whether or not you like the regular office environment, as a digital nomad, you will also find that you will have to take care of your mental and emotional health more proactively than you would in a regular office. This need for camaraderie also has a generational element to it, though not in the way you might expect. In a surprising twist, there’s data to suggest younger workers may not even prefer remote work to a regular office environment.
If you always enjoyed being with a stable group of friends, then being a digital nomad may not be for you. But if you enjoy meeting new people all the time and enjoy working alone, it may very well be the life for you.
3.) You’ll run into a ton of hidden costs
Say goodbye to the free coffee you’ve been enjoying (or tolerating) at the office. Your fancy workstation will probably be paid for out of pocket, and a lot of the small things you took for grantedat the office will have to beshouldered by you. If you need to justify a work-related expense, expect to jump through more hoops than you normally would at the workplace.
Traveling can also be a heck of a lot more time expensive than you’d bargain for. Constantly traveling can quickly drain you of any energy you may have, which is why the next point is absolutely crucial.
4.) You need to spend time setting up your workflow
A good workflow can help keep preserve your mental and physical health while keeping your output consistent. Creating a routine that works wherever you travel can be quite challenging, especially if you haven’t quite experienced the digital nomad lifestyle before. For one thing, you may be required to get into contact with the rest of your team at pretty odd hours, depending on where you’re traveling. Your options for temporary workplaces may also be limited. You can’t always get the kind of work setup that you had back home or at the office, so your workflow needs to be adjustable to fit in with these contingencies.
Setting up these workflows can also especially challenging because so much of your own productivity relies directly on you. You may even find that you will have to start doing “real” work much earlier than you’re used to because when you’re able to spend the rest of your day doing stuff you want is likely dependent on how much work you can produce, and not when the clock hits 5 PM.
5.) You have to protect yourself
The world contains a huge diversity of beliefs, practices, and ways of doing things. Nowhere is this more obvious than when it comes to individual healthcare systems. What’s free in your home country may cost you your entire life savings in another. Some countries may offer a range of medical services to expats, but force you to pay out of pocket for others. Others still may make it difficult if not impossible to seek treatment for certain conditions.
Worse still is that not all insurers understand or focus on issues specific to international travelers. This makes it critical to invest in international health insurance from companies that actually specialize in the area. Thankfully, companies like Now Health International offer coverage suited for today’s digital nomads.