Digital Nomads- boon or a bane for organizations?
Digital Nomads are a growing breed of workers who embody the success and freedom that an Internet Lifestyle can provide. Wikipedia defines “Digital nomads” as “people who are location-independent and use technology to perform their job, living a nomadic lifestyle”. Digital nomads work from any place without being required to be present at any physical office and use telecommunication to communicate with others in the organizations.
Digital nomads are not for a short period like work from home during the pandemic, but as a way of work practice. They are not governed by the usual HR policies of the organization regarding leaves, work times or even compensation. These are highly specialised people in their area of work and can choose to work from wherever they are. They are in high demand because of their skills and pick their own working hours and compensation.
It is observed that the new generation of workers prefer this lifestyle where they are not bound by any rules and can travel and work from wherever they happen to be at that time. They are not overly concerned with the security of a monthly pay check, as they are confident in their ability to get work when needed.
It is expected that in the next decade, there would be approximately one billion digital nomads across the world making one in every three workers a digital nomad!
But why should organizations hire digital nomads? There are several advantages:
- Organizations were always complaining about the lack of talented people in their area. Now they are no longer restricted to their geographical location. Digital nomads can work from anywhere and there are no visa requirements. In fact, the company laws were made before the internet age and there is no clause about hiring people from remote locations as long as they remain there. This expands their search radius considerably.
- The generation today does not want to restrict itself to fixed job, who give more importance to the work-life balance are not too enamoured of the 9-5 routine. Organizations may need to offer more choices for people to work remotely to keep up with the changing needs of the new generation of workers This would enable them to attract and retain quality talent without curbing their freedom.
- Since digital nomads are on the move quite a bit, they get better at interacting with people and can help provide strategic insights to the company (Jade Simmons, 2018). They can bring international insights about local markets. Research has shown that they tend to be more engaged because they have autonomy and are in control of their work.
- Digital nomads also make economic sense for organizations as they are cost effective. There are reduced fixed costs as they do not require office space, overheads, and other expenses are eliminated. There is no need to have restrictive policies regarding leaves, attendance etc.
- One does not need to have additional motivation practices as these employees are self motivated. For them working from where they wish to when they wish to is motivation enough.
Finally, another benefit is that they are removed from usual day to day office politics, as they mostly work alone and are happier!
But hiring these digital nomads is not without challenges.
Digital nomads are usually faceless as they rarely interact with the others in the organization. They generally work with one or two key personnel. Firstly, since these nomads do not fall in the usual control mechanisms of the office, trust needs to be built. Leaders need to trust these nomads to deliver even when they may not be in the purview of the organizations, and these nomads need to trust the employers that they will not be cheated when they help the organizations achieve their goals. Communication plays a very important part in managing Digital Nomads. Clear expectations should be set right at the start so as to give clarity to what they need to do and when it should be done.
But overall, the benefits outweigh the hurdles, and it is up to the organizations to decide how much to experiment with this new breed. It is advisable to wet the toes first before taking the plunge and gradually expand to more jobs which can be handled without face to face interaction.
In truth, the pandemic has given us a very good glimpse of what jobs can be done very comfortably from anyplace other than the office, and some organizations have the work from anywhere policy in place now for a longer duration even after things have normalised. So the case for nomadic workers has already been built!