I shared an infographic from a contributor recently about Digital Nomads.
As a response, another contributor offered their viewpoint and insights to take your work portable.
So, what are the differences between Digital Nomads and Remote Workers?
Thank you to Ashley Wilson for being a guest to answer that question.
Do you know the difference between being a digital nomad and a remote worker or do you live under the false impression that these two terms mean the same thing?
There’s only one thing that digital nomads and remote workers share: they both work remotely. How they work and what kind of work they can do, however, is worlds apart.
Digital Nomad vs. Remote Worker: How it Works
It may surprise you to learn that the terms digital nomad and remote worker refer to different work opportunities. To fully understand what sets the two types of workers apart, it’s important to define both in greater detail by explaining how they differ from one another.
How to Tell a Digital Nomad and a Remote Worker Apart
A remote worker performs work duties as a freelancer, self-employed business owner or part of a team of individuals that work wherever they choose to as long as an internet connection is available. They typically work from home instead of going to the office.
A digital nomad is a remote worker who is location independent and doesn’t stay in the same location for long. They will travel the world and stay at locations that suit them, often focusing on finding places with a good internet connection and low living expenses.
All digital nomads are remote workers, but not all remote workers are digital nomads.
A digital nomad is a small subset of remote workers who opt to switch locations instead of staying in one place. Here are the ten biggest differences between digital nomads and remote workers.
1. A digital nomad’s work conditions might change drastically.
The ideal digital nomad cities and countries have accessible internet connections which make for ideal working conditions. Still, some of the places digital nomads travel to might lack infrastructure (like having a stable internet connection).
If you opt for working with a digital nomad, you should know about those changes so you can arrange tasks and deadlines according to new work conditions.
2. Remote workers usually work from the same location.
While digital nomads explore, remote workers prefer setting roots. The biggest reason certain remote work jobs aren’t a good fit for digital nomadism is work equipment.
It’s next to impossible to transport the tech stack all the time. Examples of this include digital design jobs that often require top of the line workstations with multiple monitors.
When hiring remotely, consider the equipment your employee needs, and search adequate candidates. If a person shows the need for relocation and frequent travel but you need him or her on available for work 40 hours a week, your needs do not align.
3. Some digital nomads do not specialize in one certain type of work.
Remote workers might work for the same company for years, while digital nomads prefer to be in the gig economy. Once the gig ends, they plan to move to a new location. This takes away the stress of missed deadlines.
Many prefer short-term jobs with fast deadlines because they’re using their money to fund the next leg of their travels. Many digital nomads take on temp work because assignments last a pre-determined amount of time and pay quickly.
So, if you need a quick turnaround on your assignment, a digital nomad might be a better choice.
4. Many remote workers have company benefits while most digital nomads do not.
Remote workers enjoy things such as paid time off, vacation days, and health insurance when they have dedicated positions within a company setting.
As part of their benefits package, they’re given things that freelancers and digital nomads do not have access to. If these types of workers want to take a day off, it will always be without pay, so they have to earn enough to cover such days.
5. Digital nomads often face big time zone differences, which makes communication difficult.
Digital nomads are often after clients from wealthy countries while living in lower income countries. This is a sound tactic, as they earn a lot and spend little, but comes with its own set of challenges.
Often, it will be difficult to find the right time to communicate with their clients back in the States.
They may need to adjust their sleeping schedule and work odd hours because of this.
They can’t necessarily place phone calls out of the country any time they want. They must rely on online video messaging services such as Skype to communicate.
That means that having access to a dedicated internet connection is imperative to their success.
If a task requires back and forth communication and repetitive feedback, hiring a digital nomad for the job may result in too much downtime and delay because of communication issues.
6. Equipment and tools may be problematic for digital nomads.
Digital nomads travel light. There’s no room for bulky equipment. Their worldly belongings and work stuff should fit in more than a bag or two.
Therefore, remote developers or designers will rarely be digital nomads, but writers and photographers will.
7. Deadlines feel more looming for digital nomads.
Digital nomadism isn’t well suited for everyone. While remote workers need to be independent and self-starters, digital nomads also have to be adaptable to new circumstances and pick up their tasks where they left off, even after moving to a new region or country.
They also have to know their priorities well. They’ve traveled to a new destination hoping to explore it. It should always be business first, fun later. Clear written communication like project instructions and deadlines can ensure both sides get what they want.
Remote Workers and Digital Nomads have Different Needs
The differences between remote workers and digital nomads are considerable.
- From an employee perspective, it means that there are separate sets of rules to follow and obligations to meet.
- From an employer perspective, it is substantially different in almost every aspect: from how you handle communications to how you delegate tasks.
Employers will have to identify the unique challenges for each role and come up with solutions that meet their remote employee’s specific circumstances.
For example, frequent traveling that many digital nomads do will affect the workload considerably. You will have to set up some ground rules on how they will handle work during travel.
Or, your digital nomad might currently be in a location that’s remote enough to make communication difficult. Reliable internet connections might not exist, making it problematic for the employee to check in and provide updates about their progress. You’ll have to find a system of regular check-ins.
When you know the difference between remote work and digital nomadism, you can build a mutually beneficial relationship where both parties succeed.
Author bio: Ashley Wilson is a freelance writer interested in business, marketing, and tech topics. She has been known to reference Harry Potter quotes in casual conversation and enjoys baking homemade treats for her husband and their two felines, Lady and Gaga. You can get in touch with Ashley via Twitter.