The number of ‘digital nomads’ has increased over the past few years with more people choosing to embrace a location-independent technology-enabled lifestyle.
Digital nomads have successfully intertwined their need to work with their love of travel, creating an attractive work-life balance. However, with digital nomads working remotely often from appealing travel locations, how can employers keep them both productive and engaged?
The solution lies in technology.
It’s no surprise that a combination of advances in IT, the greater acceptance of remote working and the growing demand for flexible workspace, has accelerated the digital nomad trend with 35 million people worldwide now identifying as digital nomads.
According to predictions, this figure will become 1 in 3 employees by 2035, meaning that one billion people will be roaming the world in search of a decent internet connection.
The benefit of employing digital nomads is that employers can source top talent regardless of their location, and with such an attractive ‘work from anywhere’ benefit, the company is more likely to entice and keep their workforce.
However, there are also numerous challenges to employing digital nomads, including how you keep them motivated and doing their best work when they are never physically present.
The key is to use a central communications platform, such as a modern intranet, to keep nomads constantly informed and connected to others while helping to nurture a strong sense of belonging.
This platform must be available to everyone in the organisation – in-office employees, hybrid workers and remote/digital nomads. And it must be the ‘go to’ for everything, otherwise digital nomads will spend their time chasing documents, contact details, project updates, HR policies, and so on. It’s impossible for those working at a distance to be productive if a large portion of their time is being spent on onerous administration. They will also become increasingly frustrated and disengaged.
An intranet can securely store everything that an employee may require, from organisation-wide contact details and policies through to details on support services and help lines. And by using intranet technology that is mobile-enabled, this allows employees to access information from phones and tablets as well – an important consideration for all employees, including nomadic workers who may rely on mobile devices when travelling.
Managing any remote worker or digital nomad, requires constant communication and the right tools to connect them to their managers and colleagues. An intranet provides quick and easy channels of communication such as social feeds and integrated Microsoft Teams functionality. It also allows for information/approvals to be automatically circulated and signed-off where necessary. Numerous workflows can be created as appropriate, allowing digital nomads to be alerted when they need to see a document or when work has been approved. This means that every colleague knows what they need to do and by when, regardless of whether they’re in the office or on the other side of the world.
As loneliness is a real issue with digital nomads, it’s important that every employee is made to feel a sense of community and belonging, including beyond their immediate boss and team. When an employee feels that they belong, they are far more likely to be motivated to do their best.
Making digital nomads feel valued and part of a caring community means publicly appreciating their achievements, which can be done through an intranet recognition tool. It also means arranging regular one-to-ones (with video on) between them and their direct managers, and inviting them to virtual team get-togethers and social events. Asking digital nomads to contribute their thoughts and opinions, perhaps in the form of blogs, is another important consideration, together with encouraging them to attend or even run online courses/webinars.
Ultimately, bringing digital nomads into the workplace community will allow them to thrive and feel part of something special and meaningful.
As more people turn to a digital nomadic lifestyle to explore the world while earning a living, employers need to ensure they have the right processes and technologies in place to support them.
Getting the best out of digital nomads means ensuring they can access what they need 24 hours a day and from anywhere, while feeling connected to their colleagues and part of a caring community. This is only possible when there is a technological heart of the company – a central hub where information can be sourced, ideas shared and friendships made.