MBO Partners, providers of a platform for independent workforce management, has just released the results of their annual American workforce survey that focuses on digital nomads and remote workers.
What are their headline statistics?
Dramatic Increase in Digital Nomads
16.9 million American now consider themselves digital nomads. While this is only a 9% increase from last year, this is a 131% increase from 2019 and the pre-pandemic world. More than that, 72 million American workers now say that they intend to pursue the idea of becoming a digital nomad, up from 54 million pre-pandemic.
It is not hard to pinpoint the cause of this massive leap! The pandemic and social distancing rules have changed business setups.
More businesses are now set up to have employees work remotely and have been putting technologies, systems, and cultures in place to support contributions from outside the office.
The necessity to work from home has also allowed employees who have always worked in traditional location-based jobs to experiment with remote working at no risk, making it easier to make the decision to actively move to remote working.
69% of current digital nomads say that they intend to continue the location-independent lifestyle for at least the next 2-3 years, suggesting that it is not seen as a barrier to career development and progress. Reasons to settle down are more likely to be changed in lifestyle based on starting a family than job opportunities.
Add to all this that many countries are introducing new visa programs specifically to attract digital nomads to spend their international incomes in their often beautiful and affordable countries, and the pull towards digital nomadism has never been stronger.
Change in Demographics
While many people imagine digital nomads as looking like backpackers, young and adventurous, pre-pandemic, this was not the case. Pre-pandemic Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) made up 27% of digital nomads, and Gen X (1965-1980) made up 23%.
There were logical reasons for this. In order to have the freedom to work remotely either as a contract employee or a freelancer, usually meant that you needed years of experience and reputation under your belt. This takes time.
But this dynamic has changed, with Baby Boomers only making up 12% of American digital nomads in 2022. This is largely down to older nomads returning home due to health concerns and the need to stay close to older loved ones that require support.
In 2022, Millennials (born 1981-1996) make up 47% of all digital nomads, and Gen Z is now 17% of digital nomads. Now that many companies are making more positions remote, there are more opportunities for people earlier in their careers to embrace the digital nomad lifestyle.
Reflecting this, an increasing number of digital nomads are now contracted employees rather than freelancers or independent entrepreneurs. Around 66% of digital nomads today have a “traditional” contract job that they can complete remotely.
Still A Privileged Position
While more businesses are providing opportunities for remote working, this applies principally in fields such as technology and creative services. It is still challenging for shop attendants, laborers, teachers, and many other blue-collar jobs to go remote. So, the digital nomad lifestyle is still the domain of the privileged few.
According to the survey, 59% of digital nomads have a college degree, compared to 35% of all Americans. 26% have an advanced degree, compared to 13% of all Americans.
Most digital nomads work in fields such as technology and creative services and tend to have extremely high levels of digital literacy. 82% also suggest that they are very satisfied or satisfied with their income levels.
Access to this kind of lifestyle is certainly not democratized across the American workforce.
Despite the digital nomad lifestyle becoming more mainstream and most people being extremely happy with their decision to pursue location-independent working and living, several digital nomad lifestyle challenges continue.
Nomads increasingly worry about personal safety where inequality can lead to more than petty crime and where social issues can make western workers targets in some parts of the world. Finding safe places to call home with people you can trust in new countries is not always easy. Knowing how to respond in case of an emergency is not always straightforward.
Companies need to create new safety policies to support remote workers. Read our Remote Workforce Safety Checklist here.
Distance from Family and Friends
Being away from family and friends who might need your support at certain moments is one of the biggest sources of stress and guilt among digital nomads. It is not only about missing your nearest and dearest and struggling to maintain relationships with them but worrying about not being there at the most important times.
Time Zone Issues
While more companies are allowing remote work, you still need to call in for regular meetings and collaboration sessions. This can become extremely difficult if you are out of sync in terms of time zone and most of your important calls and online meetings happen in the middle of the night for you. It can make maintaining a good work-life balance extremely difficult.
Read our guide to coordinating remote teams across different time zones.
Separate from missing connections back home can be loneliness. It is hard to make new deep connections as an adult, and this is made more difficult by language barriers and frequent moving, making it hard to put down roots. Many digital nomads feel a lack of day-to-day connections in their lives.
Read our tips for meeting new people as a digital nomad.
Traveling is always challenging to coordinate; as a digital nomad, you tend to travel frequently. Organizing visas, finding affordable transport, and locating suitable accommodation can feel like a full-time job in its own right when you are traveling frequently.
Many digital nomads are moving towards slowmadism to minimize travel stresses and maximize the personal experience.
Managing Work and Travel
When you are on holiday, you have the luxury of spending all your time discovering a new corner of the world. But digital nomads need to balance this exciting luxury with, usually, a full-time job. Hitting the right balance between work and play is an ongoing issue for digital nomads.
Check out our rules for scheduling your remote work.
Becoming a Digital Nomad?
Are you a digital nomad, or one of the millions that aspire to join the remote workforce? Consider the possibilities by exploring some of the many countries that are now offering visas for digital nomads. These visas will usually let you stay in a country legally for 6 months to 3 years as long as you have a minimum income coming from outside of that country.
- New Namibia Digital Nomad Visa Now Available
- How the Work from Bermuda Visa is Boosting the Island’s Economy (& How to Apply)
- Malaysia’s Digital Nomad Visa – The Latest Southeast Asian Country to Attract Remote Workers
- Would you apply for the Argentinian digital nomad visa?
- Latvia’s Digital Nomad Visa is Expected Soon
- Italy Launches a Digital Nomad Visa
- Everything You Need to Know about the Mauritius Premium Visa for Digital Nomads
- South Africa is Preparing to Launch a Digital Nomad Visa
- New Visa Rules for Digital Nomads in Brazil
Find more under the Visas Section of the website.