The changes in working patterns brought on by the pandemic mean that an increasing number of people have been freed from the office. This has swelled the ranks of the digital nomad community and changed what exactly that community looks like.
In fact, today a more popular term for this new group is “Anywhere Workers”, since the types of jobs that allow workers to function remotely have expanded beyond the traditional digital sphere, and not having to be in one place no longer necessarily translates into globe-hopping.
Let’s look at some of the headline findings and see where you fit into the new ‘Anywhere Workers’ community.
Who are ‘Anywhere Workers’?
For many years, digital nomads could be stereotyped as young, but not too young. They needed enough work experience to be able to grab remote freelance roles but were usually young enough that they had not yet settled down and started a family.
Anywhere workers look slightly different.
Overall, 56% of respondents were male and 44% female, which suggests an evening out between the genders, as digital nomads have traditionally been male. This may reflect the fact that traveling solo for women has become significantly safer over the last few decades.
Anywhere workers still tend to be on the young side, with 70% between the ages of 24 and 44, but significantly, age no longer seems to be a serious barrier. Around 35% of those interviewed were between the ages of 45 and 54.
Interestingly, 45% of respondents were married, and an even greater number were in a serious relationship. An impressive 70% were parents. This suggests a breakdown of the idea that traveling is something that you do when you are young before you must settle down to take care of your family.
In fact, many Anywhere Workers that you speak to will tell you that they don’t travel despite having children, but rather because of it. They see traveling and exposing their children to new experiences and cultures as an important element of their education and a way of preparing them to become citizens of the world.
Reducing confidence in school systems, especially in countries such as America, also make parents less concerned about their kids “missing out” if they take an alternative approach to schooling.
What kind of jobs do ‘Anywhere Workers’ have?
Fully remote working has traditionally been reserved for a limited number of roles that were generally considered appropriate for remote working. This has included programmers, graphic designers, freelance writers, data analysts, and so forth.
But the pandemic has revealed just how many jobs can be done remotely, and many companies are changing their working policies to accommodate remote workers.
Today, rather than being mostly freelancers, 61% of Anywhere Workers have a full-time contract with a specific company. The majority also say that this contract facilitates rather than hinders their ability to work from anywhere.
The range of roles they work in is also extremely varied including recruitment coordinators, virtual assistants, remote medical consultants, video vets, insurance verifiers, customer service reps, accountants, mortgage processors, and more.
The majority still work in digital fields, since these are the companies that tend to be the most forward-looking when it comes to enabling remote workers. But opportunities are expanding rapidly.
Anywhere workers also tend to earn good money, but not the six-figure salaries of traditional corporate jobs. Around half of Anywhere Workers earn US$2,000 per month. Most, around 90%, report that their income increased or stayed stable because of changing their work patterns.
While some benefit from a cheaper cost of living where they choose to travel, most noted the hidden expenses of things such as flights, taxes, and visa costs. 28% report spending between US$500-1,000 per month on purely travel-related expenses.
How do ‘Anywhere Workers’ travel?
Digital nomads have traditionally been seen as a variation of backpackers, hopping from stop to stop quickly, and leaving behind a very large carbon footprint. The aim sees traditionally to have been to see as much of the world as possible in as little time as possible.
Anywhere Workers from this survey look very different. More than half of Anywhere Workers fall into the “slowmadism” camp and only change their location every 1-3 months. They are more likely to establish a home base and spend time experiencing the local community, rather than jetting through and just ticking off the sights.
Anywhere Workers are also more likely to stay closer to home. While digital nomads have traditionally invaded the more remote regions of the world or set themselves up in affordable hubs in cheaper countries such as Thailand, Anywhere Workers are more likely to explore countries more like their own.
American travellers often choose to spend their time in other states, in particular Texas, California, and Florida. Europe is also a popular destination, as are more remote rich countries with interesting cultures, such as Japan, or great natural wonders, such as Australia.
It is worth noting that this changing trend severely limits the cost of living benefits traditionally associated with digital nomadism.
What are the challenges for Anywhere Workers?
Traditionally, the biggest challenges for digital nomads have been trying to find a stable internet connection, balancing work and play, and dealing with loneliness. Being away from family and friends and dropping into foreign communities for short periods of time limits the opportunities to make genuine connections.
These first still challenges, while they still exist for Anywhere Workers, are certainly less concerning. Not only do they tend to travel to better-connected countries, but the internet around the world is improving quickly. Also, the slower approach to travel means that it is often easier to balance working responsibilities and making the most of where you are.
But, even though more anywhere workers seem to be travelling with family, 90% still report feeling lonely and mossing social connections and face-to-face interactions when they travel.
This is perhaps no surprise since even working from home when you remain close to your support system increases loneliness. Add to this social and language barriers, and the difficulty of breaking into established close-knit communities, and a person is bound to struggle.
Travelling with a partner or family does not necessarily make the situation easier. During the pandemic, we saw the challenges for families self-isolating as the amount of time that couples spent together magnified any existing relationship problems. Plus, relying on one other person for all your meaningful face-to-face social interactions is a recipe for disappointment.
What does all this mean for the future of remote working and the Anywhere Worker community?
What is clear is that the biggest challenge we have to face as a group is developing strategies to alleviate loneliness and make the social elements of long-term travel more satisfying.
But despite this challenge, 98% of those who responded to this survey said that they tend to continue to travel while working and embrace the Anywhere Worker lifestyle for the foreseeable future.