A new era for the digital nomad

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Set up of a digital nomad

The last two years have shown us that it is possible to work outside the confines of the traditional office. While many chose to work from home, others relocated beachside, or to tranquil mountain cabins and bustling cities with new culture and cuisine.

Remote work meant an opportunity to travel. Now that a new generation of workers has a taste for this, the question is: how do companies attract and retain these digital nomads?

Hanno Renner, CEO of HR software company Personio, thinks getting the right infrastructure is key. Once an organisation has the software, processes and guidance in place for staff, it can offer flexibility for remote working. There are more elements to this than one would think.

“Even the general day to day interactions that used to be done in many companies in a more analogue way before the pandemic, like signing a contract, someone having a change of address for their new home, the new bank account, all of this information that you need to manage about an employee, those are really hard to gather when you’re at a distance, so you need that seamless interface where people can directly interact,” he explained.

Set up of a digital nomadImage: mrmohock/Shutterstock

Flexibility is key

“The world has shifted, but it has given more choice, more opportunities, [more options for] how you want to manage your workforce from where they work. And for us that has provided the challenge and the opportunity to support that flexibility,” said Hanno.

This is not to say that companies are flipping the switch to remote across the board because not all employees want to work away from the office all the time. What is important, it seems, is choice.

“What a lot of companies in our customer base are doing – and what we are doing internally as well – is providing employees the ability to choose to come to the office certain days to connect with their coworkers, but also to work from home when they wish to or to spend their time in Portugal or other places where they can maybe extend their vacation or just go deliberately for three weeks to work from a different [location].”

Before the pandemic, we really wanted to work hard and play hard, and now we want to work better and play better.

Perhaps the pandemic has birthed a new kind of digital nomad, the partially nomadic knowledge worker. Rita Marques, state secretary for tourism with the government of Portugal, is seeing this with plenty of people from around the world coming to the country for weeks or months at a time to work in sunnier climes.

With digital nomad guides consistently name checking Lisbon and Porto as their top two locations, it is no wonder she’s tapped into this trend. And she thinks it could be a solution to the growing skills shortage in many sectors.

“One of the challenges that we face today is there’s a lack of workforce, right? It’s really hard for every sector to recruit. And so people are asking, not for a better salary, maybe a better salary as well, but they are asking for better conditions.

Digital nomad working remotelyImage: fizkes/Shutterstock

Work/life balance is still a priority

“The pandemic gave us this opportunity to balance personal and professional life. And so people basically are asking [for] a better spot to work from and quality of life, security, affordable locations as well,” she added.

“Before the pandemic, we really wanted to work hard and play hard, and now we want to work better and play better.”

With decent coffee at 65 cents a cup and rent half what one would pay in London, Rita argued that employers will find it easier to attract talent if there are options to work remotely from places like Lisbon and Porto.

But what of the red tape? How easy is it for employers to allow workers to country hop? From a government perspective, crafting policies that make it easier for companies and for individual remote workers to choose Portugal as their destination is “a work in progress”, stated Rita.

“The world is very competitive …public policy has to be continuously evolving in order to meet employees’ needs and also employers’ needs.

Indeed, there are regulatory challenges associated with remote work from abroad, whether your employees are temporarily based in Europe, North America or elsewhere.

As Deloitte points out, employers need to be cognisant of issues around labour law, health and safety rules, immigration, social security and more.

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