Like any field, the world of remote work does not remain static. Instead, as new technologies and ideas emerge, digital nomadism and other remote work evolve as well. It’s crucial then to stay abreast of upcoming trends, as they will affect you in some way. Which trends are the most noteworthy?
Digital nomads should pay attention to the following remote working trends:
• More and more companies are embracing remote work, accelerating its growth
• Baby boomers will pseudo-retire and work remotely
• Gen Z will also enter the remote work field
• Hotels, co-working spaces, and other associated businesses will strive to accommodate digital nomads and remote workers
• The need for digital security will continue to increase
• Remote work will help the environment if those employees work remotely even half the time
• Virtual communication will become more common in work environments
• Artificial intelligence or AI can act in managerial roles
• Having a specialty in remote work benefits your salary and your career
• Little rural towns will work to bring in remote workers to prevent being left behind
• More remote workers are reporting they’re lonely
• VR tech might become a conferencing aide
• There’s less expectation that you must work 24/7, instead of promoting the need to foster a better work-life balance
In this article, we will expand on each of the above 13 remote working trends. First, we’ll explain what the trend is in detail and then describe how and why it may influence your digital nomad career. Let’s begin!
13 Trends That Will Impact and Shape Digital Nomadism and Other Remote Work
1. Remote Work Is Gaining Momentum, Not Slowing Down
While sometimes trends contradict each other, if there’s one that all experts can agree on, it’s that remote work shows no signs of stopping. In 2019, resources like Forbes and Business News Daily alike said that remote work isn’t disappearing anytime soon.
More and more companies have embraced remote work, but that’s not universally true of them all. Others are more stuck in their ways, prohibiting employees from working from home entirely or allowing the arrangement seldom (such as up to two days a week).
That hardly affects you as a digital nomad, especially considering you’re your own boss and thus don’t have anyone telling you where to work from. You probably hired progressive employees who embrace the digital world and how it allows us to do more from just about anywhere.
Don’t miss the key takeaway here, though: just because some companies aren’t entirely on board doesn’t mean remote work has lost momentum or is projected to. Instead, as technology propels us forward in time, remote work makes more and more sense.
2. Baby Boomers May Enter the Field in the Form of Pseudo-Retirement
According to We Work Remotely, you may soon see more people flooding the digital nomadism and remote working spheres. It’s an unexpected bunch, too: baby boomers. We Work Remotely mentions that this age group, with birthdates from 1946 through 1964, often can’t afford to retire. Others who can retire find themselves not wanting to.
Still, in their older age, they can’t handle the rigors of full-time work. Thus, they seek new career paths where they can work 80 or more hours every week, padding their pockets. While digital nomadism may be too stressful on an older baby boomer, remote work isn’t. They can work where they can when they can, and still, keep themselves busy.
Baby boomers tend to have a pretty good grasp on modern technology, making their jump into remote work an even smarter decision for them.
3. Generation Z Enters the Fray
But wait, as you won’t only have to worry about the baby boomers, but Generation Z as well. We already have millennials infiltrating the working world, and now the generation after them is becoming of age to work as well.
CNBC, in an article last year, notes how those in Generation Z include 61 million United States adults. Will they all embrace remote work? No, of course not. Many of them might find digital nomadism a tantalizing career decision, though. The freedom to travel, freedom they may already enjoy on a more limited basis, will surely appeal to them.
Even if they don’t choose digital nomadism, remote work seems like a natural fit for those in this generation. CNBC mentions that Generation Z isn’t very socially adept. You have to remember; they grew up on iPads, smartphones, and social media. Instead of communicating aloud, they use texts, emojis, and GIFs to express themselves. Remote work, where they can communicate in familiar terms rather than through the phone in many cases, is just a continuation of what they’ve known all their lives.
4. The Needs of Remote Workers Are Becoming More Universally Recognized
With remote working a reality for more and more of the modern workforce, it only makes sense that the world around us would change to accommodate that. Right now, as a digital nomad, perhaps you struggle to get a good Internet connection at times or a hotel that can accommodate your lifestyle.
That shouldn’t be so in the coming years. As remote work becomes more prevalent, businesses and companies will be accommodative. For instance, you might come across hotels that have their own -co-working spaces so you can get some quality work done. These hotels may also offer flexible stays so you can leave when the urge calls to you.
More co-working spaces might begin appearing in cities and towns across the US (and even other parts of the world), all offering free Wi-Fi.
You may also see new job roles open up with this influx of remote work. For instance, remote work coaches or consultants can offer training, support, advice, and information for those embarking on owning a business or working remotely. You could even possibly earn certifications through online courses that can further your career.
5. Digital Security Must Become Tighter
What kind of security measures do you take now as a digital nomad? According to a late 2018 article in Help Net Security, most remote workers favor public working spaces, with 21 percent saying their productivity goes up in these places. Still, if you’re working in public, you have to concern yourself with digital security. Only 18 percent of the respondents say they did.
Even more concerning, Help Net Security reported in the same article that up to 38 percent of remote workers said they lacked the tech expertise and support that a remote working job requires. That’s whether they worked in public or even in the comfort of their own home.
If you’re doing remote work as part of a company, you’re going to want to ask your boss or manager about security for remote employees.
Whether it’s a dedicated IT person (who can also work remotely), a stronger antivirus program, encryption, or tightened privacy measures, more must be done to protect the security of remote workers. If you’re a digital nomad, you’ll have to provide the above solutions yourself.
After all, security is about more than your computer getting hacked or you are accidentally downloading a virus. Proprietary information of companies can get leaked or passed into the wrong hands without better security.
6. Remote Work Is Benefiting the Environment
It’s not optional to care about our planet anymore. You may already take measures in your day-to-day life to reduce your carbon footprint, but those who work remotely are probably even more ecofriendly.
A Global Savings Analytics infographic from 2016 found that remote employees could provide the following benefits to planet earth:
• Eliminate highway driving miles by 119 billion miles
• Use 640 million fewer oil barrels, thus saving $64 billion
• Cut down on greenhouse gas emissions at a rate of 54 million tons
• Lessen gas use and save $20 million globally
The above perks could become a reality if remote workers spent only half their time working remotely. They could even go to an office with the other 50 percent.
It applies to digital nomads, too. You create a bigger carbon footprint as you’re always on the go. From planes to trains and rental cars, if you stay put about half the time you travel, you too could work towards a better planet for everyone.
7. Virtual Communication Will Become the Norm
Late last year, Fast Company predicted that the remote tools that have already flooded the workplace would continue their takeover, becoming a standard part of our working lives. The site said that, instead of having conversations with people we’re in the same room with, we might still use these tools.
There are several reasons for this. Fast Company mentions that you have more freedom in communication by using tools like these. For instance, you could send someone an email if you’re not in a rush. If you need a faster reply, then an instant message or text would allow for that.
You can also multitask, having conversations with several people at once through all the methods the tools would afford. You cannot do that when talking to people face-to-face, at least not nearly as quickly.
Generation Z might be onto something after all.
8. AI Might Have More of a Role in Remote Work
With our embracing the future of digital technology so much, you know it’s only a matter of time before we begin working with artificial intelligence or AI.
Think about it. Offices will have fewer people in them. Their employees are scattered across a city or town and sometimes even across the world. To manage employees, AI can help. Now, a computer or robot isn’t about to become your new boss, don’t worry (provided you’re not already the boss in your business).
Instead, AI in tools or apps might push certain conversations to the forefront that you would have otherwise missed. Fast Company mentions that the work tool Slack already has machine learning capabilities. They’re hoping their AI can review how you’ve used the platform, the channels you’ve spent time on, and the communications you’ve prioritized. Then, the AI should promote those channels for your convenience.
That’s just one means of using AI of many. While artificial intelligence can’t replace a remote worker any longer at the office, it can work with a company to assist with prioritization, goal-planning, and work timelines.
9. You Must Specialize
Niches are very much in, and that applies to digital nomadism and other areas of remote work as well. It’s no longer good enough to be another face in the crowd working in a generalized industry. The more you can niche down, the better.
According to TechBullion, most HR managers (up to 78 percent of them) noted that employees with niche skills are becoming more commonplace. Thus, if you have only a general set of skills, it’s time to brush up on very specific topics.
Not only does this driving success in your career now and in the future, but you could potentially earn yourself more money. Remote workers with niche skills have become highly desirable, so if you’ve got it, flaunt it!
10. Revitalization Will Occur for Smaller Towns
On your travel itinerary, rural areas and small towns are probably pretty low on your to-do list, right? You might find that changes in the next couple of years.
These towns have begun a revitalization of sorts. They’re striving to not only accommodate remote workers but incentivize them to live in a small town over a big one. For instance, there’s Vermont. A 2018 article in CityLab notes that if you have a job in one state but move to Vermont, that state will pay you $10,000 to live there for only two years. That’s $5,000 extra a year just for living in Vermont.
Why does something like this? CityLab goes on to mention that Vermont doesn’t have a lot of people there in the first place. It’s about 630,000 residents per census data from 2017. Plus, most of them have gotten old and retired. Vermont wants to revitalize its city with working youths, and remote workers seem to be the perfect pick.
11. Loneliness Is Unfortunately Becoming More Prevalent
As a digital nomad, you know pretty well that the work you do is essentially a solo job. You may sometimes travel with one other person, but for the most part, it’s you, yourself, and I. It’s no wonder then that, earlier this year, Small Business Trends cited a report that found that most remote employees (70 percent) said they felt “left out” of the goings-on at the office.
Others report loneliness, up to 20 percent, says Buffer in a 2018 report. Working from home or at a café, hotel, airport, or anywhere else has its perks, but it can be an isolating experience, too. You might miss the watercooler talk, the in-person conference calls, and the cubicle chatter.
To keep its employees happy, companies with remote workers will have to tend to these genuine feelings. They may begin career mentoring programs, have more video calls, schedule mandatory in-person meetings, host company retreats, or offer micro-learning classes. These ideas bring together all employees, even remote ones.
As for digital nomads, it’ll be up to you to find means to ward off isolation and loneliness. Whether you visit loved ones back home or build relationships with the people you meet on your travels, do make sure you’re satisfied enough with your lifestyle.
12. Virtual Reality or VR May Become More Prevalent
The world of virtual reality is still mostly untapped but won’t be for long. More companies have aimed to utilize technology in the form of VR conferencing. It would replace videoconferencing.
Videoconferencing can work well enough, but it’s kind of well, awkward. You’re painfully aware that you’re not present with everyone else in the room. Plus, if the technology ever glitches, freezes, or has other problems, it can derail the meeting fast.
Thus, VR could become its viable replacement. You’d feel like you’re there among your team or colleagues. Cisco has already rolled out a type of VR conferencing in its line of TelePresence solutions. That said, for one meeting, you’d pay $100,000. It’s a start, of course, but quite an expensive one.
Microsoft Research has had a form of VR in the works since 2016 called Holoportation. You’d wear Hololense VR goggles. These have 3D cameras contained within them that allow a hologram to appear. The technology is there, then, but it’s just a matter of making it more widespread and affordable.
13. Work-Life Balances Gets a Needed Priority Shift
The last remote working trend we want to talk about is a good one. If you’ve ever done remote work for a company before, you often feel like you have a lot to prove, right? After all, you’re not physically there at the office, so you thus want to be as accommodative as possible. It might lead to you working long past business hours and even putting in time on the weekend. You sometimes also find yourself biting off more than you can chew to impress your colleagues and your boss.
With more and more people become remote employees, that expectation that you have to work 24/7 has decreased, thankfully. Companies have worked harder to ensure that even remote employees can achieve their work-life balance goals. They don’t want you constantly connected. You work when the company’s open and only for that long. It can prevent burnout and reduce stress in remote employees.
Digital nomads could afford to take a page from this book for themselves. Working around the clock isn’t healthy. Also, as we’ve written about on this blog before, it does nothing for your productivity after a while, either.
Remote working went from something some employees occasionally did to a job most employees do every day. Thus, the landscape has changed, with new trends emerging. The 13 trends we covered in this article do, for the most part, apply to digital nomads as well. That said, without a boss to support them, digital nomads will have to prioritize their tech security, tend to feelings of isolation, and find their own work-life balance.
I’m the owner of Digital Nomad Explorer. I’ve traveled to over 50 countries and been an expat in Scotland, Finland, and China. I was a digital nomad while having my own robotics company and traveled throughout Europe and China working remotely. Currently, I’m location independent with a home base in Kirkkonummi, Finland.