Can a Digital Nomad Really Work on the Beach?

How often have we seen the stunning snapshot of the digital nomad hard at work with their laptop on a beach towel and surrounded by beautiful palm trees and the ocean surf? As expected, the reality can be far from what is projected in these images.

So, can a digital nomad “really” work on the beach and get work done? The answer is yes. It can be difficult, but not impossible. You need to:
• Find some shade
• Keep your electronic equipment protected from sand and water
• Sit on a beach chair instead of directly on the sand
• Find the perfect outdoor beach cafe
• Use a portable sun shade dome
• Choose to work on tasks that require less electronics
• Keep the beach-work sessions to 1.5hrs or less

I grew up on the beach in Southern California. As I lived only 20 minutes driving from the nearest beach, the beach activities were integrated into many leisure activities and weekends. As I got to University, it was very compelling to go to the beach to study too. I can still see the funny smiles on my parent’s faces when I told them I was going to go to the beach to study!

Nevertheless, even though I didn’t have a laptop or other mobile communication equipment during those days, I persisted in finding ways to make progress in my studies. Later in my work life, I’ve had opportunities to be on holiday or work trips where there were beach areas to visit. Those same ideas make it possible with a mobile office setup.

First, let’s go over the pros and cons of working on the beach and then we’ll get into how to work on the beach like a boss!

Being able to switch up your work location is one of the great perks of being a digital nomad. You can go from working in coffee shops, lounge chairs, hammocks and beaches all over the world. However, some of these locations are not conducive to productivity.

Flexibility is a beautiful part of the digital nomad lifestyle, but that flexibility comes at a price. A digital nomad needs to make ends meet by working remotely and completing their projects if they hope to continue the lifestyle. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of working on the beach.

Pros to Working on the Beach

There are some excellent reasons to work on the beach. For those who love beach areas and want to spend as much time on the beach, here are some key reasons to set up your mobile office there.

There are some upsides to working on the beach and living the dream life as imagined – Digital Nomad Explorer

Living the Dream Life as Imagined

Ask people who have moved to a beach area about why they chose this area, and many will say that they wanted to “live the digital nomad dream life” on the beach. That image of you kicking back on the sand with your computer on your lap, sunglasses on, enjoying a cold drink is one of the things that draws you to the beach areas. It gives you bragging rights, even if it lets the ego get a bit out of control. You can take your Instagram picture and send this to all your friends that are still working in office cubicles.

Perhaps the best part of working on the beach, connected to living the dream life, is that in fact if you succeed at working on the beach you will progress your work. Being able to spend a day or some hours at the beach and progress your work will directly impact your revenue and enable your lifestyle. You will be living the life imagined. In my view, that’s the best advantage of working on the beach.

Vitamin D

Being outside in the sunshine is a proven mood booster. If you are struggling with depression, anxiety, or symptoms of isolation as a transitioning digital nomad, it might be helpful to work outside and take advantage of the rays if you are near the beach. The scenery can help improve your symptoms and help get your productivity levels back on track.  

Inspiring scenery

Sometimes we need a little jolt of inspiration to fuel our creativity levels. What better place than the beach to inspire you? The colors, nature, and diversity of people you might observe can excite you and help you get out of a rut or a writer’s block or a depressed mood. There is something about the combination of ocean blue, palm trees, sand, and sun that brings invigorates one’s soul. Once you find it, you will always miss it and seek it out when you can.

Cons to Working on the Beach

Unfortunately, the difficulties of working on the beach can be overwhelming to some. Later on the article, we will provide solutions to overcome these difficulties!

Distracting

Working on the beach can be distracting. Unless you own a private beach, chances are there will be many other beachgoers frolicking in the sand and the waves. It’s not so fun trying to work when you see people around you enjoying the full benefits of the beach, plus it can be rather noisy unless you have great noise-canceling headphones.

It’s tempting to want to set your computer aside and run in the ocean.

Working on the beach puts you in an awkward limbo position where you are not quite working, but you are not relaxing either. So, you don’t reap the benefits of either! It makes more sense to find a place that encourages the highest level of productivity so that you can really concentrate, bang out a few hours of great work and then go to the beach to play.

Too Much Sun

If you are working outside on a laptop, the glare from the sun can prove to be an issue which makes it impossible to see the computer screen. It can cause everything on the screen to appear nearly invisible, meaning you might waste your time trying to find the right angle to see your screen rather than actually getting work done. The sun also brings the heat, which can make you uncomfortable and therefore making it impossible to concentrate.

Too much sun and bad posture are some of the difficulties in working on the beach – Digital Nomad Explorer

Bad Posture

Most of the time, the only place to sit down and work on the beach is directly on the sand or in a lounge chair or hammock. Lying down is not the best position for productivity, as it invokes feelings of nap time rather than work time. Additionally, it’s a pain in the neck! If you are lying down, or half lying down while trying to position your computer screen against the glare, you might have to squint until your eyes ache or position your body in a weird way to see your screen.

It’s terrible for your posture and puts a strain on your neck and your eyes. Not to mention, you won’t be able to hold that position very long, which again, requires constant shifting, further decreasing your productivity and where you are focusing your energy.

Sand Everywhere

Sand is relaxing and lovely to feel between your toes, but not so much when it gets in weird nooks and crannies that it’s not meant to be in. Taking your laptop out in a sand-filled area can be a little dangerous. You can get small grains of sand in between the crevices of your keyboard and screen, which can be annoying and possibly even damaging to your computer.

Computer electronics are allergic to sand – Digital Nomad Explorer

The glaring sun can also cause your computer to overheat if you are not careful. Exposing your laptop to these elements can cause long-term damage and in turn, extra costs to repair or replace.

Poor Connectivity

When you are working in the wide-open spaces of a public beach, chances are the WiFi connection will not be very strong. If there is some semblance of one, many others will likely also be trying to connect to it, slowing the speed.

No One to Look After Your Equipment if You Want to Go Swimming

It’s not easy to go swimming when you have valuable electronics equipment with you. Unless you are with a friend, you are basically stuck to your beach chair and towel. The only way around this is to be with a friend who doesn’t mind staying with your equipment while you are swimming.

Solutions to Finding Work Productivity at the Beach

Working successfully at the beach is a matter of preparation and mindset. Prepare well for how and where you will work, and it will significantly improve how well you do. As for mindset, know that it is possible with the right focus (of how much time you will spend working, choosing tasks you can easily do in the sun and sand) and of course having some good equipment to help you out. Here are a few simple suggestions for how to productively work on the beach as a digital nomad.

Find Some Shade

The sunshine is great to make everything on the beach look bright and to raise the temperatures so that you can go swimming. However, for working at the beach, the sun’s brightness and also the hot temperatures it gives to you and your electronic equipment is the opposite of what you need to work on the beach.

Finding some shade on the beach will make it easier to see your laptop screen and enable working on the beach – Digital Nomad Explorer

Not being able to see your laptop screen is one of the key reasons you will give up working on the beach. How can you work if you can’t see the screen!

Work in the shade or in a beach cafe which gives you some protection to direct sunlight. It will allow you to see your laptop screen and also keep you cooler.

Keep your Electronic Equipment Protected from Sand and Water

Computer equipment and for that matter any electronic equipment needs to be protected from sand and water – the elements at the beach that will cause expensive repairs or require replacements. The critical thing that I recommend is keeping the equipment in your bag (a computer bag or a good backpack) when it is not used, away from the sand and water, and protected from the elements. Wind and sun are also something that you need to prevent your equipment from being exposed. The wind may have tiny sand particles or worse, ocean mist, which is also salty. It can do considerable damage to your electronic equipment, especially your computer. The best way to solve this is to keep your equipment in your bag when you’re not using it. When you are working, work from an elevated surface like a small table or sitting on a beach chair. Protecting your equipment from the elements is vital.

Sit on a Beach Chair Instead of Directly on the Sand

Advice that will instantly save you from frustration while working on the beach is to sit on a beach chair or some kind of elevated surface instead of directly on the sand or a blanket in the sand. Keeping sand out of your electronic equipment is vital to the health and protection of your equipment. Even a little bit of sand on the keyboard of the computer can completely screw it up. By sitting on a beach chair, it reduces the risk a little bit of getting sand into your equipment. As mentioned above, always try to keep your equipment in a bag when you’re not using it.

Find the Perfect Outdoor beach cafe

Instead of working on the sand, why not find the perfect outdoor beach café from which you can have the full atmosphere of the beach and ocean while at the same time making some progress on that work project. It is perhaps one of the best solutions to working on the beach.

Finding the perfect cafe on the beach to do your work – Digital Nomad Explorer

Besides keeping your equipment safe from the elements, you can position yourself away from the sun so that you can see the computer screen. There are also all types of refreshments that you can have close by! Check out other articles that I’ve written about finding the perfect café HERE and also about how to live in beach areas HERE.

Additionally, these beach cafes will likely have a better WiFi connection than the open space of the beach, which is vital for productivity as well, so you are not wasting time walking around and trying to find a hot spot.

Portable Sunshade Device

Another great option to help deal with the glare of the sun and the risk of sand in your computer is purchasing a portable sunshade and weather protecting case. These carrying cases, such as the LapDome, are collapsible, which allows you to travel with it efficiently. These cases pop open to shield and protect your laptop, tablet, or cell phones while providing privacy and protection from the elements.

Its main feature is that it guarantees screen visibility while outdoors at all times, so you don’t waste time trying to position yourself or your screen to see your work. These cases also provide room for chargers and extra cords in case you have a charging or connection emergency.

I have to admit, you won’t look like the coolest person on the beach while using one of these sunshade domes, but if you want to progress your work and do it in a way that you can see the screen and keep it protected from the elements this is the way to go.

Choose to Work on Tasks That Require Less Electronics

One idea which may help you is to choose the type of work you are planning to do on the beach. And you should choose work that needs little or no electronic equipment to progress. For instance, by reducing to just a mobile phone and a tablet, it will reduce the risk of your gear getting damaged by the elements by over 50%. The types of work that you can do on projects can be those where you make phone calls, writing, and answering emails in your inbox that don’t require you to access or process multiple files. Choose the type of work that you can easily do on the beach with little equipment, and it will make your beach-work session much more productive.

Keeping your beach-work sessions to 1.5 hours enables you to focus so that you complete some work on the beach – Digital Nomad Explorer

Keep the Beach-Work Sessions to 1.5 Hours or Less

When I was younger and was trying to study on the beach, I noticed that after 1.5 hours, I could no longer concentrate. Sometimes it was because of the posture of sitting in a beach chair. Other times it was because the sun was too hot or the wind blowing made it to cold. And of course, sometimes it was just because after 1.5 hours of deep thinking on the subject, my attention span was depleted. It seems to work as a good guideline even now doing computer work in a café or on the beach. Choose the types of work to do on the beach that will last a little over one hour, and you can claim that your work session on the beach is a success.

Final Thoughts

Social media tends to glamorize the stereotypical image of the digital nomad who works on a tropical beach anywhere in the world with no cares whatsoever. Although this might be the case for a select few, it is not representative of most digital nomads. You can most definitely work on the beach as a digital nomad if you have the right tools and position yourself in the best locations which encourage productivity.

Remember though, being a digital nomad is all about the work/life balance, so it might just be easier to find a quiet place to crank out work, then ditch the laptop, grab your bathing suit and celebrate a successful workday by fully enjoying the beach, with no cares in mind.

Michael Haralson

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.

Recent Posts