Digital nomadism has been the center of discussion since the 2000s and 2010s. According to HR Drive (2019), it has been estimated that by 2020, one out of 3 employees will be recruited purely for remote jobs. As cited by the World Economic Forum, remote jobs are the fundamental drivers of change, which have been responsible for transforming conventional business models.
Additionally, remote jobs and digital nomad jobs are responsible for benefiting the companies as well. As reported by American Express, it had been influential in saving USD 10 to 15 million through its BlueWork program. According to a Stanford University report, companies have reported a 50% turnover rise among office workers. Organizations are making efforts to conform to the new business models to exploit the potential advantages offered by recruiting a digital nomad workforce.
I strongly believe that the trend has emerged and gained popularity since the 2010s, thanks to the technological revolution or more precisely, information and communication technology (ICT) revolution. Whether it is the sunny beaches of Bali or the historical sites of Newcastle, whether it is the natural environment of Chiang Mai or the vibrant lifestyle of Lisbon, digital nomads are working remotely to earn and to fulfill their sense of adventure.
This is the third series of blog posts related to HR Nomads that follows up HR Digital Nomadism and my interview with Anna, whom I had met when traveling to Lisbon, Portugal. This article specifically focuses on HR, remote jobs and HR digital nomads and highlights the present status quo of HR digital nomad jobs.
A Discourse on HR Nomadism
While traveling to Lisbon in 2017 for a business trip, I had the opportunity to meet Anna. Lisbon is being called the ‘New Berlin’ and is also known as the Chiang Mai of Europe. A few years ago, it only had a handful of digital nomads. However, it has become a popular digital nomad destination in recent times. This is due to a variety of reasons. Firstly, it provides a support network to digital nomads. Nomad X is a Portuguese based accommodation marketplace, which offers co-living services for digital nomads. It offers community support by hiring a local to guide digital nomads to the local area, neighborhood, restaurants, shopping malls, and leisure activities. Lisbon is also home of Outside and Heden, which provide co-working spaces to digital nomads. Secondly, Lisbon has experienced growth because it is the center of ICT growth and innovation. It hosts the Web Summit, where thousands of freelancers, IT entrepreneurs, digital nomads, and investors attend. According to PeoplePerHour’s website, Lisbon has been identified as the fourth best city to start an online business. Thirdly, a large number of international companies are investing in Portugal to set up their digital platforms because of affordable accommodation and business startups.
Anna is an American freelancer, who worked as HR Recruiter for an American organization before switching to digital nomad lifestyle. Hailing from Chicago, Illinois, Anna had studied at a US university, and pursued her career as an HR Recruiter. Anna enjoyed traveling and would frequently, travel to Europe, the Middle East, and South America, for a vacation to escape the pressures of her demanding job. After ten years, she left her job when she was at the pinnacle of her career to travel the world and work remotely as HR Recruiter and HR Business owner.
My conversation with Anna has been exciting and fascinating just like my experience with Mark and Edward. However, it was through Anna; I came to know that Digital Nomadism is not limited to writing, translation, graphics designing, web development, and accounting jobs. I came to understand that people, having degrees in Human Resources, can also become digital nomads. Another interesting thing that I found out was that Anna constantly changed her location. For instance, she would spend one month in Barcelona and would move to Vienna for a week and back again to Geneva. A further dialogue revealed that she planned to travel to Ibiza and Peru in the next two months.
Currently, Anna is working for several clients. Over the course of her HR Digital nomad career path, she has extensively worked and collaborated with different clients all over the world. However, she has been working for one client since 2010. She recently started her HR agency to offer remote jobs to HR specialists by interviewing and recruiting them through video-conferencing.
An interesting theme of this discussion made me realize that digital nomadism is flourishing at a rapid rate. Individuals are primarily exhausted from their professional jobs and have a desire to relax in the form of traveling.
As a medieval Muslim traveler, Ibn Battuta said,
“Travelling – it leaves you speechless. Then, turns you into a storyteller.”
For many, traveling is a life-changing experience. Fostering psychological and mental growth and appeasing the 5th sense, it is a way of relaxing and entertaining, while also meeting new people at the same time. Previously, it had not been possible for employees to leave their jobs to travel, and even if they did, their vacation only lasted for a few weeks. Digital nomadism is a completely different experience for individuals. It empowers, disconnects from daily monotonous routines, helps in gaining insights, helps increasing cultural tolerance and makes a person feel like an adventurer. When the passion of travel couples with the opportunity to earn an income, Digital Nomadism offers the complete package.
The Rise of Gig Economy
The rise of Digital nomadism has increased because of changing economic trends. Gig economies are described as that economy where individuals work as independent graphic designers, writers, web developers, app developers or bloggers, using a variety of online platforms such as Upwork, Freelancer, PeoplePerHour, Fiverr, 99Designs, GitHub, Rackspace, and BCS Travel. As traditional working arrangements are changing, new forms of working structures such as as-as self-employment, peer-exchange, entrepreneurship, and peer to peer exchange have emerged. As asserted by Friedman (2014), from 2005 to 2013, 85% of the employees came from the gig economy.
Technology is responsible for influencing our daily lives, society, and economy. It affects the way we communicate, the way we travel, the way we express ourselves and the way we perform our daily activities. However, it has fundamentally affected the global workforce. The synthesis of literature suggests that the rise of gig and sharing economy, which is primarily driven by the technological revolution and is viewed as a winning situation for both organizations and employees. For potential organizations, it offers them the ability to reduce their operational costs, while retaining a pool of talented employees. For workers, it is the ultimate path of freedom, autonomy, and flexibility. As employees are working as remote workers from a remote location, they have the power to select their career path and aspirations based on their personal needs and requirements. At the same time, benefits and overheads are no longer a concern for organizations that hire remote workers.
Types of HR Workers in Remote Jobs and Digital Nomad Gigs
Since the 2000s, remote working, telecommuting, and freelancing in Human Resources have gained popularity. Many companies opt for hiring the digital workforce with the intention of hiring a large pool of candidates and reducing the operational costs. The majority of the HR digital jobs that are primarily available are related to HR recruitment and HR consultancy. While HR remote jobs are limited, they are gaining in popularity. Currently, HR virtual workforce has been categorized as follows:
- Traditional HR Freelancers: Freelancers are self-employed workers, who collaborate with different clients simultaneously. They may work from home or move to a new location to maintain work/leisure balance. However, conventional freelancers generally do not travel and work from home. According to Freelancer Union, 50% of the employees worldwide, will abandon their conventional jobs in favor of freelancing by 2035.
- Telecommuters in HR: Telecommuters are engaged in work arrangement with their employers to work from a remote location. In this arrangement, the employees perform a variety of duties by working from a remote location, more specifically, from home. Although telecommuting previously did not gain popularity among organizations, they have become more open towards it in recent times. According to Gallup data, it has been reported that HR remote workers were 24% in 2012, which increased to 31% in 2016. The Society of Human Resources Management has reported that by 2020, 75% of the HR employees will become remote workers. According to London Business School, it is expected that 59% of the HR workforce will become telecommuters by 2020.
- HR Digital Nomads: Since the 2010s, HR digital nomads have been on the rise who have been working with several clients as freelancers and wanderers. The combination of work coupled with traveling offers an enthralling experience. With a variety of countries such as Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, Portugal, Estonia, Vietnam, Spain, and China offering support to digital nomads by offering them affordable accommodation, co-working spaces, food, transportation, and internet, they are working to live rather than living to work.
About the author: Frederik is the founder of theHRnomad.com, a digital platform that is one of its kind. HR Nomad connects remote workers and clients alike for on mutual objective: to harness the power of information communication and technology and to balance between professional and personal life. He is also the author of the book HRnomad (published April 2019). Further, he is the managing partner of the Organization Design consulting firm boxolog.com and international keynote speaker about organization agility, design thinking, and Digital nomadic working.