A birds eye view on management and leadership

Digital Nomad workforce

Despite the vast technological advancements within the last few decades and a continuously expanding service sector in the developing world, many organisations operate in traditional office-based environments that expect all workforce to be physically present within a confined location, even though physical presence is not required to accomplish their day-to-day tasks as all they need is their laptop, some small peripherals and good internet connectivity.

Over the past decade, some organisations have become more accepting of flexible working. For example, staff can work remotely a few days a week or during different times instead of the usual Monday to Friday nine-to-five. However, in most organisations, these flexibilities are an exception rather than the norm. Most often, the reasons given by organisations for not being more flexible are productivity levels and an element of trust, or lack thereof. Nevertheless, without a doubt, the global pandemic of COVID-19 has not only changed our lives but also proved these baseless misconceptions to be incorrect. So, could this pandemic be the turning point from where organisations become more lenient towards remote workers? If so, then does it matter where in the world their staff are based as long as they have their tools and good internet connectivity?

Recruiting a great pool of talent is a fundamental component for the success of organisations. It can make or break organisations, and if done successfully, it can create a significant competitive advantage. Therefore, organisations should have a future-orientated strategic human resource department [1], and a vast majority of future human resources would be so-called “digital nomads”. Many years before the global pandemic of COVD-19, 43% of the American workforce worked remotely, at least sometimes in 2016 [2]. Although in the UK only 26.6% of the workforces did any work remotely in 2019, by March 2020, this figure had increased to 35.9% [3]. The global pandemic has turbocharged this trend, and at one point 86% of employees surveyed by the University of Kent and the University of Birmingham were working from home sometimes [4]. [5] research from 2018 finds that as many as 4.8 million workers described themselves as digital nomads. The most common professions amongst them being marketing, information technology, communications and creative professionals. Numerous other reports strongly suggest this number will rise significantly in the near future, and that by 2035 there could be as many as 1 billion digital nomads [6]. Organisations cannot afford to miss out on such a vast demographic of workers.

[1] M. J. Butler, Strategic human resource management: building research-based practice, London: CIPD, 2008.
[2] A. Mann and A. Adkins, “America’s coming workplace: Home Alone,” Gallup Business Journal, 2017.
[3] J. Martin, V. Haigney and B. L. a. A. Walton, “Homeworking hours, rewards and opportunities in the UK: 2011 to 2020,” 2020. [Online]. Available: https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/labourproductivity/articles/homeworkinghoursrewardsandopportunitiesintheuk2011to2020/2021-04-19#background-data-and-literature. [Accessed 20 May 2021].
[4] H. Chung, H. Seo, S. Forbes and a. H. Birkett, “Working from home during the COVID-19 Lockdown: changing preferences and the future of work,” Economic & Social Research Council and the University of Kent, 2020.
[5] MBO Partners, “Digital Nomadism: A Rising Trend,” 2018. [Online]. Available: https://s29814.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/StateofIndependence-ResearchBrief-DigitalNomads.pdf. [Accessed 13 May 2021].
[6] E. Jacobs and A. Gussekloo, Digital nomads: how to live, work and play around the world, Tortola: self-published, 2016.

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