Does Your Company Need a Digital Nomad Policy?

In 2020, a great majority of companies were required to transition their on-site employees to remote work. That meant, providing laptops, hot spots, and in some cases even desks or duplicate monitors as necessary. This shift, of course, was brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, with which we are all too familiar. When converting to remote workers, some individuals took the opportunity to become a sort of digital nomad. While many remote employees work from their place of residence a majority of the time, except when traveling for an extended vacation or quick change or scenery, digital nomads are employees who travel and explore full time, while working remotely full time, as well. By definition, a digital nomad is someone who chooses to embrace a location-independent, technology enabled lifestyle that allows them to travel and work remotely, anywhere in the internet-connected world. While the lifestyle of digital nomads has become a popular trend, and garnished quite the following on social media, it can pose problems for companies.

In a recent extensive survey, it was found that the number of American digital nomads increased by 49% between 2019 and 2020 — from 7.3 million to 10.9 million. In the recent past, many digital nomads were freelancers, independent contractors, or the self employed. From 2019 to 2020, the number of digital nomads with traditional jobs rose from 3.2 million to 6.3 million, a 96% increase.  Many of the individuals working traditional jobs and adopting the lifestyle of a digital nomad are not notifying their employers. This could potentially place their company at risk for legal, tax, or compliance issues – if their digital nomad employee is in any given place for too long, or without proper legal documentation. With the significant increase noted above, many companies and their lawyers are starting to recognize and manage these risks. 

Several employees embracing the digital nomad lifestyle are in high-demand, tech-oriented positions. That said, employers must be careful how they address the issues & risks that digital nomad employees may bring on. While it is necessary to protect one’s company from legal ramifications and compliance issues, it is also important that digital-nomad employees aren’t forced off of your team, and onto a team where they are allowed to continue the lifestyle they have grown so accustomed to. 

As companies work intently on reopening their offices, they must consider the needs and prerogatives of those who took full advantage of the need for remote work during the 2020 pandemic, and still want the freedom to roam. We encourage you to take a look at your teams, and evaluate if and when would be the right time to implement a digital-nomad policy.