Customer Stories — 8 min
The rise of remote work has opened up a world of possibilities for a new generation of workers. Today’s workforce isn't limited to working from traditional office spaces. They can choose to work from their apartments, local cafes, and even across countries. More than ever, workers are seeking the flexibility to travel and work from locations of their choice. Employers are also seeing that giving workers the flexibility to work from anywhere is a fantastic tool for recruitment, retention, and engagement.
In this guide, we take a deeper look into “digital nomadism.” We also explain how employers can leverage “work from anywhere” policies as a modern benefit, and use it to attract the world’s best talent.
Digital nomads are usually highly-skilled remote workers who are location-independent. They perform their work duties while traveling across cities (or even countries), and rely on flexible work opportunities and digital communication tools to make it work.
Embracing digital nomadism allows workers to do their best work in environments where they feel most motivated and productive. And it’s not just a handful of Instagram influencers seeking this lifestyle.
Millions of professionals are joining the ranks every year, with the number of Americans identifying as digital nomads jumping 43% – from 7.3 million to 16.9 million – between 2019 and 2022.
Driven by this demand, decentralized teams have become common (and sometimes expected) in sectors where competition for talent is fierce. Rather than requiring a 9-to-5 office presence, many companies are opting to give employees maximum flexibility. They are open to allowing their employees to work the hours that feel comfortable for them (within the constraints of what’s necessary for their role). Employees can also choose to work from whichever location they want, whether that’s their home, a coworking space, or a breezy café in Puerto Rico.
“Having the opportunity to visit new countries, cities, and unique locations while still building your career is something with a much larger impact than we realize,” says Amanda Day, Remote’s director of people enablement. “Stifling someone’s access and opportunity to a 30 km radius will not create global growth opportunities for either the employee or employer.”
In a competitive market, the benefits employees desire, go beyond paid time off (PTO) and healthcare (although these are essential). Top talent can be difficult to hire and even harder to retain in a market where employees are no longer limited by geographic boundaries. In this new world of work, a “work from anywhere” policy is a superpower: a recruitment and retention tool that can make your organization stand out.
As we found in Global Benefits Report, workplace flexibility is now considered an essential benefit for global workers, particularly those who are already working in a remote or hybrid environment.
Of those workers, a staggering 57% ranked flexibility as even more important than their compensation.
Allowing your employees to work from anywhere is an essentially free benefit that is highly sought after by skilled professionals — particularly those in the tech sector. It can be a great option for startups and smaller organizations that can’t be competitive with compensation but can be more open with flexibility. In contrast, there are many other popular benefits (like tuition assistance or annual bonuses) that, while effective recruitment tools, can be costly to offer and track.
Diego Bejarano Gerke, the co-founder and CEO of Wifi Tribe, has seen the power of “work from anywhere” policies while building a far-reaching community of nomadic professionals. As he says, “[These policies] make a powerful statement that you support your employees' lifestyle aspirations and that you are recognizing that their freedom matters to you. By stating to your applicants: ‘We want you to work from where you feel happy and productive – wherever in the world that may be,’ you are setting yourself apart from other employers that will limit them.
Changing workplace norms come with the potential for challenges. These include:
Regulatory and compliance risks if employees wish to work from outside their country or state of residence.
Cultural changes in the workplace are needed to ensure that digital nomad employees can perform to the best of their abilities.
Given these challenges, you might be wondering if this is a benefit worth offering to your workforce. While there is much that needs to be considered before updating your company policies, the upsides for employees and employers alike can make it well worth it.
“The future of work is to work from anywhere. High-performing employees who use the world as their office space will go above and beyond for the companies that give them this power.” says Amanda Day.
In this guide, we share everything you need to know about this modern benefit — including how it can help your organization, how to overcome cultural and regulatory hurdles, and how to successfully implement these new policies within your organization.
Many of today’s employees consider themselves members of “Generation Flex” and won’t consider employment offers that don’t come with flexible workplace policies. But it’s not just employees who can benefit.
Organizations that embrace greater flexibility can harness the talent of employees who are happier, more productive, more loyal, and have access to wider networks of global talent and potential partners for your business.
While remote work by itself can offer the flexibility that many workers seek, it can also be isolating and lonely. COVID-19 accelerated remote work adoption, but a dual epidemic emerged as workers started to feel isolated and gripped by feelings of loneliness.
Research suggests that loneliness can affect employees’ professional wellbeing as well as personal. Mental health is a consistent concern for remote employees. It’s an issue that digital nomadism can address because at its core, isolation is a structural problem. If you have a remote team, encouraging employees to co-work, travel, volunteer, and interact with others outside their homes can alleviate the feelings of loneliness and the loss of motivation that can result from physical isolation.
This is affirmed by a global workplace survey by IWG, in which 85% of respondents reported that their productivity increased as a result of greater workplace flexibility (such as the ability to partake in digital nomadism).
Darcy Boles, a remote work thought leader and Remote community member, agrees.
“When people have the choice to live in communities or environments that fill their cup, they tend to be happier, healthier, and more engaged in their work.”
If you want to proactively address loneliness amongst remote team members, allowing employees to work from anywhere is one path to improved wellness, motivation, and engagement at work.
Learn practical insights from global HR experts at Greenhouse and Remote to help you support your team's life-work balance
Channeling remote work into a digital nomad lifestyle allows employees to connect with other professionals who they would likely never meet otherwise. When you enable employees to expand their professional networks in this way, the results can be mutually beneficial. Through networking, your employees can expose your company to innovative new ideas, potential business partnerships, and other talent.
Often, digital nomad workers are drawn to communities where they can meet other like-minded professionals. These communities include Wifi Tribe, which hosts chapters where remote workers can live and work together in a new city for four to six weeks at a time.
Wifi Tribe members tend to be entrepreneurs, marketers, software engineers, designers, and others in high-demand roles. They have proven themselves in their respective fields in order to forge a flexible lifestyle.
As Wifi Tribe’s co-founder explains, “We've seen many of our members learn from one another, upskill, and get inspired by other fellow professionals. This leads to creativity, ideas, and new ways of solving problems that both employees and their employers can benefit from.”
There are also a growing number of coworking spaces that cater to these communities. The Collective in London is a coworking, co-living space that encourages networking and collaboration among the digital workers who stay there, offering the kind of positive social experiences one can find in an office setting – but without the constraints.
When your employees travel through these spaces, they will be acting as ambassadors for your company and brand. By representing and advocating for you, their networking can naturally lead to connections with business leaders who may become your future customers or partners. It will also bring your organization to the attention of other in-demand workers who are seeking flexible employment opportunities.
Digital nomad-friendly policies allow employers to reach further in their talent search and tap into a rich, mostly untapped pool of workers.
According to a study by FlexJobs, only 35% of digital nomads are employed by a company — the rest identify as freelancers or self-employed. The same study indicates that digital nomads choose their lifestyle because of its perceived work-life balance, freedom, and their love of traveling. Hard-to-find talent like software engineers, marketers, and others who are currently working as freelancers or consultants could be swayed by full-time employment offers if it allows them to continue their lifestyle of working when and where they see fit.
“Life experiences and having a life outside of work is what retains high-performing employees,” says Day. “Someone who is stimulated outside of work, who has the opportunity to integrate their work into their life, will help you build an environment where others are set up for success and build teams that are self-enabled. These are exactly the types of employees you want running projects and leading teams.”
Employers who offer these perks during recruitment will stand out in the crowded global talent market. The employees who take advantage of this perk are more likely to be loyal to the organizations that allow them the space to thrive both personally and professionally.
“I remember [my first time] working for a company that allowed me to work from anywhere… I was even more motivated to do my work because of how grateful I was for the position,” explains Jordan Carroll, Founder of the Remote Job Club. “The personal growth one can gain from traveling the world can add new perspectives to the business and lead to a happier employee.”
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The business and personal benefits of digital nomad-friendly policies are clear, but how can employers establish a company culture where nomadic employees can show up and perform to the best of their abilities? The most important first step is creating a truly flexible, remote-first work environment. It’s also essential to clearly communicate your expectations to nomadic workers, and even consider perks that will further enrich your employees’ experience.
Asynchronous communication – which means not requiring employees to be present for communication at the exact same moment in time – is an important cornerstone of making digital nomadism possible. Without it, traveling the world could create too many logistical challenges – for example, regular morning calls in California (10 am PST) require evening log-ins from Croatia (7 pm CET).
Async work relies on extensive documentation and a clearly identified pathway for projects, which can cut down on the miscommunications and misunderstandings that often complicate or delay product/service delivery.
For nomadic workers to be successful, it’s vital that everyone in your organization work based on the same standards for communication and collaboration. Async work will benefit any non-remote employees, too, by allowing them to work at their own pace without interruption.
You can view Remote’s full guide to asynchronous communication to help you build a strong remote work culture.
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As with all your employees, but especially digital nomads, it’s important to set clear guidelines for how you expect them to show up within your organization. This starts from the beginning of the relationship when outlining their job description, responsibilities, and the levels of flexibility that are acceptable — as well as any limitations.
If employees are working on their own schedules and have fewer check-ins with their team, you should make sure they have measurable goals in place so they (and you) can track their progress and achievements.
It’s also imperative to be clear on company standards for acceptable communication and collaboration. Make sure these standards are documented and shared across your entire organization — with nomadic, remote, and in-office workers alike.
As Diego Bejarano Gerke of Wifi Tribe says, “With nomad workers, I particularly recommend setting expectations around how employees should show up for calls when synchronous work is required. I find that the quality of the call (stable internet connection) is very important for good communication, as well as noise levels in their work environment or other distractions. If there is a client call with someone outside your organization, you might expect your teammates to show up in a more formally professional way – and this should be communicated.”
While “work from anywhere” and digital nomad-friendly policies are excellent benefits in and of themselves, there are other (relatively low-cost) perks that can further improve the employee experience for nomadic workers, remote workers, and even those who prefer to work in-office or hybrid.
Here are a few examples of perks that are geared toward increasing engagement, collaboration, and overall happiness across a distributed workforce:
Coworking stipends: Many remote and nomadic workers do their best work when they have the option to work in a space that is more formal than their apartment or a cafe, such as a coworking space. But accessing these spaces can be expensive. A monthly stipend toward the cost of a coworking membership is an effective perk that can give nomadic workers a greater sense of structure in their work day. At Remote, we offer all employees $150/month to use toward coworking costs. We have a complete guide to offering coworking as a modern benefit on our blog.
Company offsites: Company or team offsite meetups are an incredible opportunity to bring distributed team members together to deepen relationships, collaborate, and brainstorm. Offsites are an exciting experience that all team members will benefit from, particularly nomadic workers, who already seek out opportunities to travel and connect with others. These offsites can include activities such as team-building exercises, training sessions, or social events.
Professional development stipends: Providing opportunities for employees to attend conferences, workshops, and training sessions will help them stay up-to-date with the latest trends and technologies in their field. It also gives them the chance to network and collaborate with peers. While these opportunities are beneficial to everyone on your team, they’re particularly attractive to nomadic workers, who are interested in professional development alongside the ability to travel. Offering a stipend is a great way to show that you support them in these endeavors. At Remote, for example, we offer each employee $1,000 per year to use for learning and development.
Flexible schedule and leave policies: In addition to adopting asynchronous communication, offering flexible work schedules is key for digital nomad workers to thrive in their roles, since they will sometimes need to work odd hours or take time off to travel. This flexibility (and any restrictions) should be outlined in your official company policies. This is also linked to leave policies, such as unlimited PTO, which can help accommodate the needs of nomadic employees as they move to new locations.
By offering these perks, you can help digital nomad workers feel supported while creating a work environment that fosters collaboration and productivity. It's also important to regularly communicate with your nomadic (and non-nomadic) team members and give them opportunities to provide feedback on perks and policies. This can help identify any gaps or concerns they may have.
“Flexibility is arguably the number one factor affecting employee engagement and retention. Could digital nomads represent that ultimate flexible target group? As nothing represents that flexibility better than true work-from-anywhere options and the digital nomad lifestyle...To make sure they stay ahead of the talent game, employers should enable work-from-anywhere while being mindful of the risks of noncompliance.” - Rowena Hennigan, Founder at RoRemote
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Compliance is one of the major hurdles employers encounter when trying to implement a “work from anywhere” policy. Every country has unique employment laws, and these laws can change from year to year. Ensuring compliance when workers are traveling outside their home country can be a burden for employers who want to avoid the risks (and associated fees) of inadvertently running astray of local laws.
However, this shouldn’t cause you to turn away from offering digital nomad-friendly policies as a workplace benefit. The first step is understanding the risks so that you can mitigate them for your employees and your organization.
The most essential thing for employers and nomadic workers to understand is that employees must always abide by the visa requirements for the country they’re traveling to, whether on a work visa, tourism visa, or other types of visa.
“Long periods of travel to one country (for example, spending more than six months in a country without a valid work permit) can result in multiple high risks, and permanent establishment is one of the largest,” explains Amanda Day.
Permanent establishment is a complicated topic. Depending on where your employees are and the type of work they do, your company could be liable for corporate taxes in other countries under permanent establishment rules. However, you can mitigate your permanent establishment risk with foresight and planning.
For more information on this topic, you can read Remote’s complete guide to understanding permanent establishment risk.
To avoid permanent establishment and other compliance risks, it’s crucial to have clearly-stated guidelines and policies for your employees to adhere to. Your policies should also cover issues specific to workplace culture.
When crafting your company’s “work from anywhere” policy, you should consider:
Writing clear policies for when employees are expected to be online (if your organization isn’t fully asynchronous).
Setting guidelines in place for how employees are expected to communicate with managers and collaborators.
Asking your employees to report when and where they are traveling (when outside their country or state of residence).
Keeping clear and accurate records of your employees' work location and activities.
Becoming aware of tax laws in each country where your remote employees work. This includes understanding the concepts of permanent establishment and tax residency.
Checking to ensure that your employees have the necessary visas and work permits for the countries they are working from.
Regularly reviewing and updating your policies to account for changes in tax laws and regulations in the countries where your remote employees work.
Checking in with your employees frequently to ensure that they are aware of and following your remote work policies and relevant tax laws.
It is also advisable to seek the advice of tax professionals familiar with international tax laws to ensure you are fully compliant.
The digital nomad lifestyle is increasingly easy for individuals to adopt and navigate as countries see the benefit of opening their borders to skilled workers.
A total of 49 countries now offer digital nomad visas, and that number is growing every year.
Visa holders and their employers are typically exempt from paying local income tax, and the countries benefit from the boost to local economies. Digital nomads often spend money during the traditional “slow seasons” for tourism in countries like Barbados, Costa Rica, Latvia, and many others.
These visas cost anywhere from $0 to $2,000, depending on the location, and allow remote workers to live and work in that country for anywhere from one month to two years (often with the option to renew).
Portugal’s newly-announced digital nomad visa, launched in October 2022, is likely to be a hit with traveling workers. Portugal has long been a top destination for remote work thanks to its warm weather, affordability, and burgeoning coworking community. The city of Madeira ranks #4 on our list of top global destinations for remote work.
“Portugal is blossoming as a tech hub and a go-to destination for other digital nomads. At the same time, it’s a great place to have fun and party all day if you so desire,” explains Joshua Best, a digital nomad and mobility specialist at Remote. “The personal, professional, and cultural work-life balance there is extraordinary.”
Minimum income required: €2,850/mo.
Visa length: One year, renewable up to five
With a low cost of living combined with high-speed internet, Estonia has become an enticing location for remote workers. The capital city of Tallinn, located on the Baltic Sea, ranks #23 on our top 100 cities for remote work thanks to its old-world charm, nightlife, and modern technology.
Minimum income required: €3,504/mo.
Visa length: One year (NOTE: Staying in Estonia for more than 183 days, even on the digital nomad visa, will result in local income taxation)
This Mediterranean European nation is a favorite among remote workers. In Remote’s guide to the top 100 destinations for remote work, the capital city of Zagreb ranks #49 on the list. Family members can also request a visa to Croatia.
Minimum income required: $2,658/mo.
Visa length: One year
Mexico has become a popular digital nomad destination thanks to widespread internet accessibility and its proximity to the U.S. In fact, the number of U.S. citizens granted temporary residency increased by 48% between 2019 and 2022. Mexico City ranks #91 in our guide to top destinations for remote work.
Minimum income required: $2,600/mo.
Visa length: One year, renewable up to four
Countries like Spain, Belize, and South Africa are also planning to create digital nomad visas workers can apply for in 2023, and more will follow suit in the race to attract high-skilled remote workers to their communities.
You can find more top destinations for remote work in our exclusive report on the Best Destinations for Remote Work.
Thirty-five million workers worldwide currently identify as digital nomads, and this number is only expected to grow as more workers look for a way to “have it all” – which for some means traveling the world without sacrificing their careers.
A “work from anywhere” policy is a benefit that many skilled workers look for today, and with the right guidance and proactive policies, many organizations are capable of offering it.
Regulatory and legal risks remain the biggest obstacle to the adoption of global remote work and digital nomadism as a benefit. Compliance management is essential for ensuring that employees and employers do not unknowingly run astray of local laws.
Working with an Employer of Record (EOR) like Remote is a great way to access the global hiring and legal expertise you need to better manage an international workforce.
As a global employment platform, Remote handles hiring, payroll, taxes, benefits, and local compliance for organizations looking to expand their global coverage. Our services allow businesses to focus on their core competencies rather than devoting resources to managing the complex web of international employment.
With a team of experts across the globe, Remote has the internal knowledge to help advise companies on local labor and visa laws and issues that may arise when allowing for digital nomadism. We can also assist with employee relocations in many countries.
Whether you are hiring one employee in another country or onboarding dozens of workers all over the world, Remote can help! Sign up or contact us today to start offering the best benefits to your global team.
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If you are interested in learning more about the modern benefits that top talent around the world craves, download Remote’s Global Benefits Report. This free downloadable report offers insights and guidance you can use to transition into a more remote-friendly organization. This comprehensive guide will not only show you how to create a healthier and more connected company culture, but also how to build a more diverse workplace where everyone has the opportunity to thrive – wherever they feel most comfortable.
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Customer Stories — 8 min
Visas and Work Permits — 5 min
Visas and Work Permits — 8 min
Employer of Record & PEO — 8 min