What Do Hybrid Working Environments Mean for Digital Nomads? — Andy Sto
Twitter has announced a new hybrid working model for its staff. While this is great news for most workers, it carries some complications for full-time digital nomads. What does the rise of the hybrid workplace mean for the digital nomad lifestyle?
Twitter Announces Hybrid Work Model
This month new Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal announced that, while offices would reopen in mid-March, he would continue the company’s policy of allowing employees to work remotely.
The Tweet specifically said that offices would be opening as normal in March and that all business travel was back, effective immediately, but that staff would not be forced to return to the office or start jet-setting again.
“… the decisions about where you work, whether you feel safe traveling for business, and what events you attend, should be yours.”
The CEO encouraged staff to make decisions based on their own circumstances, the safety of their families, and where they “feel most productive and creative”.
However, Agrawal also noted that distributed working would become much harder as Twitter abandoned the “remote-first” approach that it had adopted from the start of the pandemic. Anyone who has called into live meetings or missed out on serendipitous moments when new plans and strategies were developed around the water cooler understands what he means by this.
The CEO admitted that it would inevitably take time to adapt to this new hybrid working model.
Other big tech companies are taking a similar approach to Twitter.
While Google is allowing some workers to continue to work remotely full time, the majority will be expected to come into the office about three days a week. The company sees these “contact days” as essential for meetings, collaborations, engaging with clients, and building communities.
Microsoft is similarly taking a hybrid approach but allowing employees to establish their new work patterns with managers on an individual basis. They have been given 30 days from 28 February 2022 to put arrangements in place.
The Hybrid Work Environment and Challenges for Digital Nomads
These new hybrid working models are great news for most workers who live relatively near their employers but prefer the freedom of working remotely at least some of the time.
However, it does mean that opportunities for fully remote digital nomads are narrowing. During the pandemic, many companies were taking on remote workers, and with no need to come into the office, you could base yourself anywhere in the world.
But now that most companies are returning to the idea of expecting at least some facetime in the office from employees on a regular basis, how will digital nomads adapt? And, as companies try to use facetime to reinvigorate their company cultures and promote creativity in the wake of the pandemic, will digital nomad employees become less attractive?
Research conducted by Future Forum Pulse suggests that while 76% of creative workers want to maintain flexible working, managers and executives are three times more likely to want to return to the office.
What can digital nomads do to adapt to this changing market?
Hybrid Digital Nomads
There has long been a concept of “hybrid digital nomads”. Rather than maintaining a life constantly on the road, hybrid digital nomads spend extended periods of time travelling, but maintain a home base that they visit on a regular basis (by digital nomad standards).
For example, they might spend six months of the year travelling and six months of the year “at home”, or they might spend one month travelling and one month at home, or follow other similar patterns.
There are both benefits and drawbacks to this hybrid style.
Aside from being able to commit to at least some facetime with an employer, which may open up opportunities and put you in a better-negotiating position, maintaining a home base can mitigate many of the biggest challenges for digital nomads.
Having a stable address makes life’s administrative logistics including banking, paying taxes, voting, and maintaining a social security or retirement fund, much easier. It also means that you are better able to maintain the family relationships and friendships that underpin our lives. Lack of these is one of the major causes of depression among digital nomads. It may also make establishing and maintaining long-term romantic relationships significantly more manageable.
On top of this, for many people, the attraction of the digital nomad lifestyle is to challenge themselves, see what they are capable of, and “live without a safety net” for a period of time. Maintaining a home base can significantly undermine the intensity of that experience.
But for those principally concerned with making the most of their lives while in the workforce and seeing as much of the world as possible, the hybrid digital nomad lifestyle is an interesting proposition.
A Word of Warning about Workations
Many people might be tempted to call the period of time that hybrid digital nomads spend away from the office a “workation”. While this term may be appropriate in some circumstances, it rarely applies to digital nomads.
Spending two weeks at a beach retreat where you intend to focus on some creative work, as well as keep up-to-date on day-to-day admin is a workation. Travelling the world for six months while maintaining your standard work schedule remotely is the digital nomad lifestyle. The digital nomad lifestyle is not just about where you are, but also your attitude towards the work-life balance.
Also, if you are someone who travels while you work, there can be a temptation for others to see you as someone who is always working and always available. You may even start to see yourself that way. But everyone needs a holiday!
Holidays aren’t just about visiting someplace beautiful. Holidays are when you switch off from work and don’t think about it for an extended period. This is necessary to reduce stress, recharge your batteries, and allow new bursts of creativity by getting distance from what you do daily.
Becoming a hybrid digital nomad is about negotiating contracts that mean you don’t always need to be in the office and balancing your time when travelling to allow you to fulfil your work commitments. It should not be confused with being on call when you are meant to be on holiday.
Are Hybrid Digital Nomads the Next Wave?
With work environments becoming increasingly flexible, many people also want to completely sever ties from their home location and this new approach to finding the right work-life balance seems like it will be on the rise. This being said, only time will tell if hybrid digital nomadism will be the next wave in the remote working and digital nomad trends.