digital nomads

The Rise Of The Digital Nomad

The traditional idea of work-life balance is changing into new directions as the professional world shifts to remote work. This also includes the concept of a remote work-life-tourism never before imagined. The evolution expanding out from the work-from-home trend is changing the way people think about careers and travel, continually pushing the boundaries about what can be, and should be acceptable in the modern working era. It is even predicted that the number of digital nomads will reach 1 billion by the year 2035.

But what is a digital nomad?

In today’s business world, the new working life has made way for the ‘digital nomad’ – a person who doesn’t rely on working in one specific location. Instead, they work entirely remotely, using technology and connectivity to complete tasks and execute day-to-day activities as they travel and explore. While the notion of being a digital nomad continues to be an aspiration for many working adults, flexible-working option specialists, it’s not all just about living a jet-set lifestyle as digital nomads typically work harder than their office-based counterparts.

A recent study by Stanford University highlighted remote workers are in fact 13% more productive than in-office workers and take fewer sick days. At the same time, further research revealed almost a quarter (23%) of remote workers are more willing to put in extra hours to complete tasks.


The catch…’Digital outlaws’?

While people and companies may be ready for the new era of work and travel, the European policy isn’t. In fact, in most EU countries there’s no legitimate way to work as a digital nomad. In a nutshell, the law doesn’t recognise digital nomads as a distinct and legitimate segment of the global workforce. This is why they mostly been working and travelling on tourist visas. Something technically not allowed.

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel! Estonia has recently become the first country in the world to create a digital nomad visa. Approved by the Estonian parliament the visa – actually drafted in close collaboration with the global digital nomad community – will allow location-independent knowledge workers to live in Estonia for up to a year while working for employers or clients outside of the country. Some other countries, like Portugal with its self-employment visa, have taken their first steps in a similar direction. But there’s still a gap between policy and the reality of the workforce. Which is why that Estonian parliament vote was historic: it explicitly recognised a new type of modern worker.

But why is that such a big deal?

Because there is no precedent for this, the eventual scope and impact of such VISA is difficult to predict. But Estonia projects that a possible 1,800 digital nomads will apply annually for the new visa. Combined, these nomads will contribute tens of millions of euros to the country’s economy. Beyond that, a significant positive effect due to nomads’ knowledge sharing and idea generation is expected on the local ecosystem.

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