Did you know – in 2021 there were 35 million Digital Nomads worldwide? And while many are immigrants and tourists, the number of local remote workers is growing.
The Digital Nomad trend has become more than just another trend. In fact, the numbers are expected to double within just a few years. Founder of NomadList, Pieter Levels, predicts a billion digital nomads globally by 2035. Who knows? It may even become the new normal in a post-pandemic world.
These remote workers are not limited to being freelancers either—they include CEOs, artists, writers, programmers, teachers, and more… In a 2021 research report, only 36% of digital nomads in the USA freelance for multiple companies. There were 10.2 million remote workers, as opposed to 5.5 million independent workers.
Another study in the US on “Anywhere Workers” by And.co showed that only 24% of Digital Nomads live a nomadic lifestyle, but the majority (83%) simply work from somewhere within their home country.
Only 55% of these “Anywhere Workers” are fully remote. The remainder are hybrid workers with varying levels of on-site responsibilities. While 62% chose the lifestyle to be able to work anywhere they want, it turns out that only 8% chose it to actively travel.
Digital Nomads in South Africa
Remote working is on the rise in South Africa too, despite the fact that in a global study by Yonder Consulting, it was found that of the 80% of employees who worked from home, 96% experience connectivity issues.
Understandably, many would envision that working remotely may lead to less motivation and therefore less productivity, but the opposite has proven to be true.
A recent study by Michael Page Africa (a division of PageGroup) has found that many professionals working from home report that they are more motivated, productive, and satisfied than before.
“Apart from salary, culture and career growth as pivotal consideration points for candidates considering switching into new positions, top talent will also consider what flexible work arrangements companies can offer”.
-Julien Raze, Director, Michael Page Africa
As challenging as lockdown may have been, it did result in one of the largest flexible work experiments in history with respondents reporting that it was more than successful. According to the survey:
The ability to work remotely, has seen many families moving away from the cities they work in to smaller “zoom towns” with lower property prices. Towns such as Hermanus, Onrus, Pringle Bay and Plettenberg bay are all becoming popular destinations.
A recent study by Wakefield Research shows that almost 60% of workers across nine global markets are more willing to relocate for work now than they were prior to the pandemic. Locally, 18% of workers were planning to relocate whilst still working remotely for the same company and more than 20% indicated that they were still considering that possibly, according to a Business Insider survey.
Another interesting development during the pandemic, was the rise of the hybrid workforce, who split their time between home and the office. Employees seem to prefer this approach, and employers have noticed.
According to a global survey by Colliers International (a global commercial real estate services company), 86% of managers and decision-makers expect their employees to work between one and four days from home next year.
Locally, several large banks (e.g., Standard Bank) and telecom companies (like MTN) are adopting hybrid policies, while some are even allowing a permanent shift to working from home.
Director of Giant Leap (one of South Africa’s largest workplace design consultancies), Linda Trim, believes this hybrid workforce will be defined by shared spaces and flexible schedules.
The office switchboard is outdated as offices evolve from a single location to an entire ecosystem of offices, homes, and other venues such as co-working spaces and cafes.
A good example of this is the new “hoteling” feature that Starbucks is offering remote working employees, where they can book parking bays and space to work for the day. They also plant to renovate the extra space to give more of a coffee shop feel and encourage co-operation. Starbucks is just one of many global companies who not only extending the work-from-home model but are also re-imagining their entire workplace concept.
What do Employers think of Remote Work?
Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Spencer Stuart recently interviewed 13 CEOs in South Africa, in a bid to understand their experience of remote working and discovered that there was no evidence of it hurting either productivity or performance.
“Fewer than 40% of survey participants said efficiency and productivity declined substantially. Less than half of interviewees said that their employees working remotely compromised data security and confidentiality,” said BCG.
“With flexibility and remote work set to define the post-pandemic workplace, businesses and business leaders need to prioritise reconnecting with employees and keeping workers connected to avoid fatigue and isolation, which negatively impacts employee wellness and productivity,”
-David Seinker, founder of The Business Exchange.
Seinker also states that businesses offering a hybrid work environment would need to promote communication and ensure that their employees feel that they can be heard.
An Agile Solution
Although “Agile” was first used to address the issues that software development teams faced, the principles of collaboration, self-organization and cross-functionality need to be adopted by remote teams too. One of the biggest barriers to effective collaboration between remote team members includes communication, which can be a difficult hurdle to overcome with challenges such as poor mobile internet connectivity, loadshedding and financial difficulties.
We have the solution!
No more cumbersome PABX switchboards that go down during loadshedding and only connect office-bound team members.
No more unreliable VoIP that drops your calls in remote areas.