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What Managers Need to Know About Hiring a Digital Nomad

It is now the age of the digital nomad. Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, which swept the world in 2020, many companies realized they don’t need to have every employee in the office each day. This led to a movement in which many young employees began to move to other states or countries while they worked the same job. 

But while it may seem easy to hire an employee to work only remotely, it isn’t always as easy as you may think, and there are several things a manager should know before they hire a digital nomad. 

Keep reading to learn more about digital nomads and important information you should know prior to hiring one. 

What is a Digital Nomad?

A digital nomad is a special type of remote worker that changes the location where they live with some frequency. It is not uncommon to hear of a digital nomad who, while American in citizenship, works from abroad.

Digital nomads are notorious for working in public spaces like coffee shops, libraries, and other public locations and using a hotspot or public wifi to complete their work. The difference between a digital nomad and a remote employee is that digital nomads typically don’t live in the city they work in. 

A dark haired woman works from her laptop in a tropical location.
A digital nomad is an employee that can work from their computer in any location in the world. 

Why Should You Consider Hiring a Digital Nomad?

If your company is hiring remote workers, you’ll likely find yourself looking through applications from digital nomads. You may wonder if there is any benefit to hiring them.

First of all, hiring a digital nomad isn’t that much different than hiring a remote worker, as any good digital nomad will have the skills necessary for the job and be able to complete the work in a timely manner. A recent survey conducted by Harvard shows that digital nomads are some of the highest educated workers, and many are very employable. 

But here’s where the benefits come in. Typically, since a digital nomad doesn’t live in the state or country where the work is, they are often willing to take a slightly lower salary. While you can still expect to pay highly for qualified applications, you may find them accepting positions at the lower end of the salary range.

This occurs because frequently digital nomads live in places that have a lower cost of living, allowing them to live a more lavish lifestyle on less. They often are hireable as freelancers, lowering your tax burden, and they tend not to take advantage of benefits like employee healthcare packages, lowering your financial costs in this area as well. 

Therefore looking at hiring a digital nomad could be a huge money saver for your company. Plus, many digital nomads are still of American citizenship, meaning there are rarely tax implications of hiring one, and if there are any they fall to the employee rather than your business. 

This process isn’t all sunshine and roses, however, and below are some of the things you need to know before you get too excited about hiring a digital nomad.

7 Things to Know Before Hiring a Digital Nomad

1. They Won’t Be in Your Same Time Zone

While there are rare occasions where a digital nomad may be working directly south of you in South America or the Caribbean, it is highly unlikely the exact digital nomad you hire will be in your same time zone. Even if they are, there is a chance they may move. 

Having an employee in a different time zone can be difficult when you want to schedule zoom calls or meetings, and you may want to establish to the digital nomad that these are required in advance. This way, they can be prepared for a late night or very early morning meeting. 

But if you are hiring for a team project, this makes a digital nomad not ideal as it may slow down the progress of the team unless the entire team is made up of digital nomads, that is. 

On the other hand, if you are looking for someone to keep an eye on a customer service chat box while you are sleeping, a digital nomad is perfect for this as they will be able to cover hours that your normal employees are asleep without having to outsource. 

2. They Won’t Work 9-5

The main draw of becoming a digital nomad is that you can do your work at any time of day you please. When you hire a digital nomad, you need to know you cannot expect them to be available from 9-5.

As mentioned above, this partially has to do with the time zone differences, but it also is just the way being a digital nomad is built. Whether you plan to hire on digital nomad or multiple, you will need to be prepared to receive emails and messages and possibly submit work notification, in the middle of the night (have your notifications off!)

You should additionally plan to invest in some CRM software to help you keep track of digital nomad employees that you won’t speak with on a daily basis. Using a form of CRM software will help you to keep track of a digital nomad’s progress on a project. 

3. Be Prepared for Video Conferencing

When you hire a remote employee, it is highly likely they can still come into the office on occasion, whether for an interview or a training. With a digital nomad, you will likely never meet the person you are employing, which means you must develop effective video conferencing techniques

Your company will need to purchase access to video conferencing software so that you can use it for as long as you need. You also need to shift your own working style to be more digital, for example, making the entire hiring process digital. 

Additionally, you need to be prepared to schedule video conferences at the drop of a hat. A digital nomad employee may have a question about a project that is impossible to answer via email. You may need to schedule a call just to explain to them how to do something. 

4. Expect Communication Issues

Most digital nomads are highly reliable, as they have to be in order to work remotely. Unfortunately, digital nomads often suffer issues outside of their control which can hinder communication.

Many digital nomads live in remote areas or countries (like the Bahamas) where a storm can knock out internet access, having communication go dark with them for days. While this is rare, it can be concerning when it happens, so just be prepared.

Not to mention that digital nomads travel frequently. While they may have a good connection in one country, they may not stay there longer than 6 months, meaning every 6 months, there may be a day or two where the digital nomad doesn’t reply because they are traveling on international flights. 

5. Digital Nomads are Younger in Age

As you can imagine, it is nearly impossible to live the digital nomad life when you have children. This means most digital nomads are at an age where they don’t yet have children.

While this isn’t necessarily a downside, it does mean you should expect to hire someone earlier in their career with less experience rather than someone late in their career who has had 20+ years of experience. 

You should also be aware that at some point, your digital nomad employee may decide to stop being a digital nomad because they get married or settle down to have children. If this is the case, they may seek other employment, but if you are lucky, they will stay in your employment even if they become a normal remote worker. 

6. There May be Technology Issues

There are several websites that are inaccessible in other countries, and when you hire a digital nomad, you may have a company website sending you notifications or even locking up because someone tries to enter it from another country. 

Technology problems like these can be fixed with a VPN. Most digital nomads are aware of this and already have one running. But this can lead to other problems as some sites know when a VPN is running and may not allow your employee to enter the site until they turn it off, which leads you back to square one.

Of course, there are ways to deal with these issues, but it’s important to know that you might experience them before you hire a digital nomad. 

7. Less Cohesive Teamwork

When a company pulls together a team in the office, the employees typically meet face to face or may have previously worked together on a daily basis. This creates a culture of teamwork and respect.

Adding a digital nomad to a team or creating a digital nomad team is different because they won’t have the same culture of respect without meeting face to face. While digital nomads can create lasting relationships with co-workers, it is harder for them to do so and won’t come automatically. 

For this reason, digital nomads aren’t always the best addition to a team but are better hired for solo projects or for work that would normally be accomplished by a freelancer. 

An individual looks on a website for a digital nomad.
There are many websites that cater to companies looking for digital nomads. 

Where Can You Find Digital Nomads?

Are you thinking a digital nomad is just what your company needs? These employees can usually be found online on a variety of websites. 

The best way to find a digital nomad is by posting a job on a freelance website and specifying that you are looking to hire a digital nomad. Just be aware that many workers from destitute countries like Nigeria and India may also answer your posting, so ensure you establish what country your prospective employee must have citizenship in if it matters to your company. 

Remember that hiring a digital nomad is not the same as outsourcing. If you would like to hire employees from Nigeria, India, or the Philippines, it can be cost-effective for your company to do so, you just may not get the same level of education or expertise that you might get from hiring a true digital nomad. 

Outsourcing also has many issues of its own, especially when it comes to tax liabilities and other legal areas. Ensure you consult a lawyer or other law professional before your company engages in large-scale outsourcing. 

How to Hire Remote Workers Rather Than Digital Nomads

It’s okay if your company decides working with digital nomads isn’t going to work for your environment and the needs of your business. When this is the case, you will want to specify you are looking for remote workers rather than digital nomads when you post a job opening.

Oftentimes, establishing a time zone or state your employee must reside in can help you to weed out digital nomads. You can also require an in-person training, which will require a one-time trip to your office, as this can discourage digital nomads who live abroad.

This will allow you to still take advantage of the cheaper labor without all of the hassles that come with hiring a digital nomad because, for example, if you are a company located in the expensive city of Los Angeles, this will allow you to hire someone who lives in the cheaper city of Barstow, or maybe even Las Vegas, which are both within driving distance for occasional (but not every day) purposes. 

While this won’t give you as steep of a discount as hiring a digital nomad who lives in Bali, Indonesia, it can still go a long way toward finding a quality employee that will take a slightly cheaper salary. 

Ready to Hire a Digital Nomad?

Now that you know all the issues you might run into when hiring a digital nomad, if it still sounds like a good idea to you, then it’s time to go out and hire one! For those still struggling to decide exactly where to find talent, looking towards other industries for hiring inspiration may be a better idea for you before you go forward with the hiring process. 

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