How To Overcome Common Digital Nomad Challenges
In the last decade, remote work increased by a whopping 400%, and ever since Covid and the subsequent lockdowns, on-site work has taken a massive hit. At first, it was essential for large companies and small businesses to make the transition to remote work in the wake of the pandemic. Now, many organisations are adopting what they’ve learned during this time and adapting their organisational policy accordingly.
In 2022, Statista statistics revealed that 45% of employees worldwide are still working entirely remotely, while 29% are following a hybrid work model. According to the same stats, 65% of workers worldwide have permanently switched to either remote or hybrid employment.
So, what does this mean for employees?
You, like many others before you, have probably dreamed of the day when you could bid farewell to the office and take your work with you while you travel. However, there are also plenty of unique challenges inherent to the life of the digital nomad.
This article takes a deeper look into the pitfalls of living and working exclusively on your screen—and how to combat them.
The Issue Of Isolation
Although it may not be for everyone, the office environment usually comes with plenty of social interaction. Your co-workers may not be your best friends, but many people underestimate the value of daily interaction with colleagues.
Studies have shown that there’s a strong connection between social interaction and stress. Specifically, the more in-person social interaction you have per day, the less stressed you generally are. Now, stress levels are obviously contingent upon other factors, too. But a lack of social activity can make you more vulnerable to extreme stress and the emotional fallout that comes with it.
As an on-site worker, you may have taken your daily social interaction with colleagues for granted. You may have even resented it. However, the value of spending time with your peers—face-to-face or on virtual channels like Slack—cannot be overstated.
The solution: It’s essential to take steps in your life as a digital nomad to have adequate social contact. This can be very challenging, especially if you’re travelling far from home. At the very least, it can help to video call with friends and loved ones for a few minutes a day until you get back to a place you’re more familiar with.
The Self-discipline Stumbling Block
As a digital nomad, you can learn a lot from experienced giggers who have to maintain their own schedules and stay diligent, disciplined, and accountable. There’s nobody there to keep you motivated except yourself.
If you’re used to working environments where supervisors and colleagues help keep you on track, it may be challenging to step into this role for yourself. After all, if you decide to lie in bed until noon and watch series all day, you have the freedom to do that.
This is obviously not a very good way to stay on track with deadlines and you may find yourself rushing to complete jobs and facing the inevitable repercussions.
The solution: Digital nomads have to be strict with themselves. It’s good practice to behave as if you’re getting ready to work in the office, even if you’re not. Wake up at a reasonable hour every weekday, have a nutritious breakfast, put the coffee on, and get to work.
It may not be easy to motivate yourself initially, but once you get used to your routine, you’ll be able to enjoy the freedom of nomadism, safe in the knowledge that you’re capable of meeting whatever work requirements you may have.
The Fatigue Factor
As a digital nomad, working with people in different time zones can often be a part of the job. While your friends and family likely have standard nine-to-fives, you might find yourself taking a few more 3am Zoom calls than you would like.
This kind of disruption to your sleep cycle can have tremendous effects on your energy levels and the state of your mental health.
You may still be getting eight hours of sleep per day; however, those eight hours are probably not consecutive, nor consistent, from day to day. This kind of erratic sleep can take a devastating toll on your quality of life.
As much as you would like to think that you can function on three-hour intervals of sleep every few hours, this behaviour is unfortunately not sustainable.
The solution: We all have to make sacrifices for work every now and then, but certainly not every day. Try to ensure that you get solid seven-to-nine hours of sleep at least a few times a week. Your brain and body will thank you for it.
The Distraction Downfall
One of the main benefits of an office environment is that it’s geared towards focus and productivity. Most large companies employ theories of organisational psychology to ensure that their workplaces are free from distraction and conducive to task completion.
As a digital nomad, you have to learn to work in all kinds of different settings. One week you may be working from home, the next from a hotel or hostel.
If you’re easily distracted, these environmental factors can take a huge toll on your productivity and can cause you to make grave errors. If you’re doing work that involves analysing data, compiling reports, invoice processing, or anything that requires accuracy and intense focus, distractions can lead to major problems down the line.
The solution: There are plenty of tools and strategies you can use to maintain your productivity. One of the most important pieces of technology in a digital nomad’s arsenal are noise-cancelling headphones. With these, you can work almost anywhere without worrying about the cacophony of voices and vehicles around you.
An Evolving Working World Brings New Challenges
The last few years have facilitated an interesting evolution in the world of work, giving rise to a whole new breed of professionals. The challenges we face have changed along with this evolution. Life as a digital nomad may not be for everyone. But for some, it marks the beginning of an era that promises more freedom and fulfilment.
As long as you remain conscious of the potential pitfalls of this lifestyle and use effective strategies to counteract them, you can look forward to a successful career as a digital nomad.
HR Future Staff Writer