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What are Digital Nomads and why are their numbers on the rise?

By Emily Wood
19 January 2022

We explore the rise in digital nomads; what that means and how towns and cities are adapting to a digital nomad working style.

How UK towns and cities are adapting to accommodate digital nomads

Since 2019, remote working has become the norm for both employed and self-employed workers alike. And with so many more of us working from ‘home’, there’s been a notable rise in the number of digital nomads. Living up to the nomad lifestyle, this term refers to individuals who travel around the world whilst continuing to work their 9-5 job.

As this trend continues to grow, more cities and towns in the UK are adapting to accommodate the needs of these fleeting workers, providing the right kind of spaces they need to continue to work on their travels. From flexible hours, faster broadband facilities and offers of unlimited refreshments, our high streets and hospitality businesses have quickly adapted to accommodate this new way of working.

What is a digital nomad and what kind of jobs do they do?

The term ‘digital nomad’ refers to individuals who choose to work remotely, traveling around without having one dedicated workplace. From working in libraries, cafes, hotel rooms and AirBnB’s, digital nomads can work from any spot in the world- as long as they have the right software and WiFi in place.

Typically the roles have always been digitally-led such as web developers, graphic designers, virtual assistants and copywriters. However, digital nomad jobs are now becoming far more varied with roles emerging in industries such as banking and education.

This way of working has become far more accessible in recent years for a number of reasons; access to innovative technology, better wi-fi and employers being increasingly flexible. Working remotely whilst navigating a 9-5 around travel has become easier than ever.

And with websites such as Noma collective, Nomad List and Digital nomads, remote workers can network easily, gain valuable advice from peers and even understand budgets better from the experience of other digital nomads working remotely.

Hospitality and digital nomads

As more people choose to work in cafes and other venues, the hospitality sector, in general, has seen an unexpected shift in people working from their venues. From hotels, coffee shops and bars, there has been a steady rise in laptops adorning bars and coffee tables across the UK. Of course, the pandemic impacted the hospitality sector due to lockdowns but with a significant rise in remote workers wanting a change of scenery, businesses have enjoyed an influx of custom since reopening.

With increasing footfall in the towns and cities across the UK, other businesses on the high street are benefitting too, including barbers, hairdressers, nail bars and other retail shops. It’s also encouraged bigger venues such as cinemas and leisure centres to welcome digital nomads, with gyms and independent cinemas opening their doors to workers.

There is an opportunity for the UK high streets to take advantage of this growing trend of digitally-focused workers too, helping to improve local economies. A recent paper by Tech UK highlights the need for digitisation in our UK high streets, helping improve accessibility, connects communities and ultimately improves the local economies. Their paper explores the huge opportunities that local hospitality and tourist businesses have as well as smaller high street venues if they’re prepared to adopt a more digital approach.

How hotels are accommodating remote working

One of the best local stories of a hotel identifying a huge opportunity in digital nomads comes from Blackpool- of all places. Hotelier and International photographer, Duncan Ridgley, saw the opportunity to rebrand his hotel in Blackpool to specifically target digital nomads. Focusing on services he knows are important to digital nomads, Duncan provides his guests with top-notch broadband instead of trying to target previous tourists and party groups.

More hotels across the UK are recognising the need to pay per hour room rates, and have even started offering out their facilities such as gyms and pools along with the opportunity to sit and work quietly. As many hotels and hospitality venues have larger reception spaces and quieter spaces, they already offer what many digital nomads are looking for - a quiet spot to work in.

So, what does the future hold for physical offices and headquarters?

With such a significant shift in the fundamental way of working, larger more established businesses are now faced with a growing issue- empty office buildings. Whilst some businesses will always need a headquarters or office address for storage, security or housing servers, many more have found rising rent and overheads a hangover from traditional working.

But, the question still lingers- what is the purpose of an office space now?

Office buildings have always had a very formal reputation; a space where teams of people work often in silence and hours in front of the screen is the norm. With the dramatic shift to remote working almost overnight, all of the disadvantages of being in an office were suddenly under the spotlight. Lack of creativity, the atmosphere, poor furniture or lack of space and all of the other issues that come with office working became a thing of the past. There’s no real surprise that many of us have decided to adopt a more balanced working culture, choosing remote working predominantly for a work/ life balance.

Of course, the irony of rising WeWorks and other office spades for remote workers looking to rent a space or a meeting room adhoc will not go unmissed to those businesses with high building overheads. Collaborative office spaces like WeWork’s offer a community feel of an office with the freedom of being able to come and go as you please. They have fast, reliable broadband connection, meeting rooms for hire and sociable kitchen areas without the office politics and formal feel office buildings can have.

Office buildings do still serve an important role within the business sector but their traditional purpose hasn’t aged well. Some industries need an office building, even if half their workforce choose to work remotely. Lawyers, accountants and public sector workers are just some of the kinds of jobs that work better when they’re a part of the office community.

As digital nomads continue to grow and become more prevalent within the towns and cities in the UK, those businesses looking to benefit from this new kind of trade will need to adapt their hospitality accordingly. Businesses that can recognise their potential for regular and reliable revenue will be creating a high-demand service that is set to continue growing.

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