For some people, the pandemic means that they have to work from home if they can work at all. Many people are having difficulties adapting to this new lifestyle, while others thrive under this new set of circumstances.
If you like managing your working hours and a workplace without annoying coworkers, maybe you are considering starting your own online business or perhaps even becoming a digital nomad?
This article will deal with the challenges that being a digital nomad during the COVID-19 pandemic brings and the predictions of what the future holds for this career path.
What is a digital nomad?
Modern nomads are remote workers: location-independent people who do freelance work through their own company or are employed by a foreign company. They do not have an office base or worksite. Instead, they rely entirely on the Internet and other information and communication technology to do their work.
Due to their job nature, digital nomads can work from anywhere in the world as long as they have a stable internet connection. During the past few years, many people have seized this opportunity to see and explore the world while simultaneously working from various – and frequently exotic – locations. However, the ongoing pandemic that shows no signs of stopping threatens this lifestyle.
The current state of affairs
Different countries have responded to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic in different ways. While social distancing and precautionary measures are in effect worldwide, most destinations have opted to close their borders to any newcomers in the hope of slowing down the spread of the virus.
However, several countries have seen this newly developed situation as an opportunity to attract digital nomads to rejuvenate the economy. Most of them have different requirements and benefits and offer up to 12 months of stay with this particular visa type.
Some countries that currently welcome digital nomads
Teleworkers are mostly drawn to destinations with nice weather, a relaxing atmosphere, and a low cost of living. The destinations listed here have relatively low costs of living, especially when it comes to accommodation, food and other necessities. These states and territories have introduced a special visa for digital nomads to facilitate the new remote working trend, and include Bermuda, Barbados, Estonia, and Georgia.
Remote Working Visa for Bermuda
After noticing that many people have been extending their 90-days tourist visas before they expire and seeing a massive influx of young professionals to their country, Bermuda’s government quickly reacted.
They have implemented the Work from Bermuda program and introduced a new residential certificate visa that enables digital nomads to stay in the territory for up to one year.
To obtain this new visa, remote workers must meet the following requirements:
- Have valid health insurance
- Prove sufficient funds to cover the stay
- Pay the visa fee
The majority of Bermuda’s teleworking visitors come from the east coast of North America, and many are American and Canadian business people.
The Digital Nomad Visa for Estonia
After two years of preparations, the Digital Nomad Visa for Estonia has been officially launched. Unlike other countries on this list, Estonia was preparing to open its door to teleworkers even before the COVID-19 pandemic started. Having noticed that many people were working illegally on holiday visas, officials decided to regulate this area.
To apply for this type of visa, foreign nationals must submit the following:
- Proof of health insurance
- Proof of at least €3,504 ($4,180, £3,164) of monthly income in the last six months
- Payment for the visa
Anyone can apply for this visa, irregardless of their nationality or field of work.
Barbados introduced its scheme for digital nomads in July, 2020. The “Welcome Stamp” allows foreign nationals to work remotely and to stay on the Caribbean island for up to 12 months.
In Europe, meanwhile, Georgia has announced a similar program for teleworkers. Several other European countries, such as Croatia, have programs like these in various stages of development.
What will workplaces look like post-COVID?
While the post-pandemic situation is not yet clear, some trends have started emerging, while others have become more prominent.
While the digital nomad lifestyle was already gaining steam pre-COVID, more companies are now looking into the potential of long-term remote work and even questioning the need to return to a traditional office space at all.
Changes in communication
The global reach of COVID-19 created a significant shift in how companies manage their teams and uphold their business models, and also on how training and learning are done. At the same time, there has been tremendous growth in the use of video conferencing and chat app platforms.
With this growth, it has become crystal clear that digital nomads can be just as connected and effective working remotely as they would in an in-person environment.
More people will be working remotely
Companies worldwide are discovering the many advantages of working remotely, including lower operational costs and increased autonomy for their teams, which means greater job satisfaction. It looks like this way of working is here to stay.
Overall, distributed teams are now considered more of a long-term opportunity than a short-term solution. For digital nomads, this could mean additional job openings in the future or potential for more flexible current jobs to accommodate this lifestyle.
Healthcare will be more critical than ever
With Coronavirus showing flaws in health care systems everywhere, many predictions claim that health and safety will become a more significant concern for digital nomads than ever before.
Though many purchase traveler’s insurance or international coverage before they leave their home country (and some of the countries mentioned above even list this as a prerequisite), not everyone living this lifestyle is this organized and has done their research into healthcare.
With the pandemic’s uncertainty over their heads, they will need to research the current case numbers, the closest hospitals covered in their plans, and the local mandates and restrictions.
Flying will be even more challenging and more expensive
Part of the appeal of being a digital nomad is saving money. If you are a digital nomad, you can gain some significant tax benefits. For instance, if you’re out of the country 330 of 365 days in the United States, you qualify for the “Foreign Income Exclusion” tax. This means that many teleworkers reap significant benefits from being out of the country for extended periods of time. Other countries likely have similar tax benefits.
But, as airlines struggle to remain afloat, the cost of flying has increased, while schedules have decreased. It’s safe to predict that the aviation industry won’t recover for at least a few months or even years after the pandemic is over.
Along with other factors, this will impact the types of destinations nomads choose as their temporary home bases.
What you can do as a digital nomad right now
If you are not in a position to pack your bags and leave for Georgia right away, here are some things you can do to make the whole situation a bit easier to handle.
Wait it out
While this might not be the answer you were hoping for, the best course of action for you as a digital nomad might be the same as everyone else. Wait. Be smart, be safe, and simply wait until this whole ordeal is over. Take comfort in the fact that you’ll be able to find new appreciation and joy in your travels once borders finally reopen.
In the meantime, make the most out of the situation by planning a local weekend getaway or a local vacation. Do whatever you need to do to satisfy your wanderlust, see new places and experience new things, while abiding with local restrictions.
With the current challenges of overseas air travel, this might be the perfect time to get in the car and head somewhere a little closer to home. Besides, by traveling domestically, you can support local economies that have felt the weight of the pandemic while potentially discovering a few hidden gems along the way.
Find a community
Finally, since no-one can really understand your predicament quite like other people in the same situation, consider joining an online community. Many Facebook groups and subreddits have been created for digital nomads like you, to help them get through these rough times.
Use Slack and social media platforms to find the virtual communities that can offer support and understanding you may not find elsewhere. You never know, this might help you find/establish personal connections with people who can help you get back on your feet once we’re done with the pandemic.
It’s important to stay positive. The situation changes on a day-to-day basis, so the best you can do is be patient, make the most of what you can do while maintaining your mental wellbeing, and prepare to adjust to the new normal that the post-virus world is going to bring.
Contributed by Rebecca Brown
Rebecca Brown is a translator, avid traveler, and bookworm. Her job has given her the amazing opportunity to travel to dozens of countries around the world, and writing for Rough Draft gives her a chance to try to showcase some of them.