Given the drastic increase in remote work accelerated by the pandemic years, it may come as no surprise that the number of digital nomads in the U.S. has risen significantly to a whopping 16.9 million since the pre-pandemic levels of 2019. These nomadic workers are taking full advantage of the new and improved employee experience that is enabled by the flexibility of the “work-from-anywhere” policy.
However, being able to work from home — or from anywhere in the world, for that matter — comes with its own set of challenges, and digital nomads know that all too well. According to a recent survey conducted by CoworkingCafe, these wanderlust-ridden workers miss some crucial tech gear and features in their day-to-day activities.
Specifically, considering their ever-changing work setups; erratic schedules that might even be adjusted to different time zones; lack of specialized tools; and need to pack everything in backpacks and suitcases, it’s no wonder that only 18% of digital nomads reported being satisfied with their current work environments. This fact was further reinforced by a Statista report that showed that 20% of digital nomads preferred coworking spaces in 2022, likely due to their need for a professional work setup and better tech gear.
But what exactly are digital nomads missing and how could hybrid or coworking spaces better cater to their needs to ensure that the future of work for this demographic rises to their expectations? To find out, the study surveyed 829 digital nomads to pinpoint the exact features and equipment that nomadic remote workers were missing in their daily work lives by tackling three separate categories:
- The gear or equipment that would make their jobs easier
- The extra amenities they could benefit from in their day-to-day work
- The things they were missing the most from an office environment
Reliable Wi-Fi Connection Most Missed by Digital Nomads
When asked whether they were missing any tools that would make their jobs easier, more than half (51%) of CoworkingCafe survey respondents said that they lacked a dependable Wi-Fi connection. Granted, when you take into account the many different places where digital nomads conduct their work, it’s somewhat expected that the lack of a reliable internet connection could pose a significant challenge. And, while most areas where they choose to work from — like coffee shops, hotels or even outdoor areas — do provide Wi-Fi, that connection can easily be disrupted.
Similarly, the second-highest percentage of respondents (38%) named printers or scanners as important equipment, while 35% said that having more monitors would facilitate their job. However, the difficulty of transporting and packing this kind of equipment makes it difficult for these mobile professionals to achieve their goals (unless they opt for a coworking space while on the go).
Digital Nomads Desire Designated Work Areas
A specific work area was the most preferred extra amenity (41%) that digital nomads would like to have in their working environment. Given that many digital nomads typically operate from unconventional locations that weren’t specifically designed for an office type of use, the affinity toward designated work areas might not be unexpected.
Meanwhile, a lounge or recreational area was selected as a useful amenity by 34% of respondents, and a slightly lower number said that on-site parking facilities would be beneficial to them and enhance their overall employee experience.
Schedule Flexibility Most Important to Digital Nomads in an Office Environment
To get a better grasp of what digital nomads valued in an office space and what coworking operators or other hybrid work managers should provide in order to attract and retain this category of workers, CoworkingCafe inquired about the features and traits that respondents were looking for in an office environment.
By far, the highest number of responses (48%) went to schedule flexibility — a clear sign that nomadic, remote workers were likely finding it difficult to find a workspace that supported their flexible schedule. Specifically, this finding brought to light the gap between the typical business hours of traditional workplaces and the newfound freedom of schedule that came with working from anywhere at any time.
The second-most popular answer in this category was represented by the clear boundaries between work and personal life. This was a further indication that remote work, while certainly having its perks, tends to blur the lines between the two.
Last, but not least, the need for social interaction was digital nomads’ third-most valued aspect because their work and lifestyles often prevent them from working among peers and socializing as they would in a typical office environment.
82% of Digital Nomads Are Neutral Toward Their Current Work Setup (or Straight-Up Unhappy)
When asked about their current levels of contentment with their work setup, the majority (56%) of digital nomads were neutral. This implied that there may be room for improvement in their ever-changing environments or that they could stand to add extra equipment and perks. Moreover, only a small share of respondents (18%) said they were fully satisfied with their setup, while the second-largest share of digital nomads (26%) revealed that they were unsatisfied with the conditions in which they were currently working.
More Than 60% of Respondents Considering Coworking Spaces
Interestingly, nearly four in 10 survey participants said that they were on the lookout for a coworking space to better suit their work needs. In addition, 31% reported that they were open to utilizing a flexible workspace in the near future, despite not looking for one with urgency. Notably, these two groups of respondents are likely to opt for coworking spaces across different locations, depending on their travel plans and work requirements. As a result, they expect such places to provide more features and amenities than what they have when working from home, in a hotel room or another location.
At the same time, those who showed either neutrality or complete discontentment with their current setup are looking at coworking spaces as a feasible solution for their daily work struggles. In fact, the urgency with which they reported considering coworking can easily be correlated with their satisfaction level regarding their current environments: It’s safe to assume that digital nomads who are unhappy with their present setup are actively browsing for a coworking space that’s best able to fulfill their needs, while those who are impartial to their current conditions are likely to look for a flexible workspace in the near future.
Of course, the unique and exciting way in which most digital nomads are living and working in the aftermath of the pandemic is coveted by many. Even so, this study goes to show that even those who manage to make the best of both worlds — work and travel — are facing significant challenges. In particular, the lack of technology; a reliable internet connection; designated work areas that support comfort and privacy; as well as the need to clearly separate work and personal life are all reasons why digital nomads might struggle in their day-to-day lives.
However, these, paired with the increasing need for human connection and socializing, give coworking spaces a competitive advantage over traditional office areas. In the coming years, it will be interesting to see what the future of work brings to these nomadic workers, as well as if coworking operators will manage to rise to their needs and expectations and turn them into loyal customers.