In 2023, approximately 35 million digital nomads roamed the earth and worked remotely in new places. Singles, couples, and families were working out of homes where they didn’t pick the furnishings. For some, working as a digital nomad is a reinvigorating escape from the 9-5. However, for others, the new environments can pose problems they hadn’t anticipated.
From too many tempting distractions, to limited Wi-Fi, working as a digital nomad comes with challenges as well as adventure. One study found that 42% of digital nomads said that finding a good place to work was a top challenge while working remotely somewhere.
Working in a space that fits your needs is important for your wellbeing and productivity. Feeling comfortable in your space helps you get into a working groove while being more present and at ease. Finding that environment means you won’t need to worry about the pain in your lower back from a poor ergonomics, or how noisy the street is to take video calls. Your temporary space should set you up for productive working and an enjoyable stay, so here are a few ways to help make your new space feel like home.
Working as a digital nomad – set up your new office
Take your time getting acquainted with your new working space. Look around the area and think about where you’d work the best. You might not feel the most comfortable working in the living area if that’s where you want to relax after work, or a small bedroom could make you feel cramped.
Choose an area and start envisioning what you need out of an office space. Consider the type of lighting, or how much desk space you will have for your equipment. Pick a chair that you can last all day in without causing any pain. As long as you put everything back where you found it once you leave, a little reorganisation can help you create your most productive setup.
Equally, you may be staying in a small room or in shared accommodation which means you may have to head out to find your perfect workspace. Research coworking venues and cafés in the area so you have options.
Bring your creature comforts
Working as a digital nomad, you might be traveling with limited space. But some things from home really make a difference for your style of work and comfort level. Think about one object that makes your workday better. What tool do you use each day that helps slide you into a productive workflow? These could be things like a small clock to keep you on track, or your favourite mouse pad.
On the flip side, more personal things like indoor shoes or slippers, a favourite book, or a picture of your family might help you feel more at ease. Anything that makes you smile when you look at it, or instills a sense of calm can help you feel more comfortable and secure. If you are like a third of British travellers polled, you may take your favourite tea bags with you. If you need that morning cuppa before settling down at the desk, it maybe one creature comfort that can help when working as a digital nomad.
Taking a few objects from home helps to keep a sense of familiarity while you are working somewhere new.
Identify and limit distractions
The great appeal of working as a digital nomad is the ability to explore and experience new cultures and locations. At the same time, the adventure on your doorstep could also prove a distraction.
Some distractions are easy to shrug off, while others have the power to derail your focus. If you’re staying in a lively neighbourhood and the place you’re in has thin walls, noise might be your biggest threat. If you have roommates, they could unintentionally distract you from sticking to your work.
Combat the noises you don’t want to hear with ones you do enjoy listening to. Try using noise- cancelling headphones or put on some white noise to have going in the background. Don’t be afraid to say no to some requests. This doesn’t mean you’ll never go on adventures, but it is important to create boundaries for yourself to stay productive. Plan your week so you have time to visit and explore, and have set time to work.
“Anyone who wants to be a digital nomad must remember that people who share these beautiful travel pictures or videos earn a living by working hard and mastering accountability,” says international remote work expert, Nadia Harris. (Read her full interview in volume 5 of The Homeworker magazine.)
If distractions become overwhelming, take this opportunity to venture out and find a communal office space or cafe. Putting some distance between you and your distractions keeps your productivity levels high and stress levels low.
Keep up your routines from home
When you travel anywhere, the routines you have at home tend to slip. While it’s nice to have new experiences and see how the locals live, some aspects of your routine really help you stay grounded. For example, that time you usually spend doing yoga in the morning could be key to limiting lower back pain, and without it, you start to feel some discomfort.
Reflect on the few things you do each day that keep you feeling on schedule, relaxed, and focused. If you’re an avid walker, make sure you find time to get your steps in. If you like to start your day by organising your tasks from highest to lowest priority, keep it up.
Blocking out time in your new place to uphold your routines can help ensure you feel like you can get your best work done while also enjoying the scenery. Whether it’s your morning, afternoon, or evening routine that’s most vital, do your best to stick to it.
Do plenty of research before you leave
Before you pack your bags, make sure your next temporary home fits your needs and you understand what you’re walking into. Your research will help you make an informed choice.
Try contacting the property owner and ask all the questions you have. Does the place have air conditioning? How walkable is the neighbourhood? How wide is the desk? Don’t feel awkward or embarrassed to ask questions. If you’re going to live there for an extended period of time, you need to feel confident in your choice. The last thing you want is to unlock the door and find that the place doesn’t have strong Wi-Fi, or that it’s in a neighbourhood you don’t feel safe in.
In an interview in volume 5 of The Homeworker magazine, global expert in remote work and digital nomadism, Rowena Hennigan, says, “I use a very clear checklist and criteria to assess locations before I travel, ensuring they meet my needs and expectations.”
Consider reading reviews of your potential stay, checking out the neighbourhood with Google Maps, or asking friends who have traveled there before for insight. There are lots of digital nomad communities online who can share advice from personal experiences. Thoroughness will better prepare you for a smooth transition into your temporary home.
Check your connections!
When finding a place to work remotely, you don’t just want your internet connection to be strong, but also safe. Whether it’s your personal or professional business, you shouldn’t send sensitive information over public Wi-Fi networks. Your Wi-Fi network should have a strong password as well. Although your landlord or host may think it’s easier to have an open Wi-Fi account, it’s not the safest.
You could try using a virtual private network (VPN) to help protect your work. A VPN is a secure connection between two points, like your laptop and your workplace’s network, that can add a layer of data security. Your information is encrypted as it’s sent through a “tunnel” where it’s protected from threats.
You should also be on the lookout for phishing scams or malicious emails. Remember to check the sender’s email to see if it is valid or one you’re familiar with. Look for grammatical errors or typos, and don’t click on links or attachments in emails. Reporting suspicious messages will help keep you and other
internet users safe and secure.
• Expand Your Horizons: Explore the best places to travel when working remotely.
• Go Remote: Three leading voices in remote work, who work as digital nomads share their experiences. Learn from their top tips, and discover their favourite places to travel.
All inside VOLUME 5 of The Homeworker print edition.