Focus: How Might Digital Nomadism Become a Viable Future of Work?
Role: Creator, researcher
Recognition: Written about in Forbes, Nomad List, Outside Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and more.
2015 – present
I started this study on the implications of the rising ‘digital nomads’ working class because I think this is a really relevant question for students and adults as the landscape of work changes, and as the expectations of very long-term positions change. There is much more uncertainty and flexibility in the workforce, especially in tech, and this makes this both ‘a thing’ (as in a growing choice) and an interesting area to understand better because not much is known about the implications of that choice.
The nomad movement is too young to know whether there are long term implications of this career choice. That is, we (my research assistant, Daria Evdokimova and I) don’t know what would happen if after a while some people would want to reintegrate into the corporate world, and whether it’s going to be challenging for them. We don’t know whether this lifestyle choice is financially sustainable long-term and what the implications are for retirement, social life, and long-term family plans. The study is on a very specific thing, which is how people are managing to make this choice work for them financially. In our earlier field work (described below), people were very vague on this, and if this is to become a viable work path for others, we need to be able to give them an idea of what to expect financially, or at least what to expect in terms of risk.
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As part of the project, we want to take the opportunity to help people share tips and best practices for financial management of the digital nomad lifestyle, because we recognize that many of them have not had the opportunity to learn from one another. So we are offering to share this with participants.
Read more about the project.
This project emerged from background fieldwork on the topic globally, followed by a winter term immersion course I created for Harvard that focused on an unusually prolific and growing brick and mortar and digital nomad startup community in Ubud. We immersed ourselves in this community, using human-centered design methods to explore the area’s sustainable living practices, and community- and sustainability-driven startups from various angles. Students explored and develop their own point of view on what we can learn from this growing phenomenon – about startups, digital nomads, sustainable communities, and working at the top of one’s field from anywhere in the world. They explored which ventures, organizational structures, networks and technologies are context dependent, which are not, and why?