The latest research conducted by MBO Partners® has uncovered a new workforce phenomenon - "Tethered Nomading" - redefining the world of digital nomadism. Contrary to traditional globetrotting norms, more than half (53%) of American digital nomads now plan to embrace their work-travel lifestyle exclusively within the United States; 47% plan on spending at least some time in another country. Only 10% of all digital nomads intend to spend the entire year abroad. As employers call employees back to the office, digital nomads still plan to continue their nomadic lifestyle. However, the data underscores an uptick in "slomading"- visiting fewer locations but spending more time at each stop.
The MBO Partners 2023 State of Independence study found that 17.3 million American workers currently describe themselves as digital nomads, increasing 2% from 2022 after increasing a staggering 131% from the pre-pandemic year 2019 to 2022.
"As employers enforce back-to-office mandates, a paradigm shift is unfolding, revealing the dynamic evolution of the modern-day nomad," said Miles Everson, CEO of MBO Partners. "While a considerable number of digital nomads are gravitating towards domestic pursuits, this presents an opportune moment for employers to embrace that spirit of exploration while fostering seamless connections to local communities. It calls for innovative policies and practices as employers navigate a world that includes adventure and productivity."
This year's study showed five additional key insights about digital nomads, including:
The Silver Nomads Are Rising… and Fast. While digital nomads have traditionally skewed young, older cohorts -- Gen Xers (born 1965-1980) and Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) -- increased their share of digital nomads from 36% in 2022 to 42% in 2023. With the decline of the pandemic, older workers are more willing to travel and more interested in becoming digital nomads.
Digital Nomads Hit the Road with Their Kids (and Pets). The survey showed that nearly a quarter (24%) of digital nomads travel with their children, and 14% even bring their pets. But traveling with kids is more challenging and complex than traveling alone or even as a couple. The top challenges digital nomads with kids cited are the expenses associated with traveling as a family, safety, and health concerns, the lack of stability and routines, educational challenges, and socialization issues for their children.
Geoarbitrage Becomes Hack for Financial Freedom. To help stretch their income, many digital nomads work from places with relatively low living costs, including destinations like Southeast Asia or Portugal, which has established itself as a European hotspot popular with nomads. At the same time, they often serve customers virtually in higher-wage labor markets, or their employers are in higher-wage countries. Combining low-cost living with higher expat income, they can take advantage of income/living cost "geo-arbitrage." This enables lower-income digital nomads to fund their travels and spend less time working to support themselves and more time enjoying their adventures.
Nomadic Camouflage Becomes the New Workforce Hue. In this year's survey, 14% of digital nomads with traditional jobs reported that their employer does not know they are nomadic. An additional 18% say their company has no digital nomad policy, but their boss has permitted them to work nomadically. In other words, about one-third of digital nomads with traditional jobs are "hidden nomads," meaning the company does not know where they are working. This means they could break local employment laws and regulations without their employer knowing they are doing so.
The Nomad Rush: Countries and Cities Vying Hard for Digital Wanderers. Five years ago, digital nomads were considered an eccentric and fringe group of nomadic workers. But digital nomadism is now mainstream, and this year 17.3 million Americans – a stunning 11% of American workers – are digital nomads. Governments at all levels, both in the U.S. and abroad, realize that digital nomads spend more money than tourists, create jobs for locals - and even start local businesses. Because of this, 58 countries have created special digital nomad visas and other programs, smoothing out red tape and making it easier for digital nomads to locate in their countries.
To obtain a copy of the 2023 MBO Partners Digital Nomad research brief, please visit www.mbopartners.com/state-of-independence/digital-nomads.
About MBO Partners®
MBO Partners is a direct sourcing platform that enables enterprises and independents to work efficiently together. Its unmatched experience and industry leadership enable it to operate on the forefront of the independent economy and consistently advance the next way of working. For more information, visit mbopartners.com.