As you get up and go to work to the same office, on the same route, day after day, have you ever stopped to wonder what it might be like to work from somewhere else? Perhaps you've already cut the cord from an office, and work remotely from home, or a coffee shop.
According to a recent Gallup poll of 15,000 workers, 43 percent of adults say they spend at least part of the time working remotely. Flexible schedules and the ability to work from home are increasingly top considerations as to whether or not an employee will take a position or remain in their current one.
While companies such as IBM, Yahoo and Honeywell are ending or restructuring their long-standing remote work policies in favor of more traditional office environments, companies like Dell and Amazon continue to expand their remote work offerings. As Dell says, "It's a conscious business strategy that also saves money and actually helps the environment." According to Mohammed Chahdi, Dell's global director of HR services, "We're pushing a culture where it just doesn't matter. Your location simply doesn't matter anymore."
I definitely agree.
When my friends and I were busy building the company Evernote, I decided it was a good time to cut the cord. While some opted to work from an office, or from their homes, I chose to become a digital nomad.
Digital nomads are people who use telecommunications technologies to earn a living while conducting their life in a nomadic manner. I chose to start by moving onto a sailboat and heading off into the exotic waters of Mexico. Within a few years, I added an RV for land travel and utilized hotels and airplanes for travel that I couldn't easily or economically access by land or sea.
Here are four things that the experience taught me:
1. Only take what you can carry
For the six years I was at Evernote (the foundational ones for the company) I had no formal residence other than my boat or RV. I had no storage unit or any other place to store things. If it couldn't be stowed away, packed in my suitcase, or otherwise strapped down, it wasn't coming with me.
If you identify what really matters to you, you'll be able to eliminate 90 percent of the stuff that's simply cluttering your life.
2. Relax and adapt
Flights get canceled. Countries go to war. Tropical Storms get upgraded to Hurricanes. Road markers disappear and your carefully planned route suddenly ends with no help in sight. And worst of all, the hotel that said it had internet access only has it in one section of the lobby, and it's via satellite!
You never know what is going to get thrown at you, so the best thing to do is calmly evaluate the situation, determine what all of your options are, and then go with the best of what's available. If that one fails, you now have backups.
3. Always have a backup
Internet Access is the backbone of being a digital nomad, however, it can and does fail.
Having successfully worked from a boat in the middle of the ocean and an RV in the middle of the desert, I can tell you that it is possible to ensure you have reliable service anywhere. If you pack a satellite connection, a cellular connection, and have a plan for local WiFi, you'll be covered on three fronts.
4. Work comes first
The key to being a digital nomad is that you need to be a responsible worker above all else. The person on the other end of your emails and video calls may think it's quaint and cute that you're calling them from a different location every day/week/month, but what they really care about is that you deliver the work you've promised when you promise it.
In all my years of working remote, no matter where I am in the world, I always ensure that I keep the same overall working hours. This means that when I'm halfway across the world, I often need to have phone calls in the middle of the night. Remember: as a digital nomad, it is your choice of lifestyle, not the other person's, so they don't need to cater to you.
If you're considering working as a digital nomad, there are some great resources out there to help you. Check out NomadList to get started.
Being a digital nomad has influenced me, the companies I've created, and the teams I've managed for the better. If you're willing to take the leap, I'm positive you'll see the same results.