Tripled since Covid – more and more people are working from abroad
Working with a laptop from the beach, the forest or a hip city – this is becoming part of everyday life for more and more people. But the work trend also has its downsides.
Home office does not always mean that you or have to work from home.
More and more people, so-called «digital nomads», combine their travels with their work.
With electricity, a good internet connection and a laptop, many people from every corner of the world can work.
Many of the digital nomads work in the IT or social media industry.
However, problems can arise from different time zones at meetings or the personal exchanges valued by employers.
Since the corona pandemic, working from home has become part of everyday life for many employees.
But many are now moving their home office abroad and combining their work with their travels.
The number of so-called “digital nomads” has tripled since Corona.
During the Corona pandemic, many people were forced to work from home. It was difficult for some, others enjoyed the home office and still others sensed a unique opportunity in remote work: you can work remotely not only in your own four walls, but also on the go.
During the Covid pandemic, countless “digital nomads” traveled around in their converted vans while using their laptops at the same time from the beach or a distant city could work from. The pandemic was officially declared over by the World Health Organization in early May this year, but the trend towards remote working continues. Some countries like Portugal, Bermuda or Mauritius even provide for digital nomad visa.
The number of digital nomads has tripled
According to surveys, in 2020 there were around eleven million people living as digital nomads worldwide. By the end of 2022, that number had grown to 35 million people. There are no reliable figures for the number of digital nomads in Switzerland – the Facebook groups of the “Digital Nomads Switzerland” association have around 3,000 members.
“For working on the road, you really don’t need anything else than what you need in the home office – a good internet connection, electricity and a laptop,” says Lorenz Ramseyer, President of the Digital Nomads Switzerland association. That gives a great deal of freedom and flexibility to work when and where you want. In addition, digital nomads would increasingly work asynchronously, i.e. not during normal working hours.
Employees want flexibility – employers whistle them back to the office
Many of the digital nomads are self-employed and work as social media managers or copywriters, for example. The entire IT industry is also very popular with digital nomads. “Switzerland has around five million employees – around half of them could also do their job online while on the move,” says Ramseyer.
However, this would often fail due to the corporate culture. Ramseyer observes that the trend is currently going back to being in the office. That’s how she whistled Swisscom back its employees to the office and also Novartis recently broke their promise for a «home office forever and for everyone».
The trend of digital nomads is also being followed by Swiss companies. At Roche, for example, this way of working is possible in principle, but reference is made to the legal framework: employees who live in Switzerland are allowed to spend around 25 percent of their working hours in an EU/EFTA country and ten working days in a country outside the EU/EFTA. At the post office, work from abroad is only approved in exceptional cases. The reason for this is, for example, tax and social security obligations, labor law conditions, data protection or accidents abroad. In both companies, the hybrid model is used instead.
“Another advantage for the digital nomads, especially in the past, was the so-called geo-arbitrage,” says Ramseyer. This meant that you could travel to places and countries where the cost of living was much cheaper and still earn a Swiss wage. “The classic here was Bali, for example – but the prices are slowly becoming the same,” says Ramseyer. In Europe, Lisbon is currently the number one travel destination for digital nomads.
But geo-arbitrage also has its downsides: More and more residents of popular destinations are fighting back against digital nomads – because their presence leads to higher prices for rent and groceries. They also criticize that the lifestyle is reserved for the privileged: According to studies, 76 percent of digital nomads are white and earn an average of around $120,000 a year.
Time zones and personal exchange
The nomadic lifestyle not only has disadvantages for the environment, but also for the nomads themselves: Personal contact with team members is still very desirable, so one or two visits to the office remain almost indispensable. Differences in the time zones could also cause problems when meetings or team projects arise.
Before leaving, you also have to thoroughly clarify whether your health and social insurance still covers you and where you have to pay taxes – this is often related to the length of your stay abroad and whether you are deregistering from Switzerland or not.
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