May 24, 2021

Digital Nomads Part 1

Are you ready to "work from anywhere"?

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CEOs and HR leaders expect 43% of the workforce to continue working remotely or within a hybrid model after the pandemic according to a recent survey by Lakeside Software and ESI ThoughtLab.

Being part of this 43% of flex workers can open up new possibilities for integrating work within your lifestyle. For some, ditching the commute enables them to move out of busy urban centers to cheaper, greener areas. Others may go full digital nomad and traverse the globe with little more than a laptop and a few change of clothes. From working at the local coffee shop to extending family vacations while answer emails by the pool, as vaccinations increase and restrictions ease, many more workers will be exposed to the delights--and some of the challenges--of digital nomadship.

This episode is the first in a series exploring what it means to be a digital nomad in this new era of work as well as tips and tricks to work from anywhere with greater ease.


  • Ryan's Mac update
  • Digital nomads:
    • Why now?
    • Who are they?
    • Different types
    • Pros & cons

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Ryan Purvis  0:00  
Hello, and welcome to the digital workspace works podcast. I'm Ryan Purvis, your host supported by producer Heather Buckner. In this series, you'll hear stories and opinions from experts in the field story from the frontlines, the problems they face and how they solve them. The years they're focused on from technology, people and processes to the approaches they took, they will help you to get to grips with the digital workspace inner workings.

Yeah, I'm sure you're starting to be. Oh, not yet.

Heather Bicknell  0:39  
Not quite yet. blissfully, you know, besides looking at the email tally, but that is what it is.

Ryan Purvis  0:49  
It's something that always is always recognized. When I match up, see us after working in, you know, in Europe or central timezone, how your, your day starts differently. Because when you're in the middle, like we are, you got Asia that's ahead of you. So what are they dealing with, you get, and then when America comes online, you've got river America wants to know, see, always always squashed. But when I used to do the trip, and then you know, we always used to work these long hours, and you get an early morning and leave late at night. And or latest list. And it has to go to us to be surprised, like I was at five o'clock I'll be knocking off and I'm like, but where you guys go? Like No, the day is done, like your assets probably is because you're behind everyone. A lot gets done before you get there. And then there's no one really, at the end of your day to keep you going longer because you're the end of the day. So it was a much more much more relaxed lifestyle I found compared to to be in the middle.

Heather Bicknell  1:47  
Interesting. That is an interesting observation. I would say. I haven't always found that to be the case. But I'm sure it depends on the organizational culture and whatnot. I feel like Americans do. I mean, depending but do work really long hours.

Ryan Purvis  2:06  
So what I'm saying is your your end of the day is not driven by someone else. It's your work. So yeah, so while my working late, usually in London would have been or even when I'm in South Africa, is because someone in the US wants to talk about something. And the only time they could find something my diary would be in the evening. Whereas when I'm in the US doesn't know enough to me unless I was up at midnight, then Asia would get me. But you did you ever you do have a natural break?

Heather Bicknell  2:36  
Yeah, you don't have as many late meetings. Let's it's really late and you're trying to meet with Australia or, you know, Asia Pacific. time zones are tough to bridge. I think that relates to our topic today. But before we get into that, I wanted to ask how, if you have a Mac update, if anything new is there, now you've had it for longer.

Ryan Purvis  3:03  
Yeah, so I'll probably started my Windows Update. So I tried to reinstall my Windows device, because I thought I'll get all this list. Now that I've got another machine all cleaned up. And it crashed all the way through. In the end, I had to get a new image down and reinstalled from a USB stick. And that seems that made the difference, I might have had a very sick puppy, which is probably why has so many issues. But on the Mac friends, I mean, I'm just loving, it just just makes my life easy. And we had a power failure last night and I plugged in all my devices to my Mac and my rack charged or my other devices. So it just just works everywhere. The only thing that I haven't found yet, which I need to find a solution for is Microsoft Project. Because there isn't an app for that, well, there's not a Microsoft app for that. So I need to find a third party. But other than that, I am finding little things that I that I've gotten used to that I'm gonna have to change. So my I've got this ergonomic trackball, that doesn't work so well with swiping left and right for the gestures. And I kind of like the gestures because sometimes what I do now is I just go walk work downstairs in my dining room table. And we're just the MakerBot you get used to the gestures are switching between full screens. But you can't do that with with these these windows based devices, the keyboard and the mouse I'm going to have to invest. So I'm definitely in the in the ecosystem now. You know, it's pulling me into buying all the gadgets. But I love it. It works makes my life easier, which is what these things should do.

Heather Bicknell  4:39  
Absolutely. And did you get I can't remember Do you get just the regular gray or did you go with one of the color options?

Ryan Purvis  4:47  
I would just Space Gray. But I bought my wife the rose colored one. Which I must admit I've got a bit of envy on because it does just look cool. Yeah, it's it's different. But that's See the space gray goes my peg is my pet Space Gray. So they all you know. Okay guys, I didn't like the silver. I look at the silver. Like for a long time I was like I really don't like the silver. So yeah.

Heather Bicknell  5:16  
Good stuff. Glad that's going well. jealous. So still kicking around with my old MacBook Air, but it's actually I use it for like a tablet type stuff. So it's perfectly fine

Ryan Purvis  5:33  
with us. And that's what someone else said to me. So do you really uses his Mac for browsing the web? Because it's great for that. I was like, Yeah, I get that. But But you know, I listen to another podcast called automators. And a lot of the stuff they do automation wise is based on having a Mac device. So using stuff like drafts and Hazel. And so now I've been able to play with those things, which I've never played with before. And that's also making my life a lot easier. So like moving files from one place to another place. That's like an automatic rule No. drives, which I use my iPad, now I'm using on my Mac as well. That's great, because that's quick and easy to take notes on something. So it's those little things that that I've probably held me back for a while, it's probably cost you five minutes, you know, every hour. But I'm seeing that productivity gain now, because I don't have to now figure out a way to get my device from my mobile device to put the stuff into a Windows device. It's now just all synchronized. And the synchronization just works. Yeah, I haven't added one one problem yet. touchwood. So yeah, so one day when you upgrade, you'll see what I mean.

Heather Bicknell  6:41  
Yeah, one day. Well, I guess that smoothness of experience and reliance of technology relates to the mini series sorter that we wanted to kick off today on digital nomads. So yeah, really excited to dig into this topic more. And I think, Stephanie, something that, you know, I think coming out of you know, all the remote working around the pandemic, people are kind of realizing that a lot of cases there are lifestyle changes they can make and one of them is potentially becoming a digital nomad.

Ryan Purvis  7:30  
Hmm. Yeah, exactly. And we're seeing it even. We saw it in the UK. And we seeing it here as well, people are no longer so I'll give a very context of this. So in the UK, London is seen as the center of of most things. Now you do have Liverpool, Manchester, which, which also major cities. And that's where a lot of businesses are putting their offices now and into Manchester and Liverpool. But what what you're seeing is that if you want to do business or have a good salary, you're going to be London based because you get like a 20% bump on your numbers. And typically, most banks and are situated in various parts of the square mile. Now the same token, South Africa, Johannesburg is where most of that happens. And then said center is the area that we most the businesses are mostly head offices. But there's there's pockets like everywhere else in the world, there's always pockets of business centers. The interesting thing about that is that people typically, prior to the pandemic, were buying houses to be as close as they could be to where the where the jobs were. So they were buying, obviously in Sandton or nearby, alright, and then in London, you'd be inside the zones within them 25 to be close to work to commit, because the further out you go, obviously, the longer it takes. And there's always been the sort of ratio where the train ticket that you're paying for versus the mortgage you're paying or the rent, you're paying kind of works if you add them together, always kind of as the same number. So the further out you go, it might cost you less to live, but it costs us more to travel. And vice versa. What we're seeing now is people that we're looking at, we're trying to be close to work with cbds central business districts are now saying, Well, I don't have to be in the office every day. So I'm gonna buy the house that I want to have for lifestyle, and our commute for work when I have to the one or two days a week or even three days a week. So now instead of buying houses in Joburg, people are buying buying houses in the in the coast at the coast, so Durban and Cape Town port, Elizabeth muscle Bay, all these wonderful places, all these pretty places because they're all pretty they got beautiful landscapes and nature and all that sort of stuff and because of fiber. They are basing themselves wherever they need to be. And they're commuting up or planning to commute up as and when they require and a lot of the businesses are shutting down offices that they had consolidating them into bigger hubs. And I'm saying a lot to you know, as a few that I've chatted to. And what I saw in the UK was something similar where when the first lockdown kicked in, there was a surge I think it happened in New York as well there was a surge of people buying suburbs buying houses of moving out of the cities into the suburbs. So that headspace and and they felt more secure because they were obviously going to be socially distance things naturally because of a big houses that were separated from other houses. So that kind of ties into this concept of the digital nomad. Which is, you don't have to now beholden to this anchor? That is the set is the office block that you for the for the business you're working. You can have a more flexible lifestyle.

Heather Bicknell  10:51  
Yeah, I think there are kind of many flavors of digital nomad, I think the one sort of the most popular, you know, Instagram worthy version is the millennial who's globe trotting, which is the backpack and a mac book. And visiting all these tropical locations and working from the beach. But I think the Yeah, the phenomenon you're describing is, you know, is related to this, I think. Yeah, I mean, why not? Lower your costs of living, Lino live in a bigger place or, you know, in a more desirable location. And then suffer, you know, a longer commute when you have to go if you have to go one. And if you have to go back a few days a week, I mean, that's sort of the whole one of the benefits of the hybrid model. Now, I guess, where my fear comes in, if I were one of those folks is just do I trust my company to kind of keep that model or, you know, if I change my job, will, you know, then you have to kind of take that as a consideration when you're looking for new employment that you need that kind of flexibility. But you know, so there are drawbacks and compositing.

Ryan Purvis  12:16  
And I'll be honest, I mean, I, you know, I've been very fortunate with my current role that's that we, during the pandemic basic gave up office, and we came out to South Africa, the UK was in a worse state, and then South Africa was and probably still is. So so I was, you know, pretty lucky that we're fortunate, whatever you want to phrase it, that there was an acceptance that didn't matter where I was with us in the UK or here, I would still only be seeing people remotely. Now that things are starting to open up, it may be creative and more pressure for us to be back in the UK, not necessarily for any other need than to do face to face workshops every so often. But if we didn't have a quarantine, I'd probably be able to just fly back to the weekend in Manchester, where we want to meet and fly back to Joburg because, you know, that's that's no different almost in a sense to me traveling to ocean to Manchester back, it'd be the same thing because my base operations is Horsham, not Manchester. But what I have seen, you know prior to the pandemic, and probably still going on is a lot of those people that live the nomadic lifestyle, or digital nomads are injured in independent contributors. So they are software developers that that work on contract. One of the women I went to school with were university with at least she writes on a medium series. And she manages to work while she travels. Another friend of ours she during the lockdown went to spend three months in Italy and now she's spending three months in Cape Town rented out the house, she said that she lives in and she's decided to work remotely where it gets tricky though, is when you're employed in a job. How do you get taxed? Where's your independent, independent, independent consultant, you get paid. And you basically invoicing for service. So you can play that however you want really because you can invoice from whichever country you're in or to a you know, you can you can move around I suppose to avoid paying tax or paying a very little small amount. All depends on on how you set things up.

Heather Bicknell  14:28  
Yeah, sure. Yeah, no, there's a lot of legal stuff we probably won't get into very with much depth. But you know, when I was researching this topic, those sorts of considerations came up a lot. I mean, even things you know, besides just legal like safety or wellness things like you know, health insurance different, you know, insurances to protect yourself. visas, the legality of Yeah, where your money money's flowing taxes, all of that is, can be very complex. And often people are operating in these gray areas where, you know, they're, they're on travel visas. And but they're earning income, which they're not, you know, it's technically illegal at least since in some countries in the you know, from the US, that would not be technically legal, but it kind of gets, you know, not enforced too heavily a lot of the time, which allows people to keep doing it. But there are countries now that are starting to create programs actually encouraged digital nomads to create this, like more formal legal pipeline, like Estonia has a digital nomad visa program. Already, they're kicking off. Yeah. And there are a few other countries that are doing that to try to make it easier and encourage people to come live and travel in the country.

Ryan Purvis  16:01  
Yeah, I'll be honest, I mean, for me, I mean, these are the inter country things is the complicated version. But I but I even go down to the simpler version of, you know, in the business that you working in, either you're working as a as a, as a independent contributor, or you're employed, if you choose to work in a coffee shop today. And the technology provides you the capability to do that, let's say you you have to write a document or you medium, some people you want to brainstorm in the coffee shop, and you may have to do some calls there. That's the that's the nomadic lifestyle, because you're not necessarily commuting into an office every day, you just got to meet at the local coffee shop with with three people you need to meet with, or you want to work there because it's more comfortable than your your home office, or even your offices that you that you have in the in, in the business. You know, that's still a nomadic way of working. And it's a simple way of doing it, because the old days where you just have to walk into your office to study every day. And if you're lucky to have one, you might say don't actually feel like going to the coffee shop where I get a cappuccino with cream, I can sit there and think about what I got to do. I can write some stuff, you know, whatever it is. And then you can take calls if you sit in the right position where it's not noisy, you could probably take take calls the whole day. And I used to the advice today is to go and study at coffee shops and not the library because then people who say I was mad. But I found the library was too quiet. Whereas the noisy coffee shop was a great background noise for me to focus. And I think that's just you know, a little bit more personal, personalized working environment as opposed to a mandated working environment.

Heather Bicknell  17:43  
It is his varsity University. Yes, yes. Sorry. All the different terms. No, yeah, I almost think we need a new term for that kind of digital nomad. You know, there are, there's an emerging slow mad trends and slow Mads are people who don't travel as quickly essentially. So those buttons sort of longer stays in each country instead of just the matter of weeks. But, yeah, I'd like it kind of a digital nomad, light, or much, much safer sort of option, but still getting a lot of the refreshing qualities I think of working from different places to still, of course, there's a lot to be said about, you know, the excitement of traveling and, and doing all of that while you work. Because a lot of people don't have time to do that otherwise, but there's, you know, that you can't really do a whole lot of other things as well, that would require you to have a home base. So

Ryan Purvis  19:00  
yeah, there are definitely trade offs. And you know, for me when I stood with us, you know, prior to having a family and the rest of it, you know, spending a week or two weeks somewhere, you know, be it Kuwait or Dubai or Saudi or Cameroon or wherever these places were, you know, it wasn't such a big deal to be out of the out of my home base. Because one you know, was working on something to you exploring a new place and you end up seeing their culture which I always find fascinating. But but also you three you don't get those opportunities always because if you're paying for it, then you've got to always you know, balance where you want to go versus what you can afford. Whereas when you're on the company tab, you know it's a little bit easier to go and spend five days in a hotel and and see customers every day and all that kind of stuff. With with the family a lot more difficult. Clearly. We talked about yesterday at breakfast, how we're going to friend who's going to Mozambique for two days and she's got a PA that that This thinks of it as a party, you know, going to the beach, you know, you're gonna go work during the day, you go to the beach at night. And she's like, No, I'm leaving my kids at home, I don't want to leave my kid at home, I want to, I want to be a stay at home and work, you know, be with my family. So So two different mindsets there. And I think that's that's a part of it, too, is what do you want to get out of? Well, what's the purpose? And what your results from those from that purpose?

Heather Bicknell  20:27  
So with you know, going from the UK to South Africa, and the different sort of work arrangements you've had this year, would you consider yourself a digital nomad?

Ryan Purvis  20:42  
Yeah, I think I've always been a bit of a nomad in that sense. So, I mean, I go back to, to varsity or even High School, but you know, I used to work while I was studying. So I'd have to be at get, I'd be at university going to lectures, and then in the gaps, I'd be doing work. And I think the biggest stress, then in the Still, the biggest stress now is connectivity. Can I connect in to do what I need to do, when I need to do it. A second factor is quietness. If you're going to do calls and stuff like that, usually get away with that sort of stuff. But as my career has progressed, I've always had the sort of flexible, working, integrated, working whatever you want to use as a phrase, which has meant that I've had to be comfortable, which I've always been comfortable being to work wherever I am. In fact, it's probably more of a challenge to not be working. Because you get very used to anywhere you go, just taking a laptop with and, you know, I'll just join a call quickly, because I've got time, how can I help you, you know, that kind of thing, which is, which is not always conducive to take a break. But as we've gone, you know, from from career to career, what I've where I've struggled personally is, you know, going into these corporates where you're going to the office five days a week, you know, nine to five, whatever the shift workers, and you know, even the concept of going down to the coffee shop with a notepad to make notes. Some people look at you strange, and like you should be to desk all day. And that's, you know, that's the mentality I've always struggled with. Whereas I always feel like the results and the output should matter more than the time at a desk. So yeah, so it's doing this one in South Africa has been deaf, he had a medic experience, because I've done it with the family. So I haven't had to worry about getting back to the UK, they've been with me. You know, we've done trips down to Cape Town to Durban we have taken my laptop with me most times. And acquitted, quite easy to set, they're likely to carry on working, because what I really need is a laptop and a headset. To get my, my job done. So, you know, with the kids and the life. If I'm working, I just need to be entertained. And if we're going to do you know, if we're doing a resort or something like that, that's pretty easy to do, because it's a kids club, or whatever it is. And then you have this benefit of you work the whole day. And I've and we've done it in a few countries. I mean, we did it in Croatia a couple of years ago, where I would work in the mornings, my wife would take the kid set my son out, they'd go walk on the beach and do a lot of stuff in the morning while I did my calls and whatever it is, that works for three, four hours, then we'd go and do some touring. I might do some some work in the evening, like sort of five to five to six that just catch up on some stuff, then we go for dinner somewhere, then put the kids to bed and then if there was still a need for me to do something I'd worked at night, and I still put in a full day. But now I've done that in a new place I've never been before we've done some touring so I've explored some stuff. So I got you know, you get that benefit of of working but you also get the benefit of exploring. So in the end, you don't feel I found at least you don't feel so it's so monotonous. Just stimulated the whole way through. And then you go to bed you exhausted because you've just you've done so much internet.

Heather Bicknell  24:14  
Yeah, I think that's a you know, it can be a good model if you're, you know, if your job situation allows it I think the one challenge that comes with sort of being you know, being working for an employer is that you still need to operate on their timezone at least, you know, plus or minus a little bit so you know, people were saying, that's why I think a lot of digital nomads tend to be freelancers, entrepreneurs, people who can, you know, set their own time because it's all well and good to be on the other side of the world. But if you know the nighttime time where you'd be having the most fun, there is the time where you need to be working because of the timezone that your companies and it kind is a bit of a drag.

Ryan Purvis  25:03  
Yeah, and I had that I mean, we did a trip to La 2014 2014. Yeah, 2014. And we really had a big project at the same time. And because of the timezone difference, I think it was nine hours or eight hours difference. There was no way that I could work with the UK. And I think we had guys in Singapore working, so it was even worse. So what would happen is I would basically check my mail in the morning, in LA, maybe spend an hour to go through that. And then that sort of kicking off more work or applying to work, and then go out the whole day, come back, at the end of the evening, check what's happened to check again, in case there's anything that happened, go to sleep, wake up and get a reply to all the emails from the day before. So you had this constant, like you're completely disconnected, which in some senses was really nice, because you weren't involved in the operational throes of everything. And you can actually just take, take it as a sort of situation to look at and go, Okay, this is what we discussed, this is where we are now, here's what I suggest to do. And then they've come online while you're sleeping, pick up what you're doing, and then carry on. You know, there was no major emergency. So there wasn't any three o'clock in the morning phone calls. But it kind of did work. We were away for a week. So it didn't need to be, you know, necessarily. There's too many ocean things, but at least kept the bus rolling the Boulder, the boulder rolling down the hill of the bus rolling that bad analogy. Because I can at least keep keep providing input so that there wasn't a blocker. Which is often the problem with with some of these roles that I'm involved in is that you hold on to you have to make a decision for someone to carry on working. Even though they are empowered, sometimes they still want you to make that decision. So yeah, it's a balancing act, that's for sure.

Heather Bicknell  26:55  
Yeah. Well, you still had that flexibility then to decide, you know, sort of when you would work and when that would work best. But I guess you know, depending on what industry you're working in, how senior you are, how strict your employer is, with certain things you might not get that all the time?

Ryan Purvis  27:14  
Well, I would argue we all have a choice to wear to work. I mean, yes, you sign a contract, and the contract stipulates working hours. But I think the reality is if you if you actually followed your contract to the letter, you probably work a lot less time than you do. Get, I think, you know, bad examples, probably the nine to five with one hour lunch break, get another two at home, you're not commuting, so you might start seven. And you might because you're already in the throes of it you might work till seven at night, because you're getting stuff done. And you might skip lunch, because you don't have the time, you know, if you forget to follow, if you had to follow the contract, you probably wouldn't do as much. Whereas if you're if you're treated like an adult, and you've agreed that you will deliver something, then you know, your your your clarity around what you have to deliver and how you do it is up to you. That that puts you in a good position. Now, if you manage a team, unfortunately means you got to be available to them when they need you. Which I which I've always been, you know, regardless of where I am what we're doing, which is probably bad too. But, you know, if my team sends a message on teams, I'll see the indication and I'll reply to it because they're working in and I want to I don't want them to be blocked, because I've done and so on. So they could question. You know, if I can't take a call, I don't take a call. I've had some set boundaries have to be honest. If I'm the boss, I'm with the kids. And I'll say what are the kids I'll talk to you in two hours. And that's what it is. At least I know, as opposed to having to wait to hold cycle, which is the next day. So very much about momentum. Thank you for listening today's episode. Hey, the big news, our producer editor. Thank you, Heather for your hard work for this episode. Please subscribe to the series and rate us on iTunes or the Google Play Store. Follow us on Twitter at the DW w podcast. The show notes and transcripts will be available on the website WWW dot digital workspace that works. Please also visit our website www dot digital workspace that works and subscribe to our newsletter. And lastly, if you found this episode useful, please share with your friends or colleagues.

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