Is there a difference between remote workers and digital nomads?

Published on 03 March 2020

Reading time 5 minutes

Well, let’s make this clear: if you work remotely, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are a Digital Nomad! 

Over the past years, the concept of remote work has intertwined with the newer concept of Digital Nomad. They do have one thing in common: neither has to show up to a specified physical office to work. However, that’s where the similarities end.

The difference between remote work and digital nomad

While most remote workers have a home office,  the security of an ongoing employment contract, and mostly “regular” working hours,  digital nomads have their own setup: they work at any time or place, and anywhere in the world. Their main characteristic is, in fact, their nomadic lifestyle, which usually means they change the place they work from every couple of weeks or months.

It comes as no surprise in this case, that digital nomads are seen as having a trendy, hipster-ish lifestyle, and they are the ones getting the attention, especially on social media. As a comparison, at the time of writing this article, there were 2.9M Instagram posts with the hashtag #digitalnomad, compared to 536K for #remotework or  64.1K for #remoteworker. 


Unsuitable jobs for remote workers

With this important distinction, it’s time to look into the worst jobs for remote workers. This might be the case right now, but many of these jobs could be suitable for digital nomads with new advancements in technologies such as VR, AR, real-time remote controlling capabilities, etc. Until these, and other technologies, alongside with general work culture advance these following jobs are not suitable for remote workers:

  • Surgeon. It can be difficult to perform surgery from hundreds of kilometers away!

However, that’s most probably to change in the near future. Just recently, a doctor in the Chinese city of Sanya inserted a stimulation device in the brain of a Parkinson's patient nearly 3000 km away in Beijing. Read more

  • Firefighter. How can you put down fire when you’re not even close to it?

 Well, it definitely looks like this is going to be possible more and more in the future. Just take the example of Paris firefighters who used Colossus, a firefighter robot, in the Notre Dame fire last year. Even though in this case the firefighters were at the scene when controlling the robot, this can change, and fighting fires from hundreds of kilometers away can become a reality. Read more

  • Construction worker. How can you build something if you can’t even touch the materials yourself?  

Sure, it might be a long way until we have robots that can be used in construction on a large scale, but 3D printed houses are already a reality! So although you might not be the typical construction worker, you could be part of building a house from miles away in the following years! Read more

Unsuitable jobs for digital nomad

There are also plenty of jobs that can be hard to do as a digital nomad, such as: 

  • Product owner. Although not impossible, being a product owner can be extremely difficult as a digital nomad. You need to coordinate the team, which can be in another time-zone, make sure you are available for calls and unexpected problems. Moving your base every couple of weeks or months can make it difficult to perform your tasks properly, unless the company you work for has specifically designed the role for a digital nomad. 
  • Lawyer. Court appearances, deadlines, client confidentiality. All these can be incompatible with the lifestyle of a digital nomad. Sure, you can have calls from the beach, but what happens when the internet connection drops, or when you are discussing confidential information? Not to mention that you need to ensure a secure connection to the internet, to access and send sensitive information.
  • Account manager for a specific region. If you have customers in a specific region of the world, that can make it very hard to do your job as a digital nomad. It would mena waking up at weird hours, planning extensively, in order to ensure internet access during those weird times, and other challenges. 

So which jobs actually fit both?

What choices do you have if you want to be a digital nomad or a remote worker?

Well, the truth is that you have plenty of options, and these will only increase in the future!

  • Translator. With a native-level proficiency in English and at least one other language, you could easily find a job as a translator, without worrying about having to be in the office every single day from 9 to 5. Median annual wage: $49,930
  • Social media specialist. It’s hard to avoid it: pretty much any business has to have a presence on social media to attract clients, keep customers engaged, share news, etc. With the multitude of tools available, and being able to schedule every interaction, it’s pretty easy to work as a social media specialist form pretty much anywhere in the world. Median annual wage: $52,000
  • Web and App developer. Probably the most sought after job by people shifting careers, or who want more independence and freedom, Web Development is one of the most in-demand jobs, and that’s not projected to change anytime soon. In fact, with a boom in mobile devices and e-commerce, employment growth is projected to be 13% through 2028, way above the average 5% growth for all occupations. Median annual wage: $69,430

Read more about the job of a web developer in here

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