An increasingly popular lifestyle. The growing phenomenon of digital nomadism was further accelerated by the Coronavirus epidemic. The Italian Digital Nomad Association was founded to celebrate the first Italian digital nomadism report on 13 July. The association aims to promote the culture of working remotely and to generate a positive socio-economic impact in Italy.
Empowering people to work remotely from anywhere fosters quality of life and means that companies can gain access to the best talent wherever they are
said Alberto Mattei, who founded the website nomadidigitali.it in 2010 and is currently chairman of the Italian Digital Nomads Association.
Who are the digital nomads?
The report brackets digital nomads within a clearly defined profile. Self-defined digital nomads mainly fall into the 30–49 age group (64%), the over-50s (27%) and then the under-30s (9%). Independence and flexibility seem to be the goals of existing and aspiring digital nomads, as 23% of respondents say they are digital nomads and 64% dream of being one.
This trend was stoked when the pandemic prompted many workers to reconsider their priorities and choose a lifestyle that diverged from previous generations. Many are especially tempted by the possibility of combining smartworking with face-to-face work: of the 71% who declared to work remotely, less than half (31 out of 100 respondents) said they managed to combine face-to-face and remote work.
Remarkably enough, women are in the clear majority among digital nomads, 54% as opposed to 46% of men, and they thus manage to balance their private and professional lives better. Higher education is also prevalent. 57% hold at least a post-graduate degree (of which 26 have a master’s degree), while 39% have a degree.
Digital nomads are mainly freelancers and self-employed, representing 41% of the respondents.
However, the percentage of employees is also high, around 38 out of 100 respondents, whereas a smaller percentage is represented by the unemployed, barely 13%, and entrepreneurs, only 8%.
These figures are proof that digital nomads are not just a ‘youth niche‘, but a broader and more widespread movement embracing all sectors and age groups, as also shown by the statistics on where these new digital nomads come from. The report found that 17% hold roles in information technology and 26% work in sectors where the number of digital nomads is growing, including architecture and engineering, accounting and administration, human resources and e-commerce.
The reasons why
The report points out the many motivating factors behind this decision. Respondents said that the choice to be a digital nomad is mainly linked to the possibility of adapting work to one’s lifestyle; to greater flexibility in time management; to the possibility of working anywhere, travelling and moving according to one’s needs; and to the desire to feel more valued and fulfilled professionally.
An analysis of the research results suggests that while younger people are driven to nomadism because they can move and live anywhere, older people do so for other reasons: the search for new job opportunities and personal growth are in fact among the main motivations of respondents in the 50-59 and over 60 age group. In such a context, our country can play a key role, since over 97% of respondents say they stay mainly in Italy and the rest of Europe, while only 2% stay outside the Old Continent.
Critical points and opportunities
Nevertheless, there is no shortage of unresolved knots, as highlighted by the participants in the questionnaire. “Untangling tax laws and decrees is a painstaking and particularly daunting task for the professionals themselves. You often don’t know who to turn to when you start working remotely because even accountants or associations don’t know how to give you the right information”, reveals one of the respondents.
Bureaucracy is certainly one of the main problems, but hardly the only one: participants pointed out additional problems, such as the approach of managers in Italian companies still relying excessively on control and an obligation to be physically present at the workplace. It is therefore no coincidence that there are still almost no offers of fully remote work in Italy.
This is compounded by the inability of the bureaucracy to keep up to date: contract laws and regulations are still too complex and ill-suited to the needs of a changing environment. Finally, respondents highlighted the need to expand professional networks both within the digital nomad community and within the communities in which they work, increasing networking skills to develop joint projects and offering training on remote working tools and methodologies.