Digital Nomad

Want to boost your job satisfaction level? Hit the road—and take your laptop along. That’s the advice offered by a new study from job platform MBO Partners.

“Working from the Road: The Aspirations and Reality for Digital Nomads” found that digital nomads (i.e., those “who embrace a location-independent, technology-enabled lifestyle”) are among the most satisfied workers—both in terms of lifestyle and income.

More than eight in ten digital nomads (81 percent) reported that they were highly satisfied with their work and lifestyle, with another 11 percent saying they were satisfied. In addition, more than half (51 percent) indicated that they were very satisfied with their income, and 31 percent were satisfied.

Those numbers are considerably lower for workers who do not opt for the digital nomad life. For example, only 32 percent of the non-nomads said they were very satisfied with their compensation level.

Satisfaction levels like that are likely a major cause for the continuing growth in the digital-nomad population. MBO’s study shows a steady increase, reaching 16.9 million this year, up from 7.9 million in 2019—a jump of 131 percent.

But the relaxing of pandemic restrictions has led to a slight slowdown in that growth. While 2020 saw a rise of 49 percent from the previous year, and 2021 registered a 42 percent rise, this year’s figure was just nine percent above 2021.

However, almost seven out of ten (69 percent ) of those who are digital nomads now say that they plan to maintain that lifestyle over the next two to three years—up from 54 percent in 2021 and 49 percent in 2020.

The road to becoming a digital nomad seems to run a little smoother for workers already comfortable with a degree of independence. More than three-quarters (76 percent) of digital nomads who are employed full-time said that they had previously either started their own business or worked as an independent contractor.

And an increasing number of digital nomads are opting to go the full-time route. While the number of digital nomads who are independent workers has risen from 4.1 million in 2019 to 5.8 million this year, the number of traditionally employed digital nomads saw a much sharper upward jump—going from 3.2 million in 2019 to 11.1 million in 2022.

Perhaps not surprisingly, younger workers are considerably more likely to be digital nomads. Millennials made up the biggest share (47 percent), with Gen Z adding another 17 percent. Gen X accounted for 23 percent, and Boomers trailed behind at 13 percent.

The fastest growing cohort of digital nomads were what the study termed “the VanLife Movement”—those who travel, work and live in RVs. That group went from 1.9 million in 2020 to 3.1 million this year, a rise of 63 percent.

For MBO’s 2022 study, Emergent Research and Rockbridge Associates surveyed 6,488 US residents in July 2022.