What do you think of when you hear someone refer to themselves as a digital nomad?
Do you imagine someone lounging in a hammock with a laptop perched on their lap, sipping on a tropical drink in one hand and answering emails with the other?
These days, it's become perfectly acceptable to work from anywhere you want. Long gone are the days where employees need to be mandated to fulfill their roles in a traditional office setting following the pandemic.
Where remote working was once an option the lucky few could afford and deemed an unsuitable condition for office workers, the pandemic caused a significant shift in the mindsets of companies that once thought poorly of remote work. This also allowed for more people to go after opportunities that they would once have to rethink due to fear of relocation. Now, anyone can work anywhere.
Though digital nomads have been around for years now, with Western travellers being the primary market, it's only recently that countries in Asia have considered the economic prospects accommodating these digital nomads could bring to their respective economies.
Southeast Asia is a common favourite spot for many travellers and digital nomads alike. Currently, only Indonesia, Thailand and most recently Malaysia have taken to offering visas specifically catered to welcoming digital nomads to their shores.
This October, the Malaysia Digital Economy Corp (MDEC), a government agency under the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia Malaysia, introduced the De Rantau programme, in the hopes of making the nation a digital nomad haven that will help to boost digital adoption.
A fully-fledged digital nomad pass, the programme covered Penang as its first location and drew in digital marketers, IT professionals, and content creator from all over the world, giving foreign and local digital nomads access to stable broadband connectivity and various other facilities and services that support their nomadic lifestyle.
Following the announcement of the digital visa, MDEC received over 2,000 applications in just the first month of DE Rantau's launch and added Langkawi as a second location.
Thailand is also in the process of introducing their own visa programmes, with Bali not far behind, set to welcome digital nomads and other remote workers to the country in 2023 — granted that they are attached to an international company that has accounted for USD$150 million in revenue over the course of three years
Looking at the current situation, it's only a matter of time before neighbouring countries in the region get on board with their own plans to attract this growing market. And with all this promise of economic success and a boost in tourism that would come with tapping into this market, it can only work if governments don't just consider
Though many governments are focusing on the benefits that foreign digital nomads could bring, it's important not to forget about the needs of local digital nomads.
As with how many employees are opting for working opportunities that would allow them to work in a remote or hybrid landscape nowadays, it's given way for locals to become digital nomads themselves.
According to a survey looking into how companies can better boost productivity published by the International Data Corporation (IDC), it found that more than 56% of the employees in Asia-Pacific region prefer roles that offer hybrid working options, with more than 70% of the employees stating that they found their productivity to have improved or remained constant compared to pre-pandemic.
While companies are still a little hesitant about the idea of digital nomads, it's rising in popularity as a viable option for employees who are in desperate need for a change of pace and space, especially those in the creative industry.
It's the freedom that comes with not feeling boxed in by your surroundings, and being able to just get up and take a walk when a task becomes too overwhelming. Conventional working concepts are changing to fit the narrative of modern employees, and digital nomads are just the beginning.