why work from home when you can work anywhere?

For every New Yorker who loves the Big Apple, there’s another person who absolutely can’t stand this place. If it were up to them, they’d rather live (and work) somewhere in the countryside or near the beach, in a house that has a big garden with enough space for barbecues or garden parties, and where they wake up to the sound of birds chirping in the morning instead of construction drills breaking through the concrete.

These people live in New York not because they want to, but because they have signed an employment contract. They make Power Point presentations for investment banks, review student applications at local universities, or work for one of the thousands of other companies, large and small, that have settled within the borders of the city and demand that their employees do the same. It’s a dilemma that many workers around the world can relate to, regardless of where they live.

Until recently, the reality was that if you wanted to work somewhere, you had to live within driving (or commuting) distance of your workplace. Today, thanks in part to the COVID pandemic, more and more employers have opened up to the idea of ​​remote work. Remote work not only allows employees to work from home, but from anywhere in the world. That means all those disgruntled New Yorkers could theoretically swap their cramped downtown apartments for a spacious Caribbean condo and show up to work on time.

Digital nomad visas, explained

Sound attractive? All you have to do is ask your employer for permission and complete a nomadic visa application. Working abroad, after all, is made possible by two actors: employers and migration offices. When the pandemic started, many companies wanted their employees to return to the office as soon as possible. They feared that, without direct monitoring, productivity would drop. Many studies have since dispelled that fear, prompting big companies like Twitter to allow and encourage remote work even after COVID restrictions are lifted.

Governments are also making it easier to work abroad through programs often referred to as “digital nomad visas.” A digital nomad visa is an immigration document that allows the recipient to stay in a certain country for an extended period of time. The appeal of digital nomad visas is obvious: employees can apply if they want a change of pace and scenery. Digital nomad visas also provide a more culturally enriching experience than your typical vacation, giving employees time to fully immerse themselves in their new surroundings without having to put their careers on hold.

A map of countries offering digital nomad visa programs. (Credit: InsomnioKun/Wikipedia)

Of course, each country has its own entry requirements. Typically, digital nomad visa applications will ask for proof of income as well as remote employment. These measures help to ensure that employees – also known as “digital nomads” once they venture abroad – can support themselves during their stay without having to compete for local jobs. (More on that in a moment). For obvious reasons, digital nomads are also required to carry travel insurance. Most applications cost around $1,000 and allow stays between 6 months and 2 years with the possibility of extending your visa once the deadline has passed.

The Unexpected Benefits of Nomadic Visas

Digital nomads aren’t the only ones who welcome the idea of ​​nomad visas. Journalists, psychologists and economists have all identified the ways in which these immigration programs benefit the global economy. Above all, nomadic visas make it easier than ever for workers to move between different parts of the world. This is particularly striking in countries with strict immigration policies, such as Japan, where employees and their family members often have to wait years to receive a work or residence permit.

Critics of nomadic visa programs fear that foreign workers will take over local jobs, but an article published in harvard business review disputes this allegation on several grounds. “Digital nomads invest their time and money in the local economy,” the article explains, “without taking local jobs, and building bridges with local knowledge workers – a win-win situation for workers at home. distance and local communities”.

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The author of the article, a Harvard Business School professor named Raj Choudhury, has spent years studying the untapped potential of digital nomad visa programs, which he believes could act as catalysts for knowledge flows and resources between different regions of the world. “My long-standing research on geographic mobility and innovation,” the article continues, “has shown that short-term travel and even short periods of colocation with geographically distant colleagues can help workers access information and resources that can help develop new ideas and projects, which benefits both mobile workers and their organizations.”

How Working Abroad Affects Your Mental Health

The only notable downside to digital nomad visa programs is the impact working in a foreign country could have on your mental health. A 2018 study from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health found that employees who travel two or more weeks a month for work are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression than employees who stay away. home or office. These conditions are compounded by other problems we encounter while on the move, including unhealthy eating and drinking, lack of exercise, and sleep deprivation.

digital nomads
Working abroad is an enriching, but sometimes anxiety-provoking experience. (Credit: Martin Klausen/Wikipedia)

It is not clear if these conditions also apply to digital nomads. Anecdotal evidence, however, paints a somewhat alarming picture. write for Initiated, psychologist and lifelong digital nomad Carolin Müller admits that the experience of working abroad is not always positive. Outside your comfort zone and surrounded by new stimuli, it can be difficult to stay on top of work and get the rest you need.

On top of that, the line between freedom and solitude can sometimes be very thin, and employees looking for the former sometimes end up with the latter. So there is a risk, but the risk may be worth it. As the late chef, TV host and original digital nomad Anthony Bourdain once said:

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It’s not always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But it is okay. Travel changes you; it should change you. It leaves traces in your memory, in your conscience, in your heart and in your body. You take something with you. I hope you leave something good behind.

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