Contextual; Wandering the World – Do Digital Nomads Crave a Regular Routine?

“But how do digital nomads manage their daily routines, when they are constantly wandering the world?”

Words by GEMMA HARVEY

The term “Digital Nomad” is frequently associated with a luxurious lifestyle choice, rather than a career path. Many of those who live digitally nomadic lives are often content creators, graphic designers or design consultants; they’re often idealised for their ability to travel the world at their own free will. But how do digital nomads manage their daily routines, when they are constantly wandering the world?

It is predicated that by 2050, at least 50% of the world’s workforce will be categorized as being digital nomads. (Evening Standard, 2018) Digital nomads are seen as having the amenity of being able to choose where they locate themselves for work and pleasure. This is due to the vast development of the internet, as it has allowed people to work more remotely; people are now turning coffee shop tables into their own micro office spaces. However, this may not be the case for every digital nomad. It would appear that many miss the stability of a daily routine and a long-term place that they would signify as home.

LATE NIGHT Digital nomads are worker longer than average days to ensure client work is completed

Humans are creatures of habit; there is a multitude of apps at our disposal to track the customs of our daily routines. We are able to fulfil our desire of stability and comfort, by simply inputting our everyday patterns into a program on our smartphones. Despite this array of choice, there is nothing currently available to assist with the niche market of the quick paced, ever-changing routines of those with digitally nomadic lifestyles. The areas that seem to be most affected by a lack of routine are eating and sleeping habits. 70% of digital nomads who repeatedly travel for work have reported that they are becoming increasingly more concerned about their health, how much time they are spending away from home, friends and family and that these issues are severely impacting their performance and quality of work. (Gorce, 2017) It may appear that digital nomads are able to design their work days to suit them, but the majority are still working longer than the typical 9am to 5pm days, to ensure that the needs of clients are met, instead of sunning themselves in the Bali sunshine as many people believe. (BBC News, 2018)

We as humans, have designed our daily routines to ensure that we are more efficient and capable of completing tasks; those who have a well-structured routine are 90% more likely to complete a task proficiently. (Lifehack, 2018) Perhaps if there were more solutions in the way of design, to aid a sense of normality when travelling, fewer digital nomads would notice the stress and strain of not being encircled by familiar surroundings and lack of routine. Sets of code cannot run their function properly, if they are not inputted correctly in the first place; so how can humans function in a new, strange environment if there is no structure to help them?

“My eating and sleeping patterns were hugely affected”

Perhaps those who live nomadic lifestyles in the digital age don’t consider it is as glamorous and spontaneous as people like to believe? ‘Being away from home was really unsettling. The first night was always the worst; I would lie awake for hours,’ says Michael Gordon, head of User Experience design for a UK based platform design company. ‘The pillows obviously aren’t the same as the ones you have at home, the hotels are often too warm or overly noisy; you can’t just go to the fridge and make a snack if you’re hungry,’. It would appear that we take our day to day routines for granted, as many of those who have chosen the digital nomadic lifestyle yearn for the comfort of a place to call home. ‘I used to travel a lot for work and would often be away for weeks at a time,’ says Michael. ‘That was so hard, especially with having a young family; I felt like I was missing out on so many important things, such as picking the children up from school.’ Frequent travellers often suffer from insomnia and fluctuating weight gain or loss, due to a lack of routine. Those who are away from “home” and their normal routines for more than 21 nights a month are more likely to have a higher body mass index, than someone who is away for less than 6 nights a month. (Gorce, 2017) ‘My sleeping and eating patterns were hugely affected,’ continues Michael. ‘I found I was more concerned about the work I had to get done or what was going on at home. I would just forget to eat or end up going to bed really late, to ensure that my work was finished for the day’.

In an age full of technology, it seems bizarre that there is not a service or product to help aid those who are thrown out of their normal home routine. For example, a digital nomad may be working in an unfamiliar environment and therefore feel unsettled and not be thinking about when they should be eating or when it is best to sleep. A digital nomad’s work is often centred around creative industries’, so design and technology should be able to aid them in times of discomfort and provide a solution for recognisable routine, not make an unusual location even more elusive than it already is.


REFERENCES

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Gorce, T. (2017). It’s the Grim Reality of Frequent Work Travel: Health Problems. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/27/business/business-travel-health-problems.html [Accessed 24 Oct. 2018].

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