The FM Professional

How FM Roles Will Evolve With the Rise of the Digital Nomad

David Spence
August 16th, 2016
digital nomad with backpack

Digital nomads are workers who use digital tools and technology to work while traveling throughout the world. They differ from the typical remote worker in that they may work from outside the city or even the country, in areas with different time zones or from varying locations. As a result, they’re less likely to be as tuned in to the company office. More workers are now opting for the exciting, albeit less stable, lifestyle—and facility managers will have to learn to adapt their offices if they want to attract the best talent.


Build great communication spaces

tablet, papers and coffee on desk

In the absence of physical presence, digital nomads must stay connected using tools like Slack, Skype and email. Facility managers need to create an effective working environment that supports these tools. For example, your team may benefit from more private meeting spaces or more stable internet connections to reduce the amount of distortion and noise they can face during teleconferences or calls.

Building solid lines of communication is not just important for productivity but also to company culture.

If digital nomads feel disconnected, they may lose a grasp on your company’s values.

Design for uncertainty

notebook and pen on desk

Digital nomads are inherently mobile. There may be times when they’re working from coffee shops and others when they’re in the office. In any case, facility managers will have to prepare for a workforce that now works at different hours of the day and might only be in the office from time to time.

It’s important to account for these movements by setting up a good space request or hoteling system.

Reservable desks, moveable walls and items like spare chargers can all help create a space that can adjust consistently to changes in the workplace.

Help outside the office

coffee shop working space

As working abroad becomes more popular, facility managers may have to help create productive work environments outside of their own office.

FMs can help digital nomads by providing a budget to rent office time in different countries or even work out deals with co-working spaces to host employees.

Some nomads on the team may be traveling to places that pose risks like high rates of crime, low air quality or shoddy internet connections. Facility managers who know where their team members will be working can have alternate plans in place should any problems arise.

Establish consistent schedules

checking watch

It’s possible that digital nomads will be working in different time zones from that of the head office.

Managers need to set reliable schedules to communicate with remote teams and provide clear policies on what information should be shared.

There will always be risks of technology failure, flight delays or even workers falling asleep during 4 am meetings, which facility managers should account for.

While technology has enabled an increasingly mobile workforce by making it possible to work from anywhere around the world, it also creates an uncertain professional landscape that facility managers will have to address. Those who establish strong, effective communication and adapt their office spaces will find more productivity and better relationships with their nomadic workforce.


Photos: Cody Black, Kaboompics, Ian Schneider, Blake Parkinson, Crew