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On digital nomads: research sources, strategies, and tips

Published by Mark Bodnar

Simple line drawing of a person working on a laptop while sitting in a hammock.Some of the students in one of Beedie's courses are focusing on digital nomads this term. I thought I'd have some fun* and do a fast scan of a few of our many databases to see what I might dig up. 

Even if this isn't your current research topic, the sources and perspectives I discuss here may get you thinking about different ways to approach your own research topic and about the wide range of library resources available to support you.

Stakeholders & perspectives

As with most research, it's useful to first spend a few minutes thinking about the key stakeholders and their different perspectives on the topic. In this case, I can imagine at least the following angles that might be worth exploring...

  • Governments: How can national governments configure tax and visa requirements to either encourage or discourage digital nomads? What sort of messaging will best reach them?  What are the local benefits (and costs) of having a large number of nomads set up in your jurisdiction?  Do local governments have any role to play in creating conditions for more or less nomads to visit? How can governments at all levels deal with any possible downstream issues such as housing supply problems? 
  • Companies/employers: Should companies allow "work from anywhere" employees as a means of expanding their recruitment pool? How might that affect organizational culture? Broadly speaking, is the trend moving towards more or less such workplace accommodations now that we are out of the pandemic? That is, will the number of digital nomads grow, stagnate, or shrink as more companies ask for employees to come into the office more regularly?
  • Housing & other local service providers: What do current and potential nomads want/need?  How might you reach them?  Can you supply their needs in an environment of changing regulations and strong competition?
  • Employees: What do nomads look for in a medium-term home location? Are such needs uniform across all industries, nationalities, etc.? What keeps more people from becoming nomads, and are those barriers something that a local government or housing provider can reduce or eliminate?
  • Researchers: Going beyond anecdotal evidence, what have objective and peer reviewed research studies revealed so far about digital nomad culture, trends, employer concerns, etc.?


For this post, I'm assuming you have already explored the many online digital nomad communities to get a sense of possible issues & trends, as well as of the types of resources nomads themselves use. You can probably assume your audience for this research (those making a decision based on your recommendations) has also browsed such obvious sources. 

Such resources are still useful to scan, but remember that the service you are providing involves evaluating, combining, and filtering a very wide range of information, leaning toward the highest-quality information possible, then adding a layer of your own analysis. Go beyond the obvious in your research!

Statista: sample searches: "digital nomads" / workation / remote work worldwide

  • You will find such resources as "Digital nomads - statistics & facts"
  • Always look for the original publisher of each statistic you find in Statista, even if it's only somewhat relevant. If you follow such leads, you may find that publisher has additional information you can use. For instance... this chart was based on data published by Deloitte in its Global Remote Work Survey. A quick search of Deloitte sites unearths many other potentially useful reports. And once I have Deloitte on my mind, I immediately think of other major consulting firms such as PwC, EY, Mercer, BCG, and KPMG. So many clues to explore!

Business Source Complete for articles in business journals & magazines, especially ones that offer the employer's perspective on the work-from-anywhere trend.

Ebooks via the SFU Library

ProQuest Sociology Collection for articles, chapters, and theses from a sociology perspective. (Sample search.)
This topic touches on the sociology of nations/cities, of organizations, and of the global digital nomad community, so searching a sociology database seems worthwhile, no?

Policy Commons for reports from research institutes, NGOs, think tanks, etc.

  Research tips: Besides checking for citing articles (examples in the ProQuest Sociology section of this post), also scan the references of even peripheral resources you find, plus check to see if the authors of a relevant work have written anything else you can use.  

For instance... <deep breath...>

This report came up in my search of Policy Commons because one of its references mentioned digital nomads. The original item didn't appear that useful, but the article it referred to seems interesting. Digging a bit deeper, I see a news post from the university of two of the authors of that second item in which their work is summarized. The same university news site has another post about similar research involving one of the authors. A quick scan of the CV of that author leads to yet another recent (2023) research article on the topic: Toward a Theory of Identity Performance in Unsettled Digital Work: The Becoming of ‘Digital Nomads’.  

I can't promise that any of the resources found in that 2-minute exploration will fit your needs — only you can decide that! — but the process of following such leads through references, news articles, CVs, etc. is often productive and efficient.

Open Access Theses and Dissertations (OATD) portal — sample search: "digital nomads" 
(You may need to click on that search link a couple times for it to work. The OATD interface is clunky at times.)

  • Even if it's not perfectly relevant to your needs, a recent thesis on your topic, even broadly, is likely to have a very detailed list of references... which can be an amazing starting place for your research!
  • Still with theses, but not in the OATD, one of my searches unearthed the following 2023 Masters thesis: Digital nomads: Who are they? Why do they relocate to Porto? See pp 44-49 for its detailed reference list.

Random! (Just a few more resources that popped up in my initial searches.)

...which has the following 2022 conference paper among its references: 

  • Borges, I., Brás, S., Machado, A., Leite, S., Costa, E., Mota, S. (2022). Digital Nomads: A Growing Trend in Hospitality in Portugal. In Carvalho, J.V.d., Liberato, P., Peña, A. (eds), Advances in Tourism, Technology and Systems. Smart Innovation, Systems and Technologies, vol. 284. Springer, Singapore. https://doi-org.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/10.1007/978-981-16-9701-2_45

...which, in turn, has also been cited by this 2023 article: 


Portugal Flag photo by Luís Feliciano on UnsplashFinally, a minor (but related) digression: The research project I have in mind as I write this post has a particular focus on Portugal. That country has been a hotbed of digital nomad activity for several years now, so I'm sure it will come up in many of the sources above. However, if you are hoping to get more information on the country itself — its demographics, culture, economy, industries, etc. — check my International Marketing Research Resources guide to find resources such as... 

I'll stop for now, but please do email me if you want to chat about this or any other research topic!


P.S.: (06 March) A very late addition to this list... here's a recent conference paper that seems useful: Digital Nomads: Who They Are and What They Want from the Destinations?

P.P.S.: (11 April) This is probably too late for you all, but I just read a recent article by a famous scholar and thought I'd share: (Global work in a rapidly changing world: Implications for MNEs and individuals). Note that one of its references is to an HR practitioner article that touches on nomads: Managing remote work when employees become hermits or nomads. Check both articles for further leads!

Mark Bodnar
Business & Economics Librarian

* Re: "fun" — I acknowledge that my idea of what counts as "fun" may not be same as most peoples', but I do hope this post conveys at least a glimmering of the joy that research can offer! 

Credit: Portugal Flag photo by Luís Feliciano on Unsplash