Silvia Gudino has worked from five different countries in the past year. From her home base in San José, Costa Rica, the global talent acquisition partner has put down temporary roots in Japan, Mexico, Italy and Spain during the time she’s worked for Percona, an IT service management company.
Gudino is what is known as a digital nomad, someone who works remotely from different locations, tethered only to a strong internet connection. One in 5 remote workers characterize themselves as digital nomads, a report by Go City, a sightseeing pass company, found. Of those workers, 31% are Gen Z.
“It helps me keep my motivation very high. I’m very grateful when I come to work every day."
Global Talent Acquisition Partner at Percona
Gudino said she'd encourage anyone interested to try being a digital nomad.
“I think it's a great opportunity, and I think it makes you grow as a person and as a professional. It opens your perspective and your way of experiencing the world,” Gudino said.
As a human resources professional at a global company — Percona has workers in more than 50 countries — the exposure to other cultures and forms of communication improves her ability to recruit workers and perform her job, she said.
“I think being a digital nomad is a dream for a lot of people because traveling can be such a nice and rich experience,” Gudino said. “It helps me keep my motivation very high. I’m very grateful when I come to work every day.”
Gudino picks her locations with the goal of finding ways to immerse herself in the culture. In Spain, she took Flamenco classes and attended local events. In Japan, she studied ancient wisdom and customs.
She does lots of research in advance, hunts for good prices on flights and accommodations and seeks out recommendations from people already in the country.
“You can find things adjusted to the budget you’re looking for,” Gudino said.
Just shy of 17 million U.S. workers described themselves as digital nomads last year, according to the 2022 State of Independence research study by MBO Partners, an independent workforce management company. That’s a 9% increase from 2021 and 131% increase from 2019, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gudino said organization and flexibility are key for digital nomads. While she was working from Japan, she was in charge of the Americas, leaving her to grapple with a 16-hour time difference. She would do administrative work and manage her email starting around 3 p.m. in Japan and leave the later hours to schedule meetings with candidates.
“The most important thing before you travel is being clear with your manager and your team members about where you’re going to be, the time zone and how you’re going to be managing your schedule,” Gudino said. “There’s no micromanagement … If you want to travel and have different experiences, the trust is there.”
Since its founding in 2006, Percona has always been a remote company. The reason? It’s a tech company that knows how to use technology effectively and doesn’t want to have geography limit its talent pool, said CEO Ann Schlemmer.
“We have a high degree of trust with our staff,” Schlemmer said.
Leaders aren’t checking to see what time workers log in each day or monitoring if their light on Slack is green, Schlemmer said.
“You can't have that sort of behavior and have an effective remote company,” Schlemmer said. “I have pride in how we live our values. That’s one of our values: We don’t care where you’re located … If someone is a digital nomad and that's their lifestyle and that makes them happiest, I think that brings productivity.”
The goal is for employees to get their work done and “then just enjoy life,” Schlemmer said.