Defining the Remote Workforce

Valle de la Luna, San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

What is the difference between Remote Employee, Location Independent, and Digital Nomad?

It’s no secret that each individual employee in an organization has their own working style. Some like a lot of interaction, some want managers to be hands-off. Some want more direction, and some want creative freedom.

Defining the type of employee you’re working with can give you a head start in understanding and catering to their different working style.

Defining the workforce

Companies have a mix of full-time, contract, and freelance workers. Those employees can be a mix of on-site and remote workers.

Remote workers can be broken out into three categories: work from home, location independent, and digital nomad.┬áLet’s define these.

Work from home: the most self-explanatory, employees who have the option to work outside the office and generally have a home base in the city of a company office location.

Location Independent: employees who can work from anywhere, however they tend to have a home base that moves around or they will take extended travel to other cities.

Digital nomad: employees who can work from anywhere in the world, often travel abroad, working from co-working spaces, coffee shops, and hotels or hostels, and do not typically have a home base.



These employee types are essentially varying degrees of remote, extending from work from home, to location independent, to digital nomad. If you are working from home, you do not have to be location independent, but you could be. If you are location independent, you do not have to be a digital nomad, but you could be.




Each category of employee has specific needs for daily structure, communication, training, and implementing or maintaining culture.

Remote employees and change management activities

When creating communication plans, consider all employee categories and potential ways to cater your communication efforts to each one.

  • Work from Home: Hold a few in-person meetings. When these employees do come to the office, make these moments feel special and important
  • Location Independent: Hold virtual chats. While on-site employees benefit from water cooler talk, set up virtual chats or online channels like slack with remote employees to give this opportunity for casual conversation
  • Digital Nomads: Targeted virtual communication like emails and newsletters. To help build relationships, have digital nomads give an overview of where they are in the world in these targeted communications

When facilitating training efforts, consider the best approach for each working style.

  • Work from Home: Take advantage of the ability to provide instructor-led training when these employees are available for on-site visits
  • Location Independent: Hold interactive, virtual training to include the employees who can’t make it to on-site training
  • Digital Nomad: Provide on-demand, mobile learning for employees in global time zones who can’t attend scheduled virtual sessions

When setting the tone for culture, show that remote employees are as valued as on-site employees.

  • Work from Home: Reinforce office cultural norms for work from home employees, emphasize how interactions feel the same whether the employee is in the office or at home
  • Location Independent: Prioritize inclusion in quarterly in-person town hall meetings for employees who don’t get as much in office face time
  • Digital Nomad: Hold live town hall chats and/or open forum discussions online in global-friendly time zones so these employees feel accommodated

Understanding these differences in your workforce makeup and using the correct styles of interaction are critical to the success of company initiatives, especially change management initiatives.

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