It’s always nice to grab a cup of coffee in the office with Marija Dzemionaitė, the Head of Brand Marketing at NordLayer, to ask about the experiences and impressions once she is back from her travels. She is a professional digital nomad, occasionally exchanging her office desk for spectacular sights while working.
Thus, it’s no surprise that Marija is the driving force behind the Global Remote Work Index (GRWI), a tool created by NordLayer. We had a chance to talk with her about the idea behind it, the perks of working remotely, and learn more about the latest 2023 GRWI findings.
Marija, what sparked the idea for the Global Remote Work Index—why did it come around?
The pandemic was a new dawn for remote work. We saw the need and took it upon ourselves to help companies overcome network security challenges, as we aim to make remote work more accessible and user-friendly for organizations.
Cybersecurity is a complex subject typically linked with technology and solutions that tackle digital problems. But it is also about awareness of its context. If users want to be one step ahead of malicious actors, they need tools and knowledge to understand the cyber landscape better.
So, as hybrid work became essential, we launched the Global Remote Work Index (GRWI) to serve as a compass for businesses venturing into remote work. It helps evaluate the underlying risks and identify what actions help repel threats.
We at NordLayer realized the necessity for such a tool. The GRWI offered fundamental insights for companies and even countries to draw conclusions from. We know this because numerous news platforms, government agencies, and researchers worldwide have acknowledged the index.
Why should organizations pay attention to the GRWI?
The GRWI is your map for a remote working journey. Whether you're a business or an individual, let the GRWI guide you to the best work-and-play destinations.
The tool offers current, reliable data on four critical dimensions for remote work. Each dimension provides in-depth insights into the state of remote work in various countries:
Digital & physical infrastructure
Cyber safety covers legal measures and various factors ensuring a safe digital environment. Economic safety looks into the cost of living, English proficiency, healthcare access, and quality leisure time. Digital and physical infrastructure focuses on internet quality and affordability, while social safety evaluates personal rights and safety rates in different countries.
For many organizations, remote work is a solution for maintaining business continuity. It solves talent issues, allowing hiring employees worldwide. It’s a compromise for employees who want to expand their borders or prefer flexibility. However, remote work is also a legal and security challenge that needs proper assessment, and the GRWI provides contextual information to do that.
Tell us, who's the kingpin of remote work, according to the GRWI? Any dark horses that made you go "Whoa!"?
The GRWI has assessed 108 countries across six continents. Europe and Asia dominate the top half, whereas equatorial and southern regions often rank in the latter half.
In the first place of the 2023 rankings, Denmark stands out as the best. Slovakia secures the tenth spot—interestingly, the Top 10 countries are all from Europe. Kudos to the top three – Denmark, the Netherlands, and Germany for their remarkable infrastructure, safety, and cyber protection achievements.
Speaking of surprises, Portugal was our underdog. It leaped 12 places, landing at the 6th position. And while Northern Europe is a remote work haven, Spain and Portugal bring a touch of Mediterranean warmth. Portugal is likely to be my choice for travel and work this year, as it also offers great value for living.
Which countries rocked the GRWI rankings by dimension this year?
We must remember that GRWI dimensions are a collection of various factors that fluctuate. It’s an achievement not only if a country secures a top position on the list but also shows improvement in a specific area compared to the previous year. I highly recommend everyone check how their country performs compared with the GRWI’s 2022 data for exciting insights.
Cyber safety is the first dimension on the list, which I find the most intriguing. Naturally, you’d expect that cybersecurity advanced locations are the countries with strong economies. However, the GRWI’s rankings proved such speculations wrong because cyber safety is led by Slovakia, followed by Estonia and Lithuania.
These countries excel in digital skills, surpassing the European average. Their proficiency makes them appealing providers of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and business services to global companies. This has fueled the creation of startups and tech hubs, all requiring robust cyber safety measures.
Economic safety rank combines tourism attractiveness, English language proficiency, the cost of living index, and healthcare. Each element contributes to the country's overall appeal for businesses and the workforce.
Looking at these components individually, strong tourism indicates stability as it contributes to the economy, promoting business activities and creating employment opportunities. Countries with high English proficiency—the global language of business—are more likely to attract international companies, fostering economic growth and multinational collaborations. A reasonable cost of living and accessible healthcare represent the quality of life in the country, attracting talent and, consequently, business investments. The leaders in economic safety are the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, and Australia.
Digital and physical infrastructure
Digital and physical infrastructure reflects a country's readiness and adaptability in the digital age. A reliable internet connection is essential for remote work, so affordability and quality are key factors here. Infrastructure and governmental services also contribute to creating a digitally and physically inclusive society.
All these elements help simplify logistics and administrative processes, making it easier for businesses and individuals to access essential services. The strongest players in digital and physical infrastructure, delivering the best quality services, are Singapore, South Korea, and the United Arab Emirates.
Social safety as a holistic measure shows how people prefer to live and work where their rights are respected and protected.
Evaluating personal rights reflects the importance of an individual’s need to work freely and creatively, which can enhance productivity and job satisfaction. Inclusiveness helps build social cohesion and harmony, creating a peaceful environment that benefits both business and personal well-being.
In general, a safe environment is fundamental to attracting investments and talent. People perform their best when they feel secure in their surroundings—Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Iceland are the most advanced countries in this dimension.
And how is the remote work game going in various regions, according to the GRWI?
Working remotely in a specific region makes sense because a person might prefer a culture, climate, and thrill of adventure. Knowing what countries are best suited for remote work in those areas is valuable.
The Old Continent is a frontrunner of the 2023 GRWI, so visiting any country is as good as it gets. Since Europe is relatively compact with well-developed infrastructure, remote work is an exceptional opportunity to work and travel. Whether you’re planning a Eurotrip or exploring regions like the Nordic countries, Denmark and Sweden, the Baltics, or Southern Europe with Spain and Portugal, your experience will be unforgettable and work-friendly.
Across the Sahara, Morocco stands out as Africa’s beacon, with a global ranking of 48th. Despite facing digital and social challenges (ranked 72nd), Marocco excels in cyber safety, with legal measures holding 1st place and response capacity standing 5th. A pleasant climate, stunning landmarks, and a decent cost of living (16th) might encourage adventurous remote workers to explore African culture.
In Asia, South Korea stands out as the tech giant (global rank 17th), with digital and physical infrastructure ranking 2nd. Japan (global rank 22nd) is a travelers’ magnet, ranking 1st in tourist attractiveness. Singapore (global rank 28th) is the e-governance (1st) and physical infrastructure (1st) trailblazer, making it a hub for remote work.
The remote work star of Central America is Costa Rica (global ranking 54th). Its distinguished digital safety response capacity (17th), tourist attractiveness (11th), healthcare (19th), and inclusiveness (16th) rankings may impress quite a few travelers looking for exotic and unique remote work experiences.
South America, as a region, ranks highly in tourist attractiveness, regardless of the specific location you would choose. However, Uruguay leads the South American charge with its welcoming environment (inclusiveness ranks 19th) and remarkable approach to personal rights (9th), complemented by a vibrant tourist scene.
Canada and the US represent North America well in the GRWI. The United States is placed 16th globally and scores well in economic safety (2nd). Canada, with a global rank of 14th, follows closely, with economic safety taking 3rd place. When it comes to cyber safety, Canada and the US are closely ranked at 32nd and 33rd, respectively.
Can you break down the perks and the hiccups of remote work?
Speaking of hybrid work, the possibilities are boundless. Changing your location can be a catalyst for refreshing your perspective and injecting creativity into your approach to the familiar. It's particularly valuable, especially if your role demands innovation.
However, I remain an ardent advocate for in-person connections with colleagues. These face-to-face interactions are the foundation of strong teamwork and the development of trust, which are integral components of our professional environment.
For those who are about to try a digital nomad life, how should they ensure their devices and data don't end up in malicious hands while being out and about?
Working in a cybersecurity company opens your eyes to digital threats and inspires you to share practical cybersecurity tips with others. As a traveler who spends a lot of time working and browsing online, I’d like to highlight some mandatory steps everyone should take:
Always use a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
Ensure all your devices, including smartphones, tablets, and laptops, have the latest software updates installed.
Be cautious with public Wi-Fi and avoid accessing sensitive information such as online banking or entering passwords on public Wi-Fi networks.
Whenever possible, enable two-factor authentication for your email accounts, social media profiles, and other online services you use while traveling.
Use strong and unique passwords. Create strong passwords for your online accounts and avoid using the same password across multiple platforms.
Once you are all set, choose the country from the GRWI list, and it's time to start your hybrid work adventure.