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One of the takeaways from the recent pandemic is the high profitability of remote work for both employers and workers.

Remote work is a decentralised model, where workers coordinate and carry out their tasks away from the office. 

The concept is not new at all, having been around for at least a decade. After all, broadband internet connections have long become reliable and affordable. Workers that are able to work remotely, often travelling between different locations, are called digital nomads. Read more about the development of remote work and some top places to work from in this post.

Why We Don’t Really Need To Go Back to the Office

Many jobs don’t require strict in-person attendance, except for the initial onboarding.

For example, we see this with customer care jobs. For these positions, all the workers need is internet connection and a laptop to run cloud-based customer service apps. 

Other examples are jobs like copywriting and coding, where the tasks are mostly carried out independently. In these cases, team coordination is even more effective via remote meetings.

Resistance To Remote Work

Previously, bosses refused to let their employees work from home because of preconceptions like workers getting distracted at home, leading to decreased productivity. However, over the past two years even more traditional companies have introduced some forms of remote work, discovering its potential.

COVID-19: The Game Changer

COVID-19, out of necessity, swiped away all the employers’ fears and forced everyone to adopt remote work. For the first time in modern history, workers had to work from home whenever possible. The new arrangement proved to be a win-win situation for employees and employers alike.

Fortune reports that 48% of remote workers surveyed by WFH Research in 2021 claimed to be much more productive at home than at the office. Only 14% of them responded the other way around.

Now that the pandemic seems like a distant memory, many companies have kept these policies in place, acknowledging how a better work-life balance leads employees to be more productive.

The widespread success of remote work has led to the adoption of hybrid models, where workers must show up at the office for only half of the week. Some companies, like 3M or Meta, went even further, embracing a total remote model.

The Benefits of Remote Work

Remote work brings plenty of benefits for both workers and employers.

Work-Life Balance: The first enjoy a better work-life balance, which leads to a big improvement in mental and physical health. They’re also able to spend more time at home with their loved ones and avoid exhausting daily commutes. 

Cost Effective: The employers save on costs associated with big office spaces, such as rent, maintenance, cleaning and catering services. 

Flexible Scheduling: Remote work means no more long commute nor scheduling meeting rooms. As a result, both the company and employees are  able to enjoy a more flexible,work schedule and alleviated work schedule.

Increased Productivity: According to FlexJob’s 2020 survey, 51% of respondents indicated they were more productive when working from home during the pandemic due to a lack of office politics, a quieter, comfier workspace, and fewer interruptions.

What about the rest of the respondents? Overall, 95% of answers indicated they either were more productive or just as productive when working from home.

Positive Environmental Impact: 
Think about it. No commute means no additional cars on the road to get to work. What’s more, energy usage for maintaining an office building, on top of the resources used to supply and furnish it, are greatly reduced. Not only is this a cost bonus, but it benefits the environment by decreasing a company’s carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions.

Is Remote Work Here to Stay?

A few states in Europe are currently drafting legislation to promote remote work. 

In the Netherlands, work from home is set to become a legal right, while the Irish parliament is considering passing a bill to facilitate remote working arrangements.

With travel restrictions now gone, workers can once again leave their home countries for holidays. Or even for good, taking their jobs with them.

Successful Examples of Remote Work

Pioneer companies such as Coalition Technologies, a US-based marketing venture, have been adopting the work-from-anywhere model since 2009.

In April 2022, Airbnb allowed their staff to work from anywhere in the world, regulating the compensation according to the country of residence. Also small companies and startups are embracing the remote model, as seen on this list compiled by Friday, that features the likes of Shopify and Zapier.

The shift in workplace culture is today happening at incredible speed, and the loosening of travel restrictions has revived everyone’s travel plans. 

You won’t have to catch any intercontinental flight or arrange complicated visas: Europe offers plenty of options.

So, if you belong to the lucky tribe of workers able to take their job abroad, we’ve got you covered!

Top 10 Destinations for Remote Work in Europe

We have rounded up for you the top destinations in Europe for digital nomads, taking into account the quality of life, natural surroundings, cost of living, reliability of internet connection, healthcare, leisure activities and accessibility – in case you still need to pop to a major capital for an in-person meeting.

Lisbon (Portugal)

Tram view of Lisbon city center

The most popular destination for digital nomads in Europe, Portugal’s ocean-facing capital boasts a lovely climate all year round, affordable (although rising with the city’s popularity) rents, reliable infrastructure, plenty of boutique hotels and co-working spaces and a cosmopolitan atmosphere with creative people from all over the world and a big English-speaking expat community. 

To top it all off, Portugal’s beautiful beaches and nature are right on the doorstep and the food offer is impressive. The city’s airport offers plenty of low-cost connections to Europe and even flights to North and South America. No wonder it’s so popular!

Vilnius (Lithuania) 

Avenue view of Vilnius, street with trees and church

This beautiful Baltic city, surrounded by lush Nordic forests, has one of the highest development rates in the region, and yet offers a good quality of life at comparatively low costs. The grey, sad times and architectures of Soviet occupation are just a thing of the past

Today the city centre is a colourful melting pot of European cultures and students and boasts a lively nightlife.

Vilnius has become an important tourist destination and an increasing number of important IT companies (Barclays and Revolut, to name a few) are basing their operations here, thanks to good taxation rates and government incentives

Tirana (Albania)

Main square view of Tirana with mosque

The Albanian capital has only recently become a tech hub, thanks to its dynamic and young English-speaking workforce. Despite the country not being part of the EU yet, Tirana offers good infrastructure, public transport and connectivity to destinations across Europe. 

Albania has been attracting investments from Europe and beyond, and its development rate is impressive. Indeed, what brings companies to base here their activities (namely customer support and IT development) is the low cost of labour, but this is compensated by equally low costs of living. What’s more, the weather is always great, and Albania’s beautiful beaches of Durres and Saranda are only an hour’s drive away.

Cagliari (Italy)

Panoramic view of Cagliari with buildings and the sea on the horizon

Cagliari is Sardinia’s main city, located on the southern coast of the stunning Mediterranean island. The city is home to an impressive medieval old town, a huge array of restaurants and cafes, and pristine beaches are an inch away: you can walk to the unspoilt “Il Poetto” beach from the city centre in about 10 minutes. 

Sardinia’s capital has excellent IT infrastructure and connectivity, and the airport connects residents and holidaymakers to European destinations all year round. Cagliari boasts a lively cultural offer, being home to a major University and several fine museums. The city is a perfect fit for freelancers and digital nomads who are eyeing a quiet and relaxing location.

Athens (Greece)

View of the acropolis in Athens

There’s much more to Athens than the Acropolis. The ancient cradle of civilisation, art, politics and classical culture is today a livable city with an efficient public transportation system and a competitive cost of living when compared to Western European standards. 

Wild nightlife, beautiful co-working spaces, award-winning Universities and a rich contemporary art scene complete the picture. The Greek capital is the go-to destination for creative freelancers who love to be surrounded and inspired by art – of all kinds. Indeed, all the iconic Greek islands are just a ferry ride – or at most, a short flight – away.

Groningen (Netherlands)

Canal view in Groningen

Also known as Amsterdam’s northern “little sister”, Groningen is a small family-friendly city that shares with the former the most romantic and iconic aspects, leaving aside the annoying hustle and bustle of uncontrolled mass tourism. As mentioned before, the Netherlands has recently passed a law making “work-from-home” a legal right for everyone. 

Indeed, the renowned pro-startup Dutch bureaucracy and tax policies are a nice plus.

What better place to relocate, if not this beautiful city overflowing with canals, small cafes and independent art galleries? Groningen is also home to one of the oldest Universities in Northern Europe: a pool of talent palatable to any business venture.

Zadar (Croatia)

Old Romanic church in Zadar's main square on a sunny day

Croatia made headlines during the pandemic by granting non-EU citizens generous visa policies in a bid to attract tourists and remote workers. In addition, in 2021 Croatia announced a special visa for digital nomad. Zadar is a pleasant city on the central Adriatic Sea, from where you can reach all the main beautiful Croatian islands (like Pag, Hvar and Brac) with a short ferry hop. 

Zadar’s architecture features remnants of Roman and Venetian domination, and you can easily lose track of time while walking through the stone-walled old city, bustling with konobas (local restaurants) and cafes. Last but not least, the world’s first digital nomad village has just opened right in Zadar’s outskirts, catering to different levels of freelancers. The city’s airport offers low-cost flights to several European destinations during summer, but Ryanair plans to offer flights in winter too, improving Zadar’s connectivity.

Krakow (Poland)

Old art nouveau buildings in Krakow

One of the most fascinating cities in Eastern Europe, Krakow offers stunning architecture (its city centre is a listed UNESCO site), a rich cultural scene and optimal quality of life. A generous offer of co-working spaces, fancy cafés and lively nightclubs are also on the plate, and they come at a fraction of the cost they’d have in any western European capital. Krakow is well-connected by rail to central European destinations such as Vienna, Budapest and Munich. The city’s airport also features low-cost flights to many cities across Europe, all year round.

Leipzig (Germany)

Aerial view of Leipzig with cathedral

Perhaps a surprise, this East German city is a hidden gem. Dubbed by some as “the new Berlin”, Leipzig is actually a short train ride from the German capital. However, it hasn’t been hit by gentrification and soaring living costs yet. 

In Leipzig, you can rent cosy central flats for half as much as you would pay in Berlin. 

Don’t be mistaken, though: Leipzig has its own creative character and is not just a “cheap” version of Berlin. The vast parks offer, rich nightlife and an excellent University make it all even more interesting.

Malta

Old port of Valletta in Malta with boats and blue sea, with church in the background

This beautiful island located between the south of Italy and North Africa is much more than an idyllic tourist destination. Natural beauty and pleasant weather all year round are major pluses factored in by remote workers who relocate here. Malta also offers a wonderful progressive taxation system. This makes the country an inviting destination even for moderate earners.

The country’s official language is English, which makes it easy to deal with bureaucracy. After Brexit, Malta has become a top destination for UK companies in urgent need to relocate to an EU country.

Malta’s liberal regulations are not targeting only European workers. The government has recently launched a simplified Nomad Residence Permit for non-EU citizens, making the island even more attractive to digital nomads worldwide.

Conclusion

Remote work is being adopted by more and more companies worldwide. That means workers are now free to choose where to work, no longer forced to live in busy, polluted and expensive cities to commute to the office daily.

We picked some European cities that are digital nomad friendly, offer a good quality of life and are more affordable than the big capitals. Of course, many other destinations across the world, are worthwhile, but remember there’s no need to go far to find a better work-life balance. Your new life could be just a short flight or train ride away!

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