For members


Berlin named top city worldwide to earn money while travelling

A new report reveals why the German capital is the best place for "digital nomads" looking to travel the world while still making a living.

Berlin named top city worldwide to earn money while travelling
The Agora Collective co-working space in Berlin. Photo: DPA.

UK freelancer job market PeoplePerHour released a report on Wednesday that ranks Berlin as the top place worldwide to be a digital nomad – someone who works by computer while travelling.

The study took into account things like the number of co-working spaces, office rental costs, the overall cost of living and crime rates.

“People across European countries are now more often self-employed after the financial crisis,” PeoplePerHour spokeswoman Aylish Jarvie told The Local.

“People are making use of that freedom and with the ability to have clients around the world, you yourself can travel as well.”

Top five places for digital nomads

  1. Berlin
  2. Istanbul
  3. Bangalore
  4. Vancouver
  5. Lisbon

Freelance writers, social media managers, designers, and web developers, to name a few, are more likely to be able to choose where they want to set up shop across the globe.

“If you’re looking at a place where want to work and have the choice of anywhere in the world, then you need a place with decent co-working places, where you can network and not be isolated while you work,” Jarvie noted.

“And people want their money to go further. There are low rents in Berlin, and then the quality of life puts the icing on the cake.”

Berlin’s divided Cold War past is part of what has made it struggle to catch up economically to Germany’s more industrious hubs like manufacturing-rich Munich, or the finance centre of Frankfurt. But it’s also part of what has kept rents relatively low, thus attracting young, hip freelancers and creative types from around the world.

SEE ALSO: Why Berlin is known as the 'failed city'

But this demographic is also often blamed for the quickly rising housing costs. Between 2015 and 2017, average rent shot up by nearly 10 percent, and over the past decade prices soared by about 70 percent.

Nevertheless, the cost of a flat in Berlin is still generally lower than Germany’s other major cities, which continues to make it appealing for startups – another aspect of PeoplePerHour’s research. The freelancer market also ranked Berlin as the second best city for starting a business, behind Canada’s Vancouver.

Similar to the digital nomad report, this ranking took into account quality of life and office space, as well as ease of “getting a company off the ground”. This meant Berlin beat out the tech mecca of San Francisco (21st place) as well as its British rival London (14th).

Immediately after the UK’s narrow vote to leave the European Union, some experts predicted that Brexit would turn Berlin into Europe’s new startup capital.

SEE ALSO: London v. Berlin – Which is better for startups?

“They’re clearly doing well in Berlin,” said Jarvie.  

“A lot of US startups will choose Berlin as their mainland Europe hub… What attracts talent is also having a really good life outside work, so the nightlife helps as well.”

Still, a recent report by German bank KfW showed that the number of entrepreneurs in Berlin had decreased in recent years, and Hamburg actually came out on top for the first time with the highest comparative number of people starting businesses.

Jarvie said that the top cities ranked by PeoplePerHour are not only where young Millennial professionals are heading for work, but are also the hotspots of the future.

“The generation following Millennials are already 20 or even 21. This is where they’ll end up working.”

For members


Reader question: Is it ever legally too hot to work from home in Germany?

Germany has regulations on working during a heatwave - but does that also apply to people who work remotely? We take a look.

Reader question: Is it ever legally too hot to work from home in Germany?

The number of people working from home shot up during the Covid pandemic, and though employees no longer have the right to work remotely by law, many have chosen to stick with more flexible arrangements and set up a home office at least part of the week.

This is great news for people who enjoy a lie-in more than a long commute, but there are some downsides. One major issue is that it’s not always clear how Germany’s strict employee protection rules actually apply in a home setting. The rules for working during a heatwave are a good example of this.

How does Germany regulate working in extreme heat? 

By law in Germany, employers are responsible for creating a safe environment for their workers. This means that they should try and keep the temperature below 26C at all times and are legally obliged to take action if the temperature goes above 30C. 

That could include putting blinds on the windows to prevent the glare of the sun, installing air conditioning systems or purchasing fans. In some cases – such as outdoor manual labour – it could also involve starting and finishing earlier in the day. 

And in really high temperatures, employers may simply decide to call the whole thing off and give their employees a ‘hitzefrei’ day – basically a heat-induced day off – to go and cool down in a lake. However, business owners are generally given free rein to decide how hot is too hot in this instance (except in the case of vulnerable workers). 

READ ALSO: Hitzefrei: Is it ever legally too hot to go to work or school in Germany?

Do the heat rules apply to ‘home office?’

Unfortunately not. In most cases in Germany, the company isn’t directly involved in setting up the workspace for an employee that works from home, aside from possibly providing a laptop or phone for remote use. 

“The occupational health and safety regulations regarding room temperature do not apply in this case,” labour law expert Meike Brecklinghaus told German business publication T3N. “This is because the employer does not have direct access to the employee’s workplace and in this respect cannot take remedial action.”

That means that on hot days, it’s the employee’s own responsibility to make sure the environment is suitable for working in. 

woman works from home in Germany

A woman works in her living room at home. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Daniel Naupold

One duty employers do have, however, is to instruct their workers about the best way to set up a healthy work environment at home, for example by giving guidance on how to regulate the temperature. 

“In the end, it is the employee’s responsibility to maintain his or her workplace in a condition in which he or she can perform his or her work without the threat of health impairments,” Brecklinghaus explained.

What can home office workers do in hot weather?

There are plenty of ways to keep flats cooler in the summer months, including purchasing your own fan, keeping curtains or blinds drawn and ventilating the rooms in the evening or early morning when the weather is cooler.

However, if heat is really becoming a problem, it’s a good idea to communicate this to your employer. This is especially important if you have a health condition that makes it more dangerous to work in hot weather. 

In some cases, you might be able to negotiate for the employer to pay for the purchase of a fan or mobile air conditioner as goodwill gesture. If possible, you could also arrange to travel to the office where the temperature should be better regulated.

Another option for early birds or night owls is to arrange more flexible working hours so you can avoid sweltering at your desk in the midday sun, although this of course depends on operational factors. 

READ ASO: Jobs in Germany: Should foreign workers join a union?