This is the second of a series of articles looking into how, what was previously regarded as “the Future of Work”, has transformed work post-pandemic in 2020 “After Disease”. Having previously looked at where we work, we turn our focus towards how we acquire talent in this new norm. Are we headed towards a truly globalized workforce? What does this mean for policy makers grappling with the new nomadic norms? How are entrepreneurs responding?
According to a recent study by BCG, companies are expecting 40% of their workforce to work remotely beyond the pandemic. At first glance, that may look like a promising and exciting prospect for the future of work but what about when an employee’s home office is in a different country than the actual office? Is it still exciting or is it a logistical headache?
The great employee exodus
An increasing number of employees are putting in requests to relocate abroad as their companies establish long-term remote plans. It’s a natural progression but employers should be aware of the legal ramifications facilitating such requests will pose.
Ivan Mazour CEO of Ometria, explained the dilemma he faced when a growing number of his 100 employee workforce started to request moving abroad for prolonged periods. He stated “allowing our team to work from whichever country they wanted for as long as they wanted would not be acceptable at a business level – there would be tax implications, we would need to update our employment practices in line with other laws, several of our insurances would be void, and I won’t even get started on the data privacy complexity.”
Whilst Mazour found a form of short-term compromise, communicating this to his employees has been tricky. “It’s very difficult to explain this to the team who couldn’t understand why their friends, who typically either worked for a large organisation which already had a presence in the other country, or for a small startup which didn’t evaluate any of these risks, were able to move abroad and work from there for the whole time, while they couldn’t” he said.
The employee vs contractor conundrum
Dealing with requests from existing employees presents a challenge for employers but what about when hiring remote talent from the outset?
This too has legal and compliance issues, especially for employers who might wish to provide the same benefits as full-time employees but instead have to settle for contractor status.
Is it time for policy makers to wake up?
The issue of hiring remote workers and accessing a truly global talent pool is a factor policy makers will need to address.
We have seen the struggles policy makers have had dealing with new business models presented by platforms such as Uber and Deliveroo and the debate on classifying gig workers as freelancers vs employees. This issue is further complicated by the UK Government’s impending legislation changes around IR35 to clamp down on the use of contractors who, in the eyes of HMRC, are in fact employees.
That said, a recent report from the think tank, dGen entitled “Remote Work in Europe, 2030” predicts change is afoot. By 2025 “remote workers will have the same rights and access to social benefits as traditional employees across the European Union” the report states. This sounds like an ambitious prediction however given the hypergrowth of remote work policy makers may be left with little option but to have to review their stance on what ‘work’ actually looks like in a post COVID-19 era.
The international beauty parade
Whilst politicians review their legislation with regards to employers it seems a number of countries are proactively changing their visa laws to become a talent hub for the nomadic worker.
Estonia introduced its Digital Nomad Visa from 1st August 2020 which enables “location-independent workers the chance to come to Estonia to live for up to a year with peace of mind that they can legally work.”
Even exotic locations like Barbados are jumping on the bandwagon with a 12-month Barbados welcome stamp, allowing visitors to take their work Zoom calls whilst lounging on the beach.
Crisis breeds innovation
This predicament has spurred a rise in new startups designed to solve precisely this issue. Omnipresent Group announced that it had raised a $2m seed round in August led by Playfair Capital and Episode 1 and earlier this month Remote announced its $35m Series A led by Index Ventures.
These businesses alleviate the headache for employers by employing in the local country on your behalf and handling the associated compliance, payroll, benefits and tax requirements.
Matthew Wilson Co-CEO of Omnipresent predicts that this approach will continue to grow in popularity. He said: «We’ve seen a lot of companies really embrace remote work and be so pleased with how effective it’s been, that they are deciding to work remotely on a permanent basis. This gives their team the flexibility and freedom to relocate and base themselves wherever they want, and companies the ability to access a truly global talent pool.”
As countries battle to attract the brightest brains to relocate, and employers try to navigate the legislative quagmire of employment law, we can be rest assured that entrepreneurs are busy doing what they do best – finding a solution to the new challenges and opportunities presented in 2020 AD. Thanks to them, the future of remote work, while proving a logistical nightmare for some, is still incredibly promising.