Job van der Voort is the co-founder and CEO of Remote, which enables employers to hire anyone from anywhere. Before founding Remote, Job worked as a neuroscientist before leaving academia to become the VP of product at GitLab.
“Digital nomads” have gained popularity in the last few years, with the number in the US up 131% from 2019. The pandemic sparked more people to leave the US and inspired even more to consider it. More talent is seeking to shape their work to fit their life, not the other way around. Moving to another country—to be closer to friends or family, experience a new culture, or fulfill a lifelong dream—is one way people put themselves first.
The world is responding, as since 2020, at least 30 countries have added visas that allow remote workers to set up shop, permanently or with a time limit, including Portugal, Spain, Italy, and the Bahamas.
Employees want flexibility—just in case
Most workers who are currently remote or hybrid rank flexibility as even more important than their compensation. Our research found that 20% of remote workers (pdf) said that if they could work anywhere in the world without it affecting their salary and benefits, they’d be likely to stay 10 years longer with their current company. This is even stronger with Gen Z—54% saying they would consider switching jobs to relocate abroad.
By embedding global work into the organization, the business can now expand its global talent pool, granting them the ability to hire the best talent wherever they live. To hire and keep the best, it’s time companies help their employees move away.
How to open the door to global moves
There are complex considerations to expanding the geographical boundaries of the workforce, like compliance, time zones, and visas.
Establish a flexible policy that outlines the process and resources for navigating a move abroad. Rules must be clearly stated, easily accessible, and approved by legal, finance, and talent departments. Next, the company can open legal routes into another country.
With the multitude of digital nomad visa options available, employees can find and apply for a visa in their dream country and work with their employer to ensure they follow the appropriate employment laws. The majority of these visas have time limits, making these moves ideal for a true digital nomad, but some employees may want to put down roots.
Alternatively, employers can support the process by determining the employee’s visa or work permit eligibility, sponsoring their application, and guiding them through the immigration process. This widens the locations available for employees to relocate and allows for permanent moves.
At Remote, we offer a program where employees can relocate to a new country, and wherever possible, we will sponsor their visa. By making it a part of our company’s benefit offerings, we can increase retention and provide a highly competitive benefit to global talent.
Creating policy beyond visas
Companies should think practically about how their operations might change once employees relocate. For example, how will meetings work when people are in opposite time zones? What about people management and career progression?
Embracing asynchronous and transparent work sets up employees for success as they work in their new country. Minimize the number of live meetings on a calendar and utilize tools like Loom, Notion, and Slack to collaborate at different times. In global work, the person you need might be asleep when you need an answer. Leveraging asynchronous work and ensuring thorough documentation can eliminate blockers like this.
Documentation can include everything from meeting notes, roles and responsibilities documents, daily updates, policies, and procedures to fun things like employees’ favorite restaurants in each country.
You don’t need to smell an employee to manage them. Ensure leadership and managers are on the same page when fairly evaluating work output and creating a productive workplace. Working alongside someone thousands of miles away should feel just as natural as someone in the same city.
Tackling the compliance problem
When allowing an employee to work in another country, companies must follow the appropriate local tax and employment laws, including government-mandated holidays and benefits.
Permanent establishment is a tax term for businesses that have an ongoing presence in a country. If the company is established enough in a specific country, it will be subject to taxes and must meet other compliance standards. Some companies navigate this all in-house, while others outsource to navigate the complexities and manage costs.