Working abroad: is this the era of the ‘employee nomad’?


e honest, have you ever dreamt of selling it all? Leaving the corporate world behind, and moving to a shack on a white sandy beach? Spending nights serving cocktails in your own bar, days cycling through town barefoot? It’s another one of those big conversations we have whilst reclining on the sun lounger after too many Aperols.

However, you’d be hard-pressed to find more than a handful of people who actually go through with it. With the fear of kids getting the right education, missing friends and family, or the new bar venture not being the success you thought it would be, before you know it, you’ll have to return to the UK, out of pocket and out of a job.

One of the positives to come out of the pandemic is flexible working – employees want it and progressive businesses are offering it.

‘Flexibility’ can mean different things to different people, whether that’s coming into the office once or twice a week, or downing tools at 4pm to be with the family, or even working from a different city or country for a few weeks of the year.

Companies have been looking long and hard at their benefits packages post-pandemic, with talent shortages continuing to be an issue, attracting and retaining great candidates is still a top concern for many corporations.

The rise of the digital nomad – or WFA* (that’s work from anywhere) culture – and the fact that many employees are switching to freelancing has been well-documented, but now, we’re witnessing companies offer the digital nomad experience, with the security of a permanent job!

So, is this the new era of an ‘employee nomad’? The option to work four to eight weeks from anywhere in the world gives employees a taste of the sunshiny, jet-setting, freedom-filled lifestyle, without uprooting the whole family for good.

It’s probably too early to predict whether employees will take it up, but the option in itself is making employees happier and more engaged.

So, if you are thinking about working from abroad or offering it as a benefit, here are some considerations.

7 things to consider as an employer or employee before taking the plunge

1. Time zones

Nothing will cause more frustration for your UK-based workforce (and clients) than having to juggle time zones. If retention is your goal and to make it work for everyone, then keeping to a GMT 9-5 should be in an employer’s policy. This doesn’t mean you have to keep to just European destinations, South Africa is a great option for keeping close to our time zone.

2. Tax

There could be implications for employees working overseas – and each country is different. Get to grips with this before taking the plunge or you could end up having to pay double tax.

3. Legislation

Employment contracts tend to state where an individual can work from and will need careful consideration before anyone books plane tickets. You’ll also need to understand whether your insurance will cover certain locations.

4. Visas

Then there’s the question of visas. Some countries may require you to have a visa or restrict you on the number of days you can work. The good news is, many countries like Dubai now offer work visas much more simply.

5. Technology

If you’re running a meeting and half the participants can’t hear the audio or fall off unexpectedly, it won’t go down well with those still based in the UK – or your clients. IT infrastructure and parameters of where individuals can work (a constant poolside backdrop won’t always help team morale) will help avoid the risk of it looking like a prolonged holiday.

6. Timing

If you are going to work abroad then pick a time which best works for the company too. Mainland Europe and South Africa could be some of the closest locations to GMT, and will mean that as much flexibility as you gain, you’re giving it back too.

7. Trial basis

Unsure? Offer it first on a trial basis before you ink it into your permanent benefit package – if it works and keeps staff happier and more motivated then why not!

It might be starting to sound onus, but the benefits for everyone could make it very worthwhile. It’ll help strengthen your brand perception, your attraction and retention strategies, and make for a more engaged workforce. Something to watch.

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