Authors: Joanne Webber, Global Employer Services Tax Partner, RSM UK Brian James, Head of Global Employer Services, RSM Netherlands
In the midst of our return to post-pandemic normalcy, one of the questions on everybody’s mind is whether companies will keep their ‘work from anywhere’ (WFA) policies. Most companies adopted WFA out of the sheer need to survive, to keep their workforces productive during the lockdowns and safeguard jobs, but there were a few organisations that already had an eye toward a remote working philosophy.
The companies that had already embraced flexible working handled the transition to WFA in a more agile fashion, with robust plans that they were able to quickly implement and expand to meet the sudden changes.
As it turns out, the experiment in remote working is having long-lasting effects that may alter the global business landscape forever.
Of course, the ‘Great Resignation’ influenced the matter as well. Many workers around the world felt that flexibility and time with their families was more important than a pay check, and chose to simply stay home rather than return to work. That, coupled with a new generation of ethically-minded skilled people joining the workforce, are choosing their employers based on their values and culture.
The impact of this phenomena is creating challenges for larger firms and opportunities for small to mid-sized businesses. Remote work allows more of an output-based performance model, giving remote workers the flexibility to pick up their kids from school or go for a midday jog. This flexibility makes for a less stressful, more family-friendly work schedule, by not only eliminating commutes but also by giving workers more agency over their own time.
From a recruiting standpoint, this presents an excellent opportunity for companies, especially those in the small to mid-sized range. Adopting a WFA policy gives these employers an excellent carrot with which to attract top-level talent, one that allows them to compete with larger, traditionalist firms who are more opposed to WFA.
Getting the proper structure in place
The WFA approach requires some degree of trust between the two parties. The first step to enacting a secure WFA policy is to establish a broad framework: how often the remote employee will conduct or attend meetings, how they will check in with their managers, and what type of performance review structure will be put in place. The business must then ensure that they have clearly communicated their framework policy to everyone, including staff, clients, line managers, and the HR team.
Whether introducing a WFA policy for the first time (or simply evolving an existing one), it’s imperative to have a strong framework and communication strategy in place. That includes outlining the process by which a company will allow an employee to work in a remote role, and ensuring that everyone is on the same page, enterprise wide.
Attracting the right global talent is only one step. Organisations should have project plans in place with defined processes, goals, and responsibilities, so that everyone is aware of what their role is in that process once the talent is hired.
Reducing the risk of remote work
There are risks and challenges with remote work, particularly for these smaller players. Performance, cybersecurity, and compliance are just a few issues that will need to be worked out in order to run a smooth ship remotely.
Many organisations are not philosophically opposed to WFA but are, nonetheless, concerned about the tax implications for remote workers. Tax laws vary by country, and a business may be taking on risk by employing a worker who is in a country where they do not have an entity in place.
The organisation must work closely with the tax team to outline the specifics around tax risk. This will, of course, vary by organisation, depending on what they want to offer, and what their appetite for risk is.
Some smaller organisations may be more comfortable allowing remote work where they already have an entity. This allows them to identify a number of countries where they already have infrastructure that would enable them to easily set up remote work in that area and go after talent in those jurisdictions.
A perfect fit
The key to a successful global remote work policy is ensuring there is agreement throughout the organisation that it is an element they want to pursue and expand, and then seeking insights from all departments as to what challenges may arise for them and how they plan to address them.
As the future of work continues to evolve, smaller companies who keep open, fluid channels of communication throughout their organisation will have the best chances of attracting top-level talent to grow their company. Being open to calculated risks and remaining agile will ensure they stay ahead of the curve and continue attracting and building a dynamic, remote work culture.