Digital nomads and the working-from-anywhere culture present both an opportunity and a challenge for human resources in the post-pandemic world.
Businesses in every part of the economy are facing an extremely competitive personnel landscape with increasing strain on the recruitment and retention of talent. As a result, companies are understandably looking beyond geographical borders in their hunt for the best people.
At the same time, modern-day employees are comfortable with and well aware of, the changes being driven by digital platforms. This is why so many are seeking the flexibility that the technology provides in terms of workplace, hours, and engagement.
Balancing the needs of the employer and the employee in this new way of working is paramount, says Brian James, Director of Global Employer Services at RSM Netherlands. And success in that is not only possible, he believes but will pay huge dividends in both the short and long term.
How to navigate the challenges of managing a remote workforce
A challenging landscape
The role of Human Resources is particularly important in this new landscape because working from anywhere has been integrated organically into the majority of companies in recent years. This is all too often done in an ad hoc manner as a legacy of COVID-19. The result, says James, is that policies and procedures are not always aligned with remote working.
For instance, expectations on remuneration, working hours and engagement may differ from country to country. Cultural differences also come into play: how do we deal with somebody who works in a different country and is used to different customs and communication styles?
Measuring and tracking employee progress and development can also be tricky. The same applies to payroll and cybersecurity, two issues that are considered in more detail in separate sessions because of the complexities involved.
"We have, after all, become very accustomed to looking each other in the eye and talking things through, making sure people are communicating at the same level," says James. "There is a challenge to doing this at a distance through digital realms."
It is of course possible to deal with issues as they develop, adds James, but from a business perspective, it can be far more beneficial to have a framework of policies in place for working from anywhere.
Building a transparent corporate culture in the era of remote work
Communication is key
The first step is often to review your company's strategy with respect to employees, and how these fit – or otherwise – with new ways of working from anywhere, from 100% digital nomads to ‘workstations’ or the seasonal remote office, whether beach or ski slope.
"Recruitment, hiring compensation and benefits, career development and progression – are all items that need to be worked through," says James.
"This provides clarity and transparency not only to the employees but also to HR, payroll, line managers, everyone throughout the company. And this will really help in creating a corporate culture that extends to working from anywhere."
Ensure communication channels are clearly established and open to two-way dialogue and be aware of and allow for the cultural differences that might arise.
And be sure to bring the team together. Regular video calls to connect on non-business items may be a way to improve employee engagement and build team dynamics, he adds. "For example, you could think of a group quiz or an activity that can be done online," says James.
Embracing the future: Strategies for navigating the remote work landscape
Everyone can win
Understanding the value of working from anywhere, not just financially but in terms of sustainability and development of your organisation, is key to determining any approach to policies and procedures, says James.
"Create a robust approach to compensation and benefits – employees needs can differ from geographic location – and create a uniform way for approaching working from anywhere employees to get and keep them connected to your company."
James adds: "Compensation and benefits can differ for geographical locations. Find ways to remunerate locally to ensure you are offering competitive packages and incorporate clear and transparent career development and progression paths.
It is also worth exploring ways to bring the digital community together with office-based staff and the wider company. This will develop a sense of belonging to something bigger.
Working from anywhere is, after all, here to stay. And companies need to be agile and flexible, with their policies in order, to take advantage of the benefits and opportunities represented by digital nomads.