The ‘work from anywhere’ trend has sparked the rise of the digital nomad. The trend is, arguably, a by-product of the pandemic as organisations across the globe switched to hybrid working.
It appears this phenomenon is not going away. For example, in the United States, the number of Americans identifying as digital nomads rose an incredible 131% in 2022 from 2019, according to an article in Forbes. The Forecasting Forum at the Business Travel Show Europe 2023 highlighted the topic as a continuing trend. Plus, to attract and retain top talent, a modernised, hybrid work model, that offers the chance of a nomadic lifestyle, could be one way of achieving that.
Even if organisations support employees to work from anywhere, what happens if those employees need to continue taking business trips? It’s an area travel managers would need to be involved with at senior decision level. Travel managers should work alongside colleagues in finance (for tax, compliance and travel expense advice), legal teams (around any legal obligations) and HR. Reed & Mackay Global Operations Director Tony Peckham highlights areas travel managers should bring to the table during discussions.
An online search will show there are anything between 40 to 60 countries that offer digital nomad visas. Canada is the latest destination to offer them. In general, to qualify for one of these visas (the detail of which varies from country to country) you have to be employed, usually by an international company. You also need to earn a certain amount every month.
If a British traveller is planning to base themselves in an EU country, however, there are other factors to consider too.
“British passport holders have to follow the 90 days out of 180 rule for countries in the Schengen area,” Peckham says. “Traveller tracking of both business and personal trips is key. If your traveller is doing both, those days are going to add up to the maximum number allowed.”
2) Health and safety
Consider which destinations the employee wants to be based in, as well as where they may have to travel to on business. Top of mind should be elements such as different climates, different governments and different societal attitudes to what they’re used to.
“Furthermore, if an employee is working from anywhere, advise them to choose accommodation they’re able to properly work in. That means access to good internet and phone connection, proper desks and chairs, or access to office space in business suites equipped with what they need for their job,” Peckham adds.
Also bear in mind where their accommodation will be located. For short-term stays, hotels are usually chosen. But, if your traveller is staying somewhere for longer, and picks an AirBnB, consider where that’s located and if it’s in a safe destination.
“Also, the safety aspect of that needs to be taken into consideration. For example, if you’re expecting the employee to travel to working in a local office, or to see clients that aren’t based in big cities, of located on business estates in quieter areas.”
Reed & Mackay works with risk management partners, such as International SOS and Crisis24, to pinpoint all these aspects, including advice for solo female travellers.
3) Duty of care – who is responsible?
“If the person is employed, wherever they work the duty of care should be the responsibility of the company,” Peckham says. “Again, this is where your TMC working with a risk management company can advise on what protections and guidelines to put in place.
“And work alongside HR colleagues on these scenarios, including how the digital nomad will stay in touch with key colleagues. How people work is an important area to get right.”
4) Complying with company culture
“For an employee that works from anywhere, yet is still travelling on business trips, that employee needs to retain the company culture mindset,” Peckham explains.
“Don’t just turn up and expect others to be in the office when you are. If you’re working from anywhere, chances are the majority of the company permits working from home.
“Make the most of travelling for meetings by ensuring either your international colleagues – or clients – will be in the office at the same time. Also ensure you know what your international offices’ policies are. For example, can the remote worker be in the office by themselves if others aren’t.”