Remote work: trend or change

When COVID lockdowns started to happen, the technology industry was the first to transition to remote working. Many employees were stranded in the wrong country as borders began to close. In the very beginning, global mobility providers were prioritizing helping people return home and setting employees up for remote work.

As the pandemic progressed, remote work has become more of a personal choice about where to work and how to live. Some employees might feel more comfortable in one country or another, and the choice isn’t entirely based on health and safety. For the first time, employees have been empowered to structure their lives to live around work and not work around life.

Employees are prioritizing finding a better work-life balance coming out of the peak of the pandemic. With the higher prioritization of that need, employees are opting for a work from home approach. In turn, they can live in less-expensive cities and maximize the opportunities their job affords them outside of work.

As offices begin to reopen and the return to working in-person starts to trickle forward, the freedom of working from anywhere during COVID is a difficult benefit for employees to give up.

While we’re entering a post-COVID era, the question remains is remote work here to stay? Employers are now realizing they must continue to offer some form of remote work to attract and retain talent. However, the freedom of movement during COVID must be replaced as employers work to put more controls in place for remote work. Tax and immigration authorities are starting to examine remote work policies with new vigor.

So really, what’s next? With companies experimenting with varying degrees of remote and in-person working, what type of remote work will prove sustainable in the post-COVID world.

Remote work’s future: the experiment of summer 2022

The short answer to what’s next for remote work is still uncertain. Organizations are working to create policies that fit the talent they want to attract—and the talent they need to retain. The solution won’t be a one-size-fits-all approach, and employees shouldn’t expect a homogenous work environment either (neither 100% remote nor 100% in person). The challenge will be finding what the right remote work strategy will be for each organization and that can range from more permanent remote options to temporary remote and/or vacation remote.

The summer of 2022 will be an experiment on how organizations operate in this new normal. The great resignation, governance and company culture are all going to play key roles in deciding what the return to work will look like.

Over the coming months, we will see first-hand what remote working trends are here to stay and what are short-lived. Currently, as we approach the summer months, employers are focusing on garnering some controls around temporary remote work as many employees envision combining that long-awaited vacation with remote working.  The starting point is the number of remote working days the employer is willing to support and the controls to be implemented around those days—for example, what countries are open for remote work, all roles, etc.

Another interesting component will be how the first wave of initial tax audits conclude in respect of remote working and the degree of flexibility provided by tax authorities in a post-COVID world.  What is clear though is that it’ll not be sufficient for employers to merely point to a remote working policy but be unable to demonstrate the controls in place which support that policy. In the eyes of the tax authorities, “With great flexibility comes great documentation.” Employers need to be equipped to deal with this compliance aspect of remote work or this great workforce social experiment will prove to be very costly.

Test the best solution unique to your company

While companies experiment over the summer of 2022 to figure out what working practices best suit them, you can anticipate a final consensus by early 2023 on how organizations will move forward. During this experimental time, you’ll want to find the best global mobility partner for your organization to sort out all the complexities of what returning to work will look like in our new normal.

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