Lots of businesses have introduced a ‘work from anywhere’ policy as a natural extension of flexible working arrangements. If you’re wondering how to recruit post-Covid and retain the best employees in a recruitment crisis, a work from anywhere policy is worth exploring.
What is a work from anywhere policy?
A work from anywhere policy (WFA) is a work policy that allows employees to work from any location they choose for part of the year. This could be somewhere in the UK or sometimes abroad, depending on the specifics of the policy.
Which companies offer a work from anywhere policy?
Work from anywhere policies are becoming more common. Here are examples of some of the big players who are already allowing their employees to work from anywhere:
Airbnb announced a WFA policy in April this year and it’s the core of their recruitment strategies for 2022. They see it as an evolution of the flexibility people already have in their working lives post-COVID.
Amazon permits their employees to work from anywhere, provided they can reach the office for a meeting at a day’s notice. This makes Amazon’s WFA policy a little more unique.
American Express allows their employees to work from anywhere they like for four weeks of the year or more.
Dropbox employees can work from anywhere, but they must be available for virtual collaboration when time zones overlap.
Meta, the parent company of Facebook, introduced a work from anywhere policy. This was designed to persuade employees who are considering leaving to stay instead.
Shopify’s tagline is: “Work from anywhere. Organize your work and life in a way that’s energizing and purposeful for you.” We like this one, because it really puts the individual at the heart of the policy.
Siemens allows their employees to work from anywhere for two or three days a week.
Spotify offers their employees the opportunity to work from anywhere. This is because they believe work culture should be built on “trust, communication, collaboration and connection, and acknowledging that we’re all individuals with different needs.”
What are the advantages of a WFA policy for employers?
Measuring impact, not time
Today’s employees want to feel trusted to manage their own time, and that includes when and where they work. They want their value to be measured by what they accomplish rather than the number of hours they’re in the office.
Balancing personal commitments
People don’t want to work for a business where they feel anxious when they have to balance personal commitments with work. This could include attending a school play or taking a relative to hospital.
Today’s employees want to develop a routine that suits them and allows them to complete their work. A work from anywhere policy is an extension of the flexibility people already need from their employers.
Putting lifestyle before work
When people can work from anywhere, they can spread their wings and go travelling.
They can move house permanently to somewhere they’ve always wanted to be even if it’s far from the office. If they need to relocate to be nearer elderly parents, or move to improve their family’s lifestyle, they can.
Allowing employees to work anywhere shows that a business understands and cares for employee wellbeing. This boosts loyalty and motivation, which increases productivity and reduces employee turnover.
What are the disadvantages of a WFA policy for employers?
A work from anywhere policy can present challenges to overcome, such as:
Greater risk of burnout
People can find it difficult to separate work and home life when they’re not in an office. They may even work more hours because they’re not confined to an office schedule.
Often, employees decide to work where they would normally go on holiday. This further blurs the line between work and relaxation.
Health and safety issues
In an office, desk spaces are set up to help protect employee health and safety, for example, back and neck conditions. If someone is working from a laptop on a couch in an Airbnb, this could pose a health risk.
Employers have a legal obligation to ensure their employees work in a safe environment. This becomes challenging when the employer isn’t present to mitigate these health and safety risks.
Loss of productivity
Employees who thrive in a busy office environment may not find it that easy to work somewhere else. Highly sociable employees may feel isolated when they’re not with their colleagues.
This can lead to employees becoming demotivated and less productive because they need the buzz of the office or their colleagues to thrive.
Protecting sensitive information
When people aren’t working in an office, it can be more challenging to protect confidential company information and personal data. This is even more of a consideration when people are travelling from place to place with information stored on a laptop.
A WFA policy has other practical difficulties for employers. We’ll cover these later in the article.
How can a WFA policy help with talent attraction?
In the UK, we’re in the middle of a recruitment crisis. If you’re wondering how to attract talent, a work from anywhere policy could be the answer, together with other candidate attraction strategies like perks and benefits.
The pandemic has led many people to re-think their priorities and look for a better work-life balance. A study by Microsoft found that 71% of employees want flexible working to continue into the future.
Businesses that know how to find candidates and attract talent in a competitive jobs market are embracing changes like WFA, which give them an edge.
WFA policies help you go after the cream
A WFA policy gives a business access to a greater pool of talent. That’s because the best employees don’t just live where a business is located.
All organisations know that hiring the best employees is critical to success. The late Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, advised employers to, “Go after the cream. A small team of A+ players can run circles around a giant team of B and C players.”
Explosion of interest with Airbnb’s work from anywhere policy
When Airbnb introduced a work from anywhere policy, more than 1 million people visited the jobs page on their website.
Airbnb CEO, Brian Chesky, believes this is because the policy “struck a chord” with people who already look for flexibility in their work. He sees work from anywhere as vital to recruitment strategies for 2022, since it’s “where the world is going” anyway.
Chesky thinks Airbnb’s WFA policy is successful partly because they don’t adjust salaries based on location (like some other big tech companies do). Since they’re all competing for the same talent, this has given Airbnb an advantage.
Airbnb decided to offer their employees the chance to work from anywhere because they realised this flexibility saved their business during the pandemic.
Brian Chesky said, “We wouldn’t have recovered so quickly from the pandemic had it not been for the millions of people working from Airbnbs.”
What do WFA policies mean in practice?
Here are some practical matters to consider if you’re considering introducing a work from anywhere policy:
Employment contracts may need to be adjusted when a WFA policy is introduced because terms and conditions are likely to change.
Perks and benefits may also need re-thinking. For instance, if you offer discounts at local gyms and supermarkets, this will no longer be a valuable incentive.
Many businesses want their employees to meet in-person once in a while. This could prove difficult for employees who are a long distance away.
Research by Forbes found that most executives think face-to-face meetings build stronger business relationships. Airbnb addresses this issue by giving their employees plenty of notice so they can plan ahead.
For businesses that adjust pay based on location, a WFA policy may present a challenge. It will no longer make sense to match pay to location.
That’s because there’s no requirement for employees to be rooted in a place where the cost of living is relatively high or low. This means increasing pay for employees who receive a lower wage because of where they live.
Tax and social security
When people work in different countries, tax can become complicated. Even though someone is working for a UK company, they may still have to pay tax in the country where they’re located, especially if they live there for over six months.
Employees who don’t have to pay tax overseas may still have to pay social security in the country they’re working with. Even though they may already be paying National Insurance in the UK.
When employees are working in different time zones across the world, the practicalities of video calls will need to be addressed, and an agreement reached.
A WFA policy could create a sense of unfairness if there are roles within a business that must continue to be office-based. A cultural split could emerge between location-based staff and those with flexible lifestyles, so they no longer work cohesively together.
Some countries allow people to work remotely on a tourist visa, but others don’t. Every country has different rules. The penalties for violating the terms of a visa can be harsh, so it’s very important to check.
The visa issue can be especially difficult if a person travels to lots of different countries. Some countries have special visas for working tourists.
Is a WFA policy right for your organisation?
Deciding whether a work from anywhere policy is right for your organisation is an individual decision. Where in-person employees are fundamental to a business, then it clearly isn’t feasible.
For businesses where WFA is possible, there are many advantages. Yet lots of companies don’t introduce WFA because of the practicalities involved.
This means that if you do decide to offer WFA, as well as being beneficial for your existing employees, it could give you a significant advantage over your competitors who are recruiting from the same talent pool.