Should remote companies let employees become nomadic?
It's a tougher question than you think
I recently published three articles about remote worker visas on PulseBlueprint.
News on Helsinki’s new try before you buy remote worker visa
From an entrepreneur or team leader perspective, it opened up a different question: should you support employees that went remote and now want to go nomadic?
It’s not just about the move to remote or flexible work, but the administrative and logistical burdens that apply to nomadism.
I don’t have a definitive answer, but here are the arguments I’ve heard from both sides:
The “No” camp
When someone got hired, they were given a set of expectations. While one big one (the office) may no longer be the case, the expectation of existing in the same time zone is baked into the in-office assumption. Should you throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water? Just because you can’t be in an office doesn’t mean you should ditch time zone coordination.
Then you get to costs.
Health benefits and similar are vastly different around the world, and many remote worker visas require you to prove that you have adequate health coverage as part of your application process. Should employers be liable to pay for that?
Living arrangements and housing costs will fluctuate depending on your chosen accommodations abroad and if you keep your place in your home country. Does that mean those remote workers are entitled to any location adjustments on their salary?
And finally, collaboration burden.
Simply put: a lot of companies were just starting to figure out this “remote” thing. Having nomadic employees is a whole other kettle of fish. It requires a push to asynchronous work, among other things, and could further jar an already delicate workplace balance. Add in the predominant narrative that most companies will be hybrid remote and you get a weird situation where someone up and leaving will destroy company culture.
The “Yes” camp
The workplace is fundamentally changed. As Emily Lonetto, head of growth Voiceflow, put it in our interview: work is about outputs, not location. If you truly believe that and organize your company in that way, then it doesn’t matter if you’re in Toronto or Tel Aviv.
From a cost perspective, the short answer from the “yes” camp is that it depends. Some companies have a flex benefits system where applying for a remote worker visa might fall under that camp. Others don’t. The key is not to say what you “owe” an employee or not but to set the expectation of what you can offer. This tracks through to healthcare, housing, transit, and more. It’s the employee’s choice to make the move - and your level of support is whatever it is.
From an asynchronous communication perspective, the yes camp would say that’s a very, very good thing. As Job Van der Voort said in our interview: async should be the standard (he also talked about how seeing people in person can be incredibly valuable, so it’s not always about being far apart).
The sticking point for companies in the “yes” camp could definitely be the in-person side of things. However, the “yes” camp is also more likely to see it as an opportunity. A Tulsa based company but someone just applied for a remote worker visa in Barbados? Well, they now know where the next company retreat is (once it’s safe to travel). With a remote mentality - even a hybrid remote mentality - the flexibility for people to work wherever they are most productive outweighs the demand for face time. However, it also opens up unique opportunities to meet in new locales.
What camp are you in? Leave a comment!
Definitely the yes camp