The director of a major architecture firm on the West Coast whose affinity for Japan leads her to open an office for the Kyoto office; the seasoned graphic designer who wants to stay with his longtime employer, but only if he can work from the Italian countryside; the ambitious US clothing retailer looking to expand its brick-and-mortar presence across the border into Canada.
These are the faces of a new era of ‘jobs everywhere’, globalization of the workforce and cross-border organizational footprints ushered in by workers’ growing preference for remote work and by employers’ increasing receptiveness to flexible working arrangements.
Why not let valued employees work from somewhere abroad, as long as they can do their job just as well in a traditional office environment? Why not expand a company’s geographic horizon to explore new markets for products, services and talent? Executives across the business landscape ask these kinds of questions when considering how to balance the demands to be more agile, mobile, and adaptable without sacrificing profitability.
These demands have crystallized during the pandemic. According to figures cited in a recent report by Buffer, 97.6% of workers would like to work remotely at least part of the time for the rest of their careers; 25% say the flexibility to work from anywhere is the biggest benefit of working remotely. Not surprisingly, forecasts suggest that by the end of 2022, about a quarter of all higher-paying jobs ($100,000 or more per year) in North America will be gone.
Companies like Airbnb have responded with policies that allow employees to live and work anywhere. “If we limited our talent pool to within a commute radius of our offices, we would be significantly disadvantaged. … And by recruiting from a variety of communities, we will become a more diverse company,” co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky wrote to his employees.
Actions like these raise another question for business leaders to think about: How will we give geographically diverse and dispersed teams the tools and support they need to collaborate and innovate effectively? Research from Stanford shows that working remotely can increase a company’s productivity.
But to maximize those gains and deliver the kind of digitally-enabled workplace experience that employees have come to expect, companies must complement their remote work strategies, however configured, with a strong set of skills and approaches to collaboration, connectivity and communication support, starting with these building blocks:
1. Universal communication options that transcend borders.
To function effectively across borders, companies with offices or employees in multiple countries must have uninterrupted connectivity and seamless multichannel methods for internal communication within and between teams, as well as with partners, suppliers, customers and talent from around the world . The more equipped a workforce is with real-time and remote collaboration tools (chat, voice, video collaboration, etc.), the more productive employees and teams will be wherever they work.
2. Multiple communication options to meet people’s current needs and different preferences.
Ultimately, a company’s ability to provide a great employee and customer experience largely depends on omnichannel communication skills. To create superior CX, your frontline workers need to be able to engage them through their preferred means of communication and seamlessly switch from one channel to another as needed.
Ditto for the employee experience – your EX. Members of your workforce expect access to robust, integrated digital communications options, just as they do in their personal lives. The easier these tools are to use and the better they improve productivity and collaboration, the more likely they will enrich the EX, which in turn improves the customer experience.
3. Multiple layers of security to mitigate cyber threats.
Remote working and distributed teams are making an organization’s network, data, and users more vulnerable to cyberattacks at a time when attacks are already on the rise (a 105% increase in the last year alone). Therefore, for organizations with widely distributed employees and international offices, having multiple layers of cybersecurity (encryption, Zero Trust network access, etc.) in place to protect a network and the assets and users connected to it is a must.
4. Flexibility in employee working hours.
Realize that communicating and collaborating across time zones can be challenging for team members. In its report, Buffer found that 32% of employees say the ability to have a flexible schedule is the biggest benefit of remote work. Giving employees access to best-in-class communication tools means little unless there’s a top-down, company-wide cultural commitment to giving people the flexibility they need (and expect) to excel at their jobs to provide services.
Based on current trends and the global broadening of horizons for employers and employees, organizations that focus on these critical areas are bound to create new avenues for themselves and their workforces outside of US borders. Have these passports ready.