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42% of Employees Would Like to WFA (Work From Abroad)

Hannah Watkins
Hannah Watkins|

In our recent “Should we ditch the office?” Survey, we asked over 1,000 employees a variety of questions around how they’d like to work in the future. The results were fascinating—giving us key insights on everything from how remote working preferences differ between age groups to the perks that employees would most appreciate when they’re working from home.

One of the most intriguing stats we uncovered via the survey was that a significant 42% of employees would want to use their company’s remote working policy to work from abroad.

But why? Does this mean that almost half the country wants to up sticks and work from the beach from now on?

Below, we discuss what the survey responses told us about “work wanderlust”, and what this means for employers.

A higher proportion of women would like to work from abroad than men

First of all, we decided to dig a little deeper into the data to find out if any specific demographics were particularly keen on working from abroad.

Interestingly, we found that a slightly higher proportion of women would like to work remotely, compared to men (45% vs 39%).

This went hand in hand with the fact that a higher number of female respondents said that when working remotely, they would like to work in different places on different occasions (38% compared to 33% of men), whilst more men would like to work in the same place most days (37% compared to 30% of women).

26-30 year olds are the keenest to work from abroad

When it came to the preferences of different age groups, we found that millennials (those born between 1980 and 1994) were the most likely to want to work from abroad: 43% of 31-40 year olds, and a huge 47% of 26-30 year olds. 

Slightly below the overall average of 42% were under 26s (39%), and 41-50 year olds (38%). 

One third (33%) of respondents over the age of 60 said that they’d want to use a remote working policy to work from abroad, whilst only 21% of 51-60 year olds felt the same. 

The reasons behind work wanderlust

To shed more light on why so many employees expressed interest in working from abroad, we looked a little closer into what respondents told us about their ideal working setup.

What this showed us was that motivations behind being able to “WFA” do vary, and that different people would use this freedom in different ways. (So, to come back to our earlier point: no, we don’t think that half the country will now up sticks and work from the beach from now on.)

Occasional freedom and variety

For instance, a number of employees who’d like to work from abroad made it clear that they don’t necessarily want to move abroad. For many, it’s the occasional freedom and flexibility that most appeals. Employees may wish to elongate trips without taking up precious annual leave, or make holidays more cost-efficient—for instance, booking cheaper mid-week flights for a weekend getaway, but working either side of it.

We saw this in a number of responses. For instance, one employee said they’d like the “occasional ability to work from home anywhere in the world”, whilst another said they’d want to be “three days in office, two days at home, with flexibility to work in different countries occasionally.”

Another told us: “[I want] complete flexibility. I’d like to be able to have working from home as the default, with office availability (coworking). I’d also like the freedom to work abroad for an extended period of time (up to one month), sticking to UK working hours.”

Digital nomadism

Nevertheless, there’s no doubt that some employees would be keen to “work from abroad” as a lifestyle. The digital revolution is such that many office jobs can now be done with just a laptop and WiFi connection—and the recent period of working from home has prompted many to ask themselves: “if I’m not in the office, does it make a difference where I am instead?”

Recent months have changed the way we think about the “workplace” so drastically that digital nomadism seems more viable than ever. In July, Barbados even introduced the Barbados Welcome Stamp, encouraging international visitors to work remotely on the island for up to a year.

Here’s how some of our survey respondents told us they’d like to work: 

  • “I’d like to be able to work from anywhere in the world”
  • “Work abroad—being able to travel and work at the same time!”
  • “Would want dedicated days where we met as a team, and flexibility to work remotely from abroad in another timezone.”
  • “Working remotely but only on occasion. Or else all of the time but from another country.”
  • “I’d like “digital nomadism” to be more normalised and accepted.”

The desire to WFA permanently was supported by Perkbox’s recent survey findings, which showed that 15% of employees would consider moving out of the UK if their company went fully-remote.

To spend more time in a home country

A huge proportion of companies, of course, employ team members from outside the UK. Increased flexibility around remote working means that many of these employees now have the opportunity to spend more time working from their home country, or visiting family and friends. 

One respondent in our survey said: “As an expat and frequent traveller, it would be great if [we could have] flexibility around scheduling WFH…WFH for 2/3 weeks at a time so that it could be done from mother country home, and not just London home.”

Flexibility is key

The significant desire to work from another country (either occasionally or permanently) signals that, in this new era of work, flexibility is key. The pandemic has shown us that the days of work being done in an office, and only in an office, are gone—now, different people want to work in different places, on different days, doing different things, for different reasons.

For instance, when we asked employees where they would want to work when not in the office, the responses were spread between a whole variety of locations:

The home was, unsurprisingly, an all-round popular reponses. However, 43% also said that they’d like to work in a coworking space (that’s not their main office). A likely reason is that many employees told us how little they like commuting, so would prefer to access local coworking spaces

In additional to this, 39% of respondents said that they’d like to work in a cafe, 24% said they’d like to work from a member’s club, 7% would like to work from a hotel lobby, and 5% from a museum or gallery. 

Note that only 3% of respondents said that they would ONLY want to work from the office—the least popular response of the options we gave. This emphasises the importance of both convenience and variety to employees, and signals that the “workplace” is no longer bound to the office OR the home—but could be a whole variety of “third spaces”.

Incorporating “working from abroad” into your remote policies

Of course, as an employer, there are many things to consider when it comes to allowing your team to work from abroad. From a legal point of view, it’s important to take into account matters such as visas and taxation, amongst other things. The outcome for each specific company will depend on a whole variety of factors, from industry type to amount of time being spent overseas—so if you’re unsure of how this would affect your business, the best option is to consult a lawyer.

But, if allowing employees to work from abroad in some regard is on the agenda, there are a few things worth bearing in mind from an operational standpoint—many of which, if you’re adopting a more remote-friendly policy in general, are worth thinking about anyway.

Working hours

If your team members will be spending any time working abroad, it’s worth establishing expectations with regards to working hours. Are they prescribed? Do you have “core hours” in which meetings and social events are organised? Are you happy for team members to adjust their hours depending on their timezone?

The answers to these questions will likely be linked to your company’s approach to communication in general. As a team, do you prioritise synchronous or asynchronous comms?

Establishing clear processes in advance can save a lot of headaches down the line.

In-person requirements

Whether your team members are abroad or not, if you’re adopting a more remote-friendly policy, we’d recommend clearly communicating to your employees when they’re expected to be present in-person. Are there certain monthly, quarterly or annual events/meetings that you’d like the whole company to attend IRL? Do you expect employees to be at HQ to host specific clients, meet investors, or attend pitches? Making this clear from the outset will help employees plan around key dates and ensure good attendance.

Obviously, not everything is routinely scheduled in advance. But you might like to consider how much notice should (reasonably) be given to employees to expect them to attend an in-person internal meeting. It’s worth also speaking to department managers, as requirements may differ for each role. If you’re less familiar with the day-to-day of certain members of the team, team leads may have insights that you need.

Data/security

If team members are no longer based in the office every day, you don’t want to expose yourself to unnecessary security risks. Again, this applies whether employees are overseas or in the UK.

Are team members able to use public WiFi networks? Are there any data or security issues that could arise from doing so? Do you need to upgrade your insurance policies on team equipment if they’re using laptops and tech outside of the main HQ?

If you do want to go fully remote, you may like to check out the policies and content of remote-working veterans such as GitLab and Buffer. They’ve spent years honing their company practices, and have a lot of knowledge to share.

Find out how your employees want to work

Working from abroad clearly seems to be rising in popularity. But whilst we can find trends in the overall data, we know that preferences around remote working can vary dramatically from person to person, business to business. As such, if you’re looking to identify the best workplace strategy for your company, it’s crucial to find out what works for your employees.

To help you find the insights you need quickly and easily, we’ve created a free-to-use Workplace Strategy Tool—designed to help you find out how your own employees want to work.

With the tool, you can survey your own team using our curated questionnaire, access the data immediately via your own personalised results dashboard, and get free, professional advice on the best workplace solutions from our team of experts. Check it out below:

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