What is Work From Anywhere?
Many of us have heard the term Work From Anywhere and instantly think of an image of somebody working on a laptop by the beach.
This is a new segment of people which has the potential to represent a significant portion of global knowledge workers over the coming decade.
It will also represent a sizable chunk of the global travel market.
But what is Work From Anywhere and how do you define it?
Work From Anywhere Pre-Covid
Some people believe Work From Anywhere is a completely new concept that never existed before.
And in a way, they’re right.
But looking from it from a different perspective, you could argue that Work From Anywhere already existed pre-pandemic, just under a different guise.
Take business travellers. These were people who travelled for typically less than 7 days to do business abroad. Not all worked for less than 7 days. For example, some people were on client projects which could last a few months or longer. But the vast majority of business travellers tended to travel for 7 days or less. Business travellers represented circa 12% of the global travel market of 1.5 billion people in 2019.
You also had expats. These were people who wanted to relocate long-term, typically at least a year or more, to another country. These number somewhere around 87m people.
So if you wanted to Work From Anywhere for less than 7 days you had business travel and if you wanted to Work From Anywhere for more than 365 days, you went down the expat route.
There was simply not a huge amount of people remote working temporarily abroad for more than 7 days but less than 365 days, partly because remote work was not yet the global trend it is today.
Then, in March 2020, an earthquake hit.
Covid arrived and fundamentally shifted how we see work.
Many of us were forced into remote work.
And guess what?
Despite being in a pandemic with a sub-optimal experience of remote work, we loved it.
When I say sub-optimal, I’m thinking of me, just last week.
Picture being on a Zoom call on my laptop to one of our tax partners, holding my 6 month old in my arms, while my 5-year-old is trying to tickle the back of my neck, while I’m simultaneously on to the Thai embassy in the UK trying to figure out visa challenges.
It wasn’t ideal, and not every call is like that, but for many of us, this was the kind of remote work we endured during most of 2020.
During all this time, search trends for Work From Anywhere were skyrocketing, growing more than 300%.
We might have been stuck in one place, but that didn’t stop us from engaging in the wanderlust dream of remote working abroad.
Work From Anywhere Post-Covid
This has set the scene for one of the largest disruptions to work the world has ever seen.
Remote work is here to stay, that is beyond discussion. Gartner published a study that indicated that 51% of the world’s knowledge workers will be remote by the end of 2021 with the UK and USA leading the way.
But if that is the case for remote work, then what does this mean for Work From Anywhere?
There are numerous surveys that indicate that there is an enormous appetite for working from anywhere. We did our own internal survey in 2021 which showed that for 53% of people, Working From Anywhere was the desired working arrangement. A Qualtrics survey went even further where 80% of employees looking for a new job said it was important to them that their next job offer them the opportunity to live anywhere
Whatever way this is sliced and diced, somewhere between 10% and 80% of the world’s remote workers will want to at least explore the possibility of working from anywhere, either temporarily or permanently. That means a market of somewhere between 50m and 400m people around the world.
Defining Work From Anywhere
This is where it becomes critical to have a solid definition of Work From Anywhere.
On the basis that someone is moving to another country for more than 365 days, we would consider those people expats. If they’re going for less than 7 days, we would consider them as business travellers.
With that in mind, we define Work From Anywhere as follows:
It is important to add the wording of specific countries, because it is impossible for any company to allow employees to work in any country they want. There could be visa, tax, security or other restrictions that make it impossible to work remotely in any country. However, allowing Work From Anywhere in a targeted number of countries is something much more realistic as it allows companies to leverage local expertise (e.g. If they have a local legal entity there) and reduces the risk exposure of accidentally triggering risks the company was not aware of (such as Permanent Establishment).
It is also fair to say that it’s not just companies that allow Work From Anywhere, it might also be contractors and freelancers. However the same definition would apply, in that they as individuals have a policy of allowing themselves to work remotely abroad for more than 7 days and less than 365 days.
Different Names For A Work From Anywhere Geomobility Policy
Some companies name their policy a Work From Anywhere policy.
Others call it an International Remote Work policy.
For companies that have a very strong business travel department, they might call it a policy for Extended Business Travellers.
Pre-pandemic many companies called it a Bleisure Travel policy.
Another one to watch out for is the concept of Virtual Assignments.
A less frequent name would be an International Telecommuting policy.
Whatever you call it, the risks are broadly the same and cannot be ignored, be they the costs and/or risks associated with implementing Work From Anywhere or the risks of not implementing Work From Anywhere (e.g. If not implementing a Work From Anywhere policy causes the company to experience high attrition levels and/or lose the battle in the war for talent).
Who Are The People Who Work From Anywhere?
So what to call these people who Work From Anywhere?
Well, there are a variety of different names attached to them.
Pre-Covid, they were more often known as digital nomads. But that name is now becoming redundant as there are so many sub-segments to the broader digital nomad definition.
For example, in Spain, Gonçalo Hall talked about how they are already seeing how corporate nomads have moved from 10% of digital nomads pre-pandemic to around 50% in 2021.
You also have the new concept of location-independent people.
We are also seeing the growth of digital nomad families (provided childcare and schooling facilities can be addressed).
Digital homads are another segment to watch out for.
Work Is No Longer A Place
Tying this all off, the conclusion from the emergence of remote work, and Work From Anywhere, is that work is no longer a place.
This offers an exciting opportunity for so many of us fortunate enough to be able to remote work.
For some, it might be the opportunity to work on a laptop by the beach. For others, it might be the opportunity to be able to return home to family to take care of sick parents.
What is beyond doubt is that it will transform how we see work in more ways than one.
P.S. We are doing a Work From Anywhere White Paper to understand where this is all heading and how companies are tackling these challenges. It is a non-commercial initiative in conjunction with the Global Mobility Executive and RoRemote. The results will be publicly shared for free in January 2022. If you would like to participate please visit here.
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John is Co-founder of the Work From Anywhere team, a platform to help companies execute a hire or work from anywhere strategy. John is a Chartered Accountant who speaks 6 languages and was previously the senior finance leader of a €4 billion division of FTSE-listed CRH Plc. John and his family are passionate about travelling and his eldest daughter, Rosa, while only 5 years old has already travelled to 25 different countries.