The principal at a large West Coast architectural firm whose affinity for Japan leads her to open an office for the firm in Kyoto; the veteran graphic designer who wants to stay with his long-time employer, but only if he can work from the Italian countryside; the ambitious US clothing retailer that seeks to expand its brick-and-mortar footprint across the border into Canada.
These are the faces of a new era of “anywhere jobs,” globalizing workforces and border-crossing organizational footprints, ushered in by employees’ growing preference for remote work and by employers’ increasing open-mindedness to flexible work arrangements.
Why not let valued employees work from somewhere overseas, as long as they can do their jobs as well as there as in a traditional office setting? Why not expand the company’s geographical horizons in order to cultivate new markets for products, services and talent? Leaders across the business landscape are asking these types of questions as they consider how to balance demands to be more flexible, mobile and adaptable without sacrificing profitability.
Those demands have crystallized during the pandemic. According to figures cited in a recent report from Buffer, 97.6% of workers would like to work remotely at least some of the time for the rest of their careers; 25% say the flexibility to work from any location is the top perk of working remotely. Not surprisingly, projections suggest that about one-quarter of all higher-paying ($100,000 or more annually) jobs in North America will be remote by the end of 2022.
Companies like Airbnb have responded with policies that enable employees to live and work anywhere. “If we limited our talent pool to a commuting radius around our offices, we would be at a significant disadvantage. … And by recruiting from a diverse set of communities, we will become a more diverse company,” co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky wrote to his employees.
Moves like these raise another question for organizational leaders to ponder: How are we going to give geographically diverse and dispersed teams the tools and support they need to effectively collaborate and innovate? Research from Stanford notes that working remotely can increase a company’s productivity.
But to maximize those gains and provide the kind of digitally enabled workplace experience that employees have come to expect, companies must back their remote work strategies, however they are configured, with a strong set of collaboration, connectivity and communication capabilities and approaches, starting with these building blocks:
1. Universal communications capabilities that transcend borders.
To function effectively across borders, companies with offices or employees in multiple countries must have uninterrupted connectivity and seamless multichannel methods of communicating internally within and across teams, as well as with partners, suppliers, customers and talent from anywhere around the world. The better-armed workforce is with real-time and remote collaboration tools (chat, voice, video collaboration, etc.), the more productive employees and teams will be, wherever they happen to be working.
2. Multiple communications options to fit the needs of the moment and peoples’ varying preferences.
Ultimately, an organization’s ability to provide superior employee and customer experience depends largely on omnichannel communications capabilities. To create a superior CX, your customer-facing employees need the ability to engage them via their preferred means of communication and to shift from one channel to another seamlessly as needed.
The same holds true for the employee experience — your EX. The members of your workforce expect to have access to robust, integrated digital communications options, just as they do in their personal lives. The easier those tools are to use, and the better they are at improving productivity and collaboration, the likelier they are to enrich the EX, which will in turn improve the customer experience.
3. Multiple layers of security to defuse cyberthreats.
Remote work and distributed teams make an organization’s network, data and users more vulnerable to cyberattacks — at a time when attacks are already rising sharply (105% appears last year alone). So for organizations with a widely distributed workforce and international offices, having multiple layers of cybersecurity (encryption, zero-trust network access, etc.) is a must to protect a network and the assets and users attached to it.
4. Flexibility with employee schedules.
Recognize that, for team members, communicating and collaborating across time zones can be challenging. In its report, Buffer noted that 32% of employees say the ability to have a flexible schedule is the top benefit of remote work. Giving employees access to the best-in-class communications tools means little unless there’s a top-down, organization-wide cultural commitment to providing people with the flexibility they need (and expect) to excel at their jobs.
Based on the current trends and horizons expand globally for employers and employees alike, organizations that focus on these critical areas are bound to create new inroads for themselves and their workforces outside the US borders. Get those passports ready.