Digital nomads need digital policies for business continuity
The world has changed. It has changed as fundamentally as it did when the wheel entered the transportation equation and electricity lit up the office. The world of work will never return to the humdrum run of traffic, office and water cooler gossip, not unless these are qualities that skilled employees are looking for in a business. Because this world of work is not one controlled by the organisation, it is one that has its terms and conditions dictated by the employee. For companies seeking out the best of the skilled best, Nicol Myburgh, Head: HCM Business Unit at CRS Technologies, recommends that companies put digital nomad policies and processes in place today so they can fully realise the talent of tomorrow.
“The digital nomad way of working has become a far bigger occurrence today, especially now with remote working kicking off globally,” he adds. “Even before the pandemic, numerous European countries were coming to terms with nomad workers who rarely visited the office, and now those who want to work from anywhere number in their thousands.”
Some countries have implemented legislation to manage the complexities of digital nomad employees. Others are wrestling with these, trying to find smart ways of ensuring that digital nomads, and the companies that hire them, are protected and compliant. In South Africa, the digital nomad concept is still relatively fresh and untried, but it’s rapidly becoming a challenge for companies that want to hire and fire across multiple time zones and nationalities.
“For the digital nomad who takes their workplace around the country, managing their taxes, compliance, payroll, benefits and regulatory requirements is simple,” says Myburgh. “But those who live and work in other countries are going to be governed by different rules and regulations. Or they could be governed by local rules because they remain domiciled in this country. Whatever the case, the reality is that the digital nomad is wonderful in practice, but complicated in admin.”
While allowing for work to happen from anywhere on the planet is nothing short of amazing, it is critical that companies fully unpack the flip side of remote working across continents and prepare robust policies and approaches. These not only protect the business, but also the employees that opt for the digital nomad lifestyle.
“To ensure that your employees are paid correctly and in alignment with their specific location or existing regulations, you need to understand the laws of that country and how these will impact on the employee,” says Myburgh. “You may find that a person remains under South African law even though they are in Texas, USA for now, because the length of time spent there is too short to define it as domiciled there. From tax to healthcare to maternity and beyond, you need to figure out how to manage the important admin elements that come with digital nomad employees.”
Some companies have adopted strict regulations around digital nomad working, providing employees with a list of locations they can visit and the rules they need to abide by. Others list locations that are no-go zones as their regulations are too restrictive and complex to manage. Both options can combine to create cohesive digital nomad policies and approaches that allow for free-range employees without fines, non-compliance complications, or unpaid taxes.
“The future is digital and the employee who thrives in this future can be whatever they choose – nomad, office worker or a mix of the two,” concludes Myburgh. “Your organisation just has to ensure that it has the right policies and systems in place to ensure that employees have this choice.”