Work from anywhere? New hires expect full flexibility. But how can human resources respond?

Work from anywhere? New hires expect full flexibility. But how can human resources respond?

It’s easy to think of flexible working as something new. But we’ve been helping people to work from anywhere for decades.

Here we look at some of the definitions and differences HR teams are getting to grips with, including the blurred lines between giving guidance and policing a policy, as candidates expect increased flexibility.

Expats, business travel—or somewhere in-between?

Pre-pandemic around 12% of the global travel market was made up of business travellers. These people typically worked abroad for stints of seven days or less—and some on client projects for a few months or longer. Contrast that with expatriates, where some 80-million people had chosen to relocate to another country—for at least a year, sometimes on an open-ended basis. Germany, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE were the largest host countries: five years ago, expatriates made up over 85% of the UAE’s population. Expat traditionally described senior hires making large career commitments for commensurate rewards—and business travellers defined regularly roving executives who returned home. Today we’re witnessing a complete transformation of where these lines are drawn—providing challenge and opportunity in equal measure.

Before COVID-19 there was little in-between these defined groups. Throughout 2022 that’s been changing, and a new breed of globally mobile workers is emerging fast. Hybrid working policies are more or less a given, with 90% of European employers offering some kind of remote working. But this usually means two or three days at home—and two-thirds of HR professionals say they’re focussed on the problem of persuading people to return to the office. But there’s a larger challenge facing recruiters—a candidate’s desire to maintain and increase the freedoms they enjoyed during the pandemic. That means rarely, if ever, coming into the office. It’s driving an expectation not of hybrid work from home, but fully flexible work from anywhere. So forward-thinking companies are experimenting with embedding a transient, international travel culture—often at odds with local talent acquisition functions, and their traditional corporate values.

Productive, progressive, or perk?

Many sectors and successful corporations have engrained attitudes towards working from home. For some it conjures up images of staff in back bedrooms with Zoom or Teams hiding pyjama bottoms. While TikTok skits show employees on ski-lifts or poolside loungers happily proclaiming to bemused bosses, “work is where the Wi-Fi is!”. So, there’s understandably suspicion and reluctance to accept that work from anywhere, as a natural evolution of flexible working, can be productive and positive. There’s little doubt for some being away from the office brings a sense of exclusion, isolation, and lack of human engagement. But for pioneers, work from anywhere is very much the direction of travel in attracting talent from a wider pool. It began, perhaps predictably, in already agile technology startups, followed by well-known SaaS providers, extending to the biggest consulting firms. As we’ve seen success stories emerging at global corporates, from big pharma to downstream oil and gas operations, it’s proving an effective way to hire global talent on a test-and-learn basis for HR.

Regional reluctance

Geographically, the EU bloc, UK and US are embracing work from anywhere with greater willingness than APAC. Traditionally from Japan to Hongkong pressure to overwork and a focus on presenteeism persist. When Japan entered voluntary lockdown in 2020, there was an assumption companies had neither the cultural propensity nor technology to embrace remote working. That proved to be unsubstantiated. That resistance to hybrid models has lessened with many now taking a wait, watch and learn stance to full flexibility.

Risk and reward

There’s a lot of hard evidence that enabling a work from anywhere programme can help organisations attract and retain the best possible talent. Putting global borders in as boundaries, naturally reduces the size of the pool. There’s also substantive research that shows it can increase employee satisfaction and productivity. Employees and candidates cite inflexible working as a key reason to leave or be attracted to a role. In many sectors, data shows they would also be willing to work for less money—and reduced office costs can be the icing on the cake. However, these need to be weighed up with compliance, data privacy, security and the risk of triggering unexpected tax implications of having senior people in different jurisdictions.

Finding a proper partner

If you’re looking for expert support to help your relocating employees with immigration, the physical move, and finding their way in a new country and culture—our experience is unrivaled. You’ll have a central point of coordination, providing a safe and secure way of relocating that’s cost-effective and compliant. To see how we make it easy, simply drop us an email to and we’ll get back to you.


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