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How tech companies can prepare for a distributed workforce post Brexit

In the first phase of Covid-19, technology companies swiftly responded to "work from home" (WFH) orders from governments. Many were already set up for some remote working, but very few anticipated managing a distributed workforce for the majority of employees for months on end. Fast forward to the end of 2020, and some tech businesses have announced that they will not return to a pre-Covid work environment in the near future.

Back in July 2020, Google was one of the first companies to declare that they planned to keep remote working in place for 200,000 roles. All Google employees that don’t need to be office-based will work from home until at least Summer 2021.

While governments have now eased restrictions, a “work from home where possible” advisory is still in place in most countries. It seems highly likely that a large number of firms will follow in Google’s footsteps. Working from home is likely to continue well into 2021.

Why remote work is part of post-Brexit planning

With the Brexit transition period at an end, businesses have a secondary imperative of needing to manage their workforce after 1 January 2021. The uncertainties around Brexit affect both UK businesses with employees from other EU countries, and businesses based in the EU with British staff.

The Covid-19 pandemic has encouraged more employees to return to their home country to continue remote working, potentially solving the Brexit staffing dilemma. If employees are already happy to WFH abroad, it makes sense for employers to set up a remote workforce in the long-term.

And this arrangement could provide an answer to the UK’s tight labour market caused by Brexit. With remote work the standard way of operating, tech companies are able to look overseas to fill their vacancies.

Benefits of remote work for business

Whatever their position before the pandemic, many companies have realised that there are advantages to remote working, beyond curbing the spread of a virus. Some major benefits include:

· Lower operational costs for businesses.

This is an obvious one. No heating and electricity costs, no cleaning bills to pay, no teas and coffees to provide. The list of cost savings is endless. Employees working away from the office equates to lower operational costs. In these times of economic uncertainty, an initiative that saves money is surely worth considering.

· A wider talent pool for recruitment.

Remote work also means that companies can recruit from outside their office’s commutable distances. They can make sure they’re hiring the best person for the job, not necessarily the best person within a 30km radius. This is a particular advantage for tech businesses and its fiercely competitive market for hard-to-find skill sets.

· More attractive to future employees.

Continuing the point above, remote work could form part of a compelling benefits package for future employees. The International Workplace Group found that “80% of job seekers would choose a job with a flexible work-from-home policy over one that doesn’t offer the same benefit”. Employers need to work hard to attract the best talent, and sometimes flexible work conditions are as attractive as a higher salary.

Making remote work, work

If you’re considering keeping WFH policies in place, here are a few things you need to manage the transition (and keep costs down).

· Excellent communications software.

Bad communication leads to delayed projects, wasted time, and disengaged employees. Anyone who has tried to collaborate using unreliable tools knows how frustrating these challenges can be. And time is money. Covid has probably already taught you that, at the very least, you need reliable tools for web conferencing, instant messaging, and project management.

· A reliable and scalable currency exchange tool.

With employees moving back to their home countries, you also need systems in place to make sure your distributed workforce is not costing you more. Think through whether you’ll pay your employees in your base currency, or the currency of their home country. Fluctuating rates can cost you a lot of money, if you’re not paying attention.

Your first step in taking control of the situation is registering for a currency exchange solution that’s set up for businesses. At CurrencyFair, our business customers are assigned a dedicated account manager as well as 24/7 support. CurrencyFair also offers competitive exchange rates - on average 0.45% above interbank rate - with no hidden fees, so when you pay employees overseas you know exactly how much it’s costing you. And business features such as multi-user access allow you to delegate the job of transferring salaries, while keeping an overview of what’s happening.

· A flexible (or no) office space.

Finally, you might want to consider how much you’re paying for a physical office space. Question whether you need to pay an expensive lease on an office you’re rarely using. You could downsize, or even close your HQ completely and set up a PO Box and mail forwarding service.

Think creatively about how you can make spaces for teams to meet when they need to. You might choose to set up a budget for co-working spaces in cities across Europe. Perhaps you could negotiate hiring meeting rooms with an international hotel chain. And when you’re paying international suppliers, using tools such as CurrencyFair means you’re always getting the best possible rates.

Aim to play the long game

WFH is here to stay, in some form. This could be good news for employers who need to manage the workforce risks posed by Brexit. It could also be good news for employees, who might prefer to work from home in another country.

Think of 2020 as a trial run for remote work. Approach the task strategically to ensure you create a long-term framework for WFH that helps you manage risks, save money, and keep your employees happy.

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