Over the past two decades, the remote workforce has become a staple for many companies. The companies utilizing remote employees first started as largely technology companies located within Silicon Valley, New York city, and other larger coastal cities period. However, remote work is not so simple to define, it occupies a vast spectrum of both employee responsibility and freedom.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused non-technology-based firms to rapidly adopt the idea of remote work. But the type of remote work that these companies are adopting, is largely different than the type of remote work that has occurred in most firms prior to the pandemic.
There are two types of remote work, at heart. The first is ‘Part Remote’ where an employee is required to live in a nearby geographic region of their employer. Though they may work from home for a period of time throughout each week, in some cases even having the ability to work at home the majority of their workweek.
The second type of remote work is ‘Full Remote.’ ‘Full Remote’ work allows employees to live wherever they would like and does not require employees to enter an office at any point. ‘Fully Remote’ companies were much less in number before the pandemic. Most firms who allowed remote work had some sort of requirement for employees to either live nearby or visit a specific office at some point during their week, month, or quarter.
Being ‘Partly Remote’ does not require specific changes at the firm level or specific government policies. to facilitate. Employees still have a greater flexibility in their Workday, but they tend to occupy a physical location in much the same manner as they would if they worked on campus. However, being ‘Fully Remote’ implies that an individual or their family has no specific geographic requirement to their city.
‘Fully Remote’ companies might have annual or semi-annual retreats, which requires employees to spend a week or two in a specific location. However, all business is conducted online. Fully remote companies have unique characteristics about how they operate. First, employees are hired from different countries or from different regions. Second, employees themselves often maintain a nomadic lifestyle, often referred to as being digital nomads. Third, if employees do live as digital nomads, they don’t take root in cities in the same way as people have done throughout the sum of human history.
As the pandemic continues it is becoming essential that we better understand remote work. Not only must we better understand the differences between being ‘partly’ and ‘fully remote,’ but we also must understand the impact that remote work has on the local economy, and local and international economies.
‘Fully Remote’ work, in addition to changing the nature of local economies, will require a policy framework that ranges from taxation reform to migration policy that facilitates an employee’s digital and nomadic lifestyle. America cannot be complacent on this issue because if America is complacent and does not set up a favorable framework for digital nomads, we could quite literally and overnight lose our best and brightest to countries that are offering incentives to digital nomads.
Now more than ever, our economy is being forced to change fundamentally than how our parents lived and worked.
American leadership on issues of the future economy cannot be taken for granted. On other innovative technologies and business models such as cryptocurrencies and equity crowdfunding that are similarly related to the issue of remote work, America has lagged. However, the American private sector, in many cases, has led on these initiatives. Remote work is now something that American policy making an American legislator cannot either take for granted or come in second place. Because if we do as a Country, then America will lose its workers to Countries who facilitate ‘Fully Remote’ employment.
The coronavirus pandemic will force many countries across the world to operate as ‘Fully Remote.’ America must lead on this issue!