3 (Major) Obstacles Currently Standing In The Way Of A Truly Remote Global Workforce
These factors stand in the way of the kind of remote mobilization many are currently imaginging as already being here
There’s so much positive energy going around at the moment in favor of remote working.
Barely a day goes by in which we don’t hear one of remote work’s many passionate advocates arguing that the office is obsolete — and decrying companies who are asking their workers to return to in-office employment.
And while I’m fully in favor of remote working (really, I think its potential is world-changing!), I think the future is going to look a lot more nuanced.
To demand that all companies make remote work fully optional is to ignore the reality that many workers — and companies — would rather work from an office than from a home.
They’d prefer their colleagues to do the same.
This is to be expected and, I believe, it’s also totally reasonable. Arguments are rarely won by aggressively spewing dogma and insisting that the other side (the non-remote-firsters) are anachronistic Luddites.
After all, it’s what working has looked like for virtually all knowledge-based workers since the Industrial Revolution.
Just as we (those on the ‘pro’ side of the remote work fence) are encouraging companies to respect our preference, we need to realize that we can’t dictate that everybody adopt ours. Change won’t come all at once. We’ll more likely have to meet somewhere in the middle.
So the future of remote working — while rosey — is going to be limited by the above factors. As well as these.
1: Deceptive Remote Work Advertisements
Yes, a strange one to kick this list off with perhaps.
Candidates looking for remote work opportunities at the moment (to disclose the obvious, I’ve been keeping my eye on what’s out there for the past month or so ) have been noting an enormous proliferation of miscategorized remote working “opportunities.”
Fake remote jobs are becoming a major nuisance for today’s jobseekers
Today’s remote jobseekers are having to wade through a haystack of fake advertising to find the few potentially…
These can take the form of:
- Positions advertised as remote because the term sounds trendy but … they’re not actually remote.
- Major T&Cs that preclude anybody except those based in the immediate environs of the office from fulfilling the job
Responsibility for weeding these out lies on the shoulders of remote job marketplaces. More specialist websites have begun doing a good job at policing their listings. LinkedIn really has not.
2: Geographically-Limited Remote Opportunities
I’m currently based in Israel.
And it didn’t take more than a few minutes on LinkedIn to suss that an enormous amount of remote opportunity — perhaps the majority of it — is circumscribed by one very significant term and condition: the positions are only accessible to those based in the United States (or Canada or the EU).
So what’s a Bulgarian or Indian or Israeli remote jobseeker to do?
A Remote World Would Be More Accessible If Only….
While attitudes towards remote work are rapidly changing, there remain legal and administrative obstacles that stand…
You could work remotely for a domestic employer, of course. But isn’t the whole idea of remote working to widen employment opportunities for companies and employers beyond those in one’s immediate geographic radius?
Working remotely and domestically has always seemed somewhat less appealing — almost like trying to make contrary objectives meet.
These are various reasons for this state of affairs.
One is that US-based organizations sometimes believe — or have been advised — that hiring non-American remote workers is a bureaucratic headache they’d rather live without.
Another is that the positions being billed as remote are actually hybrid roles. These require periodic on-site attendance. Hence, if you’re not at least in the country it’s very unlikely that the position is going to work out.
This really speaks to the point above.
Right now, we’re seeing a lot of confusing categorization that makes many job forums very frustrating experiences for remote opportunity job-seekers.
Hybrid isn’t remote. And if we want to move forward with remote working to the fullest extent possible, we’re going to need to make sure we’re all on the same page about these (extremely significant) nuances.
3: The World We Live In!
About twelve months ago, a friend was waxing lyrical about his newfound remote working existence in — of all places — the Canary Islands.
I felt an instant pang of jealousy. How cool and what a great way to take advantage of the zeitgeist towards remote work! Then I remembered that my wife holds down a non-remote job here in Israel and … other obstacles.
Here are a few that sprung quickly to mind:
- My wife and I currently rent and — like many renters — are contractually precluded from subletting. Legally, there’s no easy to way to simply vanish from the country for a few months without putting our lease (and housing) in jeopardy.
- Twelve months ago I was diagnosed with inattentive ADHD (I mean … you should totally still hire me notwithstanding that!). The medication I’m prescribed — Vyvanse — has been nothing short of mildly life-changing. Unfortunately ADHD stimulants are controlled substances and, generally speaking, prescriptions are not internationally recognized. Do I really want to set back all the progress I’ve made just for a short term adventure?
- Tax and compliance. Although I’ve never been hailed as a tax planning expert, I believe that most jurisdictions have some concept of tax residency. Spend more than a certain number of days in the country and you now owe tax to … some other sovereign. This is a complicated reality that digital nomads have to deal with.
- The spotty nature of internet connectivity worldwide. I have setup some pretty ridiculous business-grade connectivity for my home office.
I can throw out some ideas, even though none of them strike me as tremendously realistic:
- We — as in … human society — need to develop a more flexible paradigm for housing that acknowledges the fact that, these days, people tend to be more geographically footloose than ever before. I love the idea of housing as a service (HaaS) becoming more normalized. Just as we can rent server space from month to month (and it’s advisable to make our codebase easily transportable if we’re doing so; see Docker, Kubernetes, etc), we should be able to rent housing on a monthly basis and something like minimalism would probably be well-advised to help us do that. (Sorry — I sometimes think in tech analogies.) Normative rental contracts in many jurisdictions effectively force those not wealthy enough to pay rent for multiple properties simultaneously, or to own property, to effectively never leave their base for an extended period or to risk being found in breach of contract.
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