We’ve all seen them – those infuriating Instagram posts showing a laptop positioned in front of some sunny, idyllic location, with a caption reading something like, ‘My office this week – don’t mind if I do’.
During the height of the pandemic, a lucky few managed to escape to warmer climes while the rest of us were stuck in lockdown, but now travel is back, more and more people are choosing to ‘work from holiday’ rather than home.
New stats from LinkedIn show this year alone, 39% of UK workers have ‘worked from hols’, with that figure estimated to rise to 49% in 2023.
Foreign remote working is particularly appealing to the younger generation, with twice as many Gen Z’s (33%) having worked abroad before or after a holiday this year, compared to those aged 55 and over (15%).
It’s not hard to see why. The nine to five slog isn’t quite so bad when you can go to the beach on your lunch break, visit a new neighbourhood every evening, or explore the countryside every weekend.
Plus, rather than going down the ‘digital nomad’ route, which might force you to become self-employed, this way you don’t necessarily have to quit your job.
In the LinkedIn study, over a third (38%) of those able to work remotely said ‘working from hols’ helped improve their mental wellbeing, while 28% said it helped make them feel more positively about their workplace.
So are you dreaming of joining those jetsetters combining their career goals with their travel bucket lists? Do you want to be the one posting envy-inducing photos on social media? Is it even necessary to tell your boss before you pack your bags and hit the road?
We asked employment experts to talk through everything you need to know about working remotely abroad…
Do you always have to inform your employer if you’re working remotely abroad?
“It isn’t usually necessary to tell your employer if you choose to catch up on emails whilst on holiday abroad,” says Joanne Moseley, employment law specialist at Irwin Mitchell (irwinmitchell.com).
But if you want to work outside the UK on a permanent or temporary basis, you will need to get your company’s permission.
“Working in a different country introduces a whole new set of issues your employer will need to consider in relation to tax, social security and employment protections,” Moseley says.
There are data protection considerations too: “If the employee breaches these rules then the employer is at risk of facing fines and penalties.”
What if you sneak off, set a fake background for Zoom calls and hope you don’t get caught?
Not a good idea, Moseley warns: “If you don’t tell your employer and just assume that you can work abroad, you could be dismissed for gross misconduct.”
How should you go about asking if you can ‘work from hols’ for a short time?
Sometimes termed a ‘workcation’, this might involve tagging some time onto a holiday or basing yourself in one place for a few weeks – according to Airbnb, ideal destinations include Cape Town, Lisbon and Bali.
“Try to propose the move abroad as something that will benefit both you and the company equally,” says Professor Craig Jackson, occupational health psychologist at Birmingham City University (bcu.ac.uk).
You might position the move as something that will free up desk space, or allow you to be available to clients outside UK working hours (if there’s a time difference).
You’ll also need to go into the meeting ready to prove the move would work in practice, and you can deal with any logistical problems.
“Establish protocols for how they would contact you abroad, for established working hours, for what you can deliver and when,” suggests Jackson. “Reassure them you take it just as seriously as them – if not more so.”
If no one in your team or company has worked remotely overseas before, your manager might be nervous about legal issues, so tell them you don’t expect an answer immediately.
Jackson continues: “Reassure them that if done properly, any additional risks will be mitigated through sensible risk assessment, and by being a safe and responsible worker.”
Above all, be reasonable and polite, and don’t threaten to quit if you don’t get your way – unless you’re willing to follow through.
“Don’t pitch it as a confrontation,” Jackson adds. “Work is sometimes a compromise – what would you visibly demonstrate you would sacrifice to make this happen?”
What if you want to work abroad for a longer period?
If you’re interested in remote working for more than a few weeks, there is usually more to consider in terms of tax and legal issues.
“If you want to work abroad on a semi-permanent basis, then you need to explore with the company what your employment rights will be, how your benefits may be affected, and whether there are tax implications,” explains Liz Sebag-Montefiore, career coach and director of 10Eighty (10eighty.co.uk).
If adjustments have to be made to your contract and benefits, this may involve extra costs or legal fees, so a small business may be more reluctant to say yes.
“There may be options for you to move to a self-employed contract basis or some other contractual route that suits both parties,” Sebag-Montefiore continues. “In addition, check carefully whether you will become liable for tax and insurance in the country where you plan to work.”
Plus, you’ll need to consider what would happen if you were needed back in the office at home.
Sebag-Montefiore says: “It’s only reasonable to make accommodations that don’t leave your employer in the lurch, especially in unsettled times. Offer suggestions as to how often you would be able to visit the home office, and who is going to pay for travel back to the UK for these visits.”
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