Global trends show telecommuting is both growing and getting smaller.
In developed economies, more and more employees are taking up remote employment, linked to their employers by video conference. If you count yourself among that group, however, chances are you work for a small business. More than 60% of telecommuters work for companies that employ less than 100 people.
While giants such as IBM, Yahoo, Google, and Facebook tend to discourage working remotely–and Facebook will go so far as to pay you a $10,000 bonus if you live near one of its offices–small businesses are embracing the technology, and reaping the rewards.
The result is a new breed of small business that is both borderless and able to meet specific cultural needs. One that is cheaper to run but stays open longer. And one whose employees are both more productive and work longer hours.
It’s a trend that is being repeated around the globe, and these modernized small businesses should look internationally to start stealing some very high-caliber talent.
Telecommuting Grows Across the Globe
It’s become so popular that 3.7 million Americans now telecommute for at least half their working life. If you lower the bar to include workers who telecommute “some of the time” you take in more than 40% of the American workforce.
It isn’t just the U.S. that is adopting more flexible approaches to working remotely. The World Economic Forum has found that shifting toward a more flexible workforce is the strongest or second-strongest driver of change in the economies of Australia, Brazil, China, Japan, France, India, the UK, and Mexico.
We’re in the grip of what is essentially a global shift in how people work. That trend makes it easy to find employment opportunities overseas without having to relocate, and for businesses based in the U.S. to recruit international talent.
It’s easy to see why this is such a big deal for a small business. If your small company is looking for an advantage, then having a global employee talent pool to choose from is a great start.
Telecommuting Advantages for Small Business
It’s perfectly legal for U.S. companies of any size to take on remote overseas employees and contractors. If those ultra-telecommuters perform all their work wholly outside the U.S., there aren’t even many tax considerations to think about. To cater to these workers, there are already a large number of employment agencies with listings for international telecommuters.
Recruiting from a global network not only dramatically increases the available talent pool, it gives U.S. businesses a two-fold telecommuting advantage.
First, it brings the generic benefits that come with all teleworkers. Research published in The Harvard Business Review found remote employees are generally more productive and work longer hours than their on-location peers. It also found these employees were happier and less likely to quit, no doubt due at least in part to the fact that they save an average of 11 days a year in travel time by ditching the car, the carpool lane, and public transport.
Then there are the benefits of adding international variety to the workforce.
The Diversity of International Telecommuters
The first advantage is a matter of time. Employing people from time zones all over the world means a small business can keep its office and its online presence staffed 24/7. As the online workforce in Seattle winds down at 5 pm, the crew in Japan could be logging on for a 10 am start. As the Japanese squad logs out seven hours later, the London team is powering up to kick off at 8 am. If it takes just a few employees to keep things ticking, that’s a 24/7 operation at the cost of fewer than 10 salaries, and no one would even need to work after dusk.
To the external client, partner, or retail customer, that means unending access to support. With the rise of WebRTC browser-based video conferencing, any website, no matter how small the operation behind it, can host live video chat connections. Add that ability to an international workforce, throw in some geo-targeting so local markets get a web page dedicated to them, and a small business can provide real-time video chat that’s language and culture specific.
And it saves money to work smart like this. A business stands to save as much as $10,000 per year per remote employee. That’s without factoring in the strength of the U.S. dollar against foreign currencies and the standard of living cost variation across the world.
Finally, all those remote employees that are being asked to come into the office by big companies such as Honeywell and Best Buy could fall within the reach of small business. These are people with big budget experience who may be tempted by a company they’d not normally consider in order to maintain their work/life balance and telecommuting lifestyle.
Smart and small is now a global telecommuting trend.