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Breaking down barriers for a truly global workforce: How startups can implement remote and hybrid work practices

December 19, 2023

Iris Lee (Director of International Growth APAC, Remote) shares her perspectives on complexities of global HR for startups, from employment law, processing payroll and tax, health insurance and creating a high-trust, accountable culture.

Personally witnessing shifts in hybrid and remote work adoption driven by technological change

Kitty: You've had quite a bit of experience in remote work, well before Covid! What changes have you seen in the way workplaces support/adopt remote work?

Iris: Even before the pandemic, I worked for large multinational corporations as part of a hybrid and remote workforce for over 7 years, which was unique at that time. The way workplaces support and adopt remote work has significantly changed over the past few years. This trend has been driven by advancements in technology and shifts in employee preferences during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Companies have become more open to remote work, recognising its potential benefits in terms of increased employee satisfaction, an expanded talent pool, and cost savings related to office space. Many companies have implemented flexible work policies, allowing employees to work remotely either permanently or on a hybrid basis.

There is also a greater focus on digital communication tools, project management platforms, and cybersecurity measures to ensure smooth operations in a distributed work environment.

Complexities for cross-border startups are driven by country-specific employment law, tax, healthcare systems and contracts

Kitty: What are some unique pain points faced by fast-growing, cross-border startups in areas such as onboarding, benefits, and payroll?

Iris: Fast-growing startups face a unique set of challenges in areas such as onboarding, benefits, and payroll due to the complexity of managing employees across different countries.

Employment, immigration and tax regulations

Each country has its own set of employment laws, immigration regulations, and cultural norms. Navigating these diverse contexts can be challenging for startups, as they need to ensure that the onboarding process complies with local legal requirements while also aligning with the company's global standards.

Adhering to various employment laws and tax regulations across different countries requires extensive knowledge and continuous monitoring. Non-compliance can lead to legal penalties and reputational damage for the startup.

Diverse healthcare systems impact insurance requirements and levels of coverage

It’s a significant challenge to understand and integrate with diverse healthcare systems. Understanding and integrating with diverse healthcare systems is a significant challenge. Startups must grapple with varying levels of public and private healthcare provisions, and they need to ensure that employees have access to adequate healthcare coverage. Different countries have different benefits requirements for employees, ranging from health and disability insurance to retirement plans.

Startups must navigate these requirements to provide suitable coverage to their employees while also adhering to local regulations. Employees in different regions may have different expectations regarding benefits packages. Striking a balance between offering competitive benefits and managing costs can be a delicate process, requiring careful consideration and customiszation.

The challenge of processing payroll and tax calculations in multiple currencies

Dealing with multiple currencies introduces complexity into payroll processing. Startups must accurately convert and distribute payments in the local currency of each employee, which requires robust systems to handle currency exchange rates and fluctuations. Different countries have unique tax codes and regulations governing payroll. Startups need to ensure they are withholding the correct taxes, adhering to reporting requirements, and complying with local tax laws to avoid legal and financial complications.

Implementing and maintaining advanced payroll systems is essential for accuracy and compliance. Startups need systems capable of handling the intricacies of cross-border payroll, including tax calculations, currency conversions, and reporting.

Differences in contract law, termination, and dispute resolution across countries

Each country has its own legal framework for employment, including contract law, termination procedures, and dispute resolution mechanisms. Comprehending and adhering to these frameworks can be complex and requires the expertise of legal professionals well-versed in international employment law.

5 keys to stakeholder buy-in for a new HRIS: demonstrate ROI, engage stakeholders, educate & train, pilot implementation, and data security assurance

Kitty: What tips do you have for HR practitioners who are interested in adopting a new HRIS but may be facing internal resistance or deprioritisation?

Iris: First, demonstrate ROI. Clearly communicate how the new HRIS will streamline the process, saving time and resources. Also, highlight how it will improve overall productivity, contributing to cost efficiency and ultimately benefiting organisational success. A datapoint to use is Remote’s 2023 study across North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, and Latin America, where it found that an astonishing 72% of employers with international remote teams reported a boost in productivity.

Number two will be to engage stakeholders. Involve key stakeholders early in the process, including department heads, IT personnel, and end-users. Seek their input and address their concerns to create a sense of ownership and ensure alignment with the goals of the new system.

Third, educate and train. Conduct comprehensive training sessions for all employees who will be using the system. Address any apprehensions they may have and showcase the system's user-friendliness and the benefits it brings to their daily tasks.

The other option would be to pilot implementation. Consider a phased approach by implementing the new HRIS on a small scale first, in a controlled environment. This allows for testing and demonstration of its effectiveness before a full-scale rollout, building confidence in its capabilities.

Last but not least, provide data security assurance. Emphasisze the robust security features of the new HRIS to alleviate any concerns about data security. At the same time, provide detailed information on encryption, access controls, and compliance with data protection regulations to instil confidence in the system's integrity, which is required by your IT department and the data protection department.

3 ways Remote is empowering impact: supporting startups, social purpose organisations and hiring refugee talent

Kitty: Tell us a bit more about Remote's support for startups, social purpose organisations, and hiring refugee talent. Why did you choose these three areas?

Iris: At Remote, our values of Care, Innovation, Transparency, Intensity, and Excellence are not just words on a page, but principles that guide every part of our business operations.

From day-to-day interactions on Slack to our quarterly feedback surveys, from our interview process to the decisions we make, these values form the foundation of our culture. They ensure that we approach every task, every interaction, and every initiative with integrity, compassion, and a commitment to excellence. But these values are not limited to our company – we share them with the world.

Remote focuses on supporting startups, social purpose organisations, and hiring refugee talent to align with our mission of democratiszing access to global talent and creating opportunities for underserved populations. Startups often have limited resources, and Remote's services provide them with the tools to efficiently manage a global workforce. By offering cost-effective solutions, we empower startups to compete on a global scale, enabling them to grow and succeed in a competitive market. Additionally, supporting social purpose organisations aligns with Remote's commitment to social impact, enabling nonprofits and socially-driven enterprises to access the global talent they need.

Regarding hiring refugee talent, we launched Remote for Refugees in 2021 as part of Remote's dedication to promoting inclusivity and providing opportunities to individuals who face unique challenges in accessing the traditional job market. Refugees often possess valuable skills and experiences, and we believe in giving them a chance to contribute to the global workforce. This not only benefits the individuals involved but also enriches the global talent pool with diverse perspectives and expertise.

One of the initiatives that exemplifies Remote’s commitment to these values is the Turkey Aid Project. This project is designed to connect remote job seekers recovering from the Turkish earthquake with employers worldwide. The project is completely free for both employers and workers, emphasiszing our focus on making a genuine difference in the lives of individuals affected by adversity.

3 Principles that define Remote’s innovative culture: Inclusivity, Collaboration and Innovation

Kitty: What do you love most about the company culture and/or team at Remote?

Iris: Remote's culture is defined by its dedication to inclusivity, collaboration, and innovation. The team is passionate about empowering businesses and individuals worldwide, making a genuine impact.

There's a strong sense of purpose and a collective drive to overcome challenges and create solutions that break down barriers in the global workforce. The diverse and talented team brings unique perspectives and expertise, fostering a stimulating and supportive environment that encourages continuous growth and learning.

One of the most inspiring aspects of being a part of Remote is the opportunity to contribute to a company that stands at the forefront of the remote work revolution. This revolution is not only reshaping the way we work, but it's also profoundly impacting people's lives. The principles that underlie Remote's operations further enhance this enriching experience.

  • The emphasis on asynchronous work not only fosters individual productivity but also allows for a balanced and flexible approach to work-life integration.
  • Trust within the system forms the foundation of our operations, enabling us to operate smoothly across borders and time zones.
  • Transparent communication is not just a cliché but a lived reality at Remote. This open exchange of ideas and information ensures that everyone is on the same page, regardless of their location.

The Remote Handbook, created by Remote's co-founders Job van der Voort and Marcelo Lebre, stands out as an exceptional resource. It is a free comprehensive guide available to the public that has been a pioneering effort to help make asynchronous, distributed remote work succeed well.

Remote eliminates barriers to international hiring so great companies can work with great people, no matter where those people are. Learn more about Remote.

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