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Top 3 benefits of a borderless workforce

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The next iteration of ‘working from home,’ ‘working from anywhere’ gives companies access to a global talent pool and opens up new horizons for employees.

Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com, the open-source blogging platform, has more than 1,600 employees scattered across 36 countries, including the US, Australia, Japan, Bulgaria and Iceland. Between them, the ‘Automatticians’ can converse with co-workers and customers in 95 languages.

Co-founder Matt Mullenweg was an early adopter of the ‘work from anywhere’ ethos – the company became fully remote, or ‘distributed’ as Mullenweg prefers to call it, in 2006 so that it could “access the best talent in the world.”1 It’s a formula that works for employees too. As Mullenweg points out in one of his Distributed podcasts: “Everyone gets to work where they’re most comfortable, whether that’s a house in Idaho or a coffee shop in Iceland.”2

36% of companies will be increasing the number of international remote workers

The pandemic may have forced a ‘working from anywhere’ experiment on businesses, but as our Future of Work survey shows, companies are planning to broaden their horizons in terms of where their employees are based. With 2 in 5 (40%) companies encouraging increasing flexibility over the next three years in terms of the country or office to work from, and over one third (36%) increasing the number of international remote workers not necessarily affiliated to a local office, the workforce of the future looks set to be far more fluid and globalised. India (51%), China (48%) and Australia (47%) showed the greatest appetite for borderless workplaces.

Man working on a laptop surrounded by house plants

Competition for certain skillsets, especially in the tech sector, is fierce. As well as giving employers access to a much wider talent pool and allowing employees more flexibility about how and where they work, hiring across borders was perceived by our respondents to have three main benefits:

1. It’s more efficient

Having employees working remotely in different parts of the world can reduce overheads such as renting and maintaining office space. It can also reduce other operational costs such as salaries if the company adjusts remuneration packages in line with country norms. And with an increased local presence, there are cost savings to made, too, on business travel.

A workforce spread across the world also offers the possibility of round-the-clock service. Buffer, a social media management platform with clients that include Microsoft and Business Insider, has a team of 85 spanning seven different time zones which enables it to deal with customer queries and enquiries 24/7.

2. It opens up new markets

A more globalised workforce was cited by 39% of our respondents as a way of unlocking local expertise and opening up new opportunities. Higher growth companies were more likely to be planning to increase their remote international workforce, with 42% saying that they would take on workers in the next three years who weren’t necessarily affiliated with a local office. Only 33% of lower growth companies expected to expand their global footprint in that way.

A WFA approach allows companies to get closer to their customers. When COVID-19 forced airfreight booking platform Cargo.one to close its office in Berlin, co-founder and MD Moritz Claussen decided to decentralise the workforce. Now all its employees work remotely and the company is recruiting globally from 37 countries. “Our business model is based on internationality… This requires staff based in different regions and time zones, acting from there and capable of conversing in the customer’s own language.” co-founder Moritz Claussen told cargoforwarder.eu3

3. It’s more sustainable

A ‘working from anywhere’ policy was also seen to improve a company’s environmental social and governance (ESG) credentials. Remote working, whether that’s from home or at a workspace close to home, reduces commuting time and minimises business travel. In our survey 32% of businesses said that they were encouraging less travel for work to minimise their carbon footprint. A borderless workforce has wider societal benefits, too. At a global level it helps to stem the ‘brain drain’ from emerging markets; on a local level it helps create greater social cohesion in smaller towns or rural areas.

A borderless workspace is also an inclusive workspace, one that is able to offer equitable opportunities across existing societal disparities such as gender and geography.

Ashok Krish | Global Head, Digital Workplace Unit, TCS

TATA Consultancy Services (TCS) has 500,000 employees worldwide. Headquartered in Mumbai, it has campuses in India, China, USA and Hungary. In May 2020, CEO Rajesh Gopinathan announced that 75% percent of their workforce would become remote in three years. The company believes that having most of its employees work remotely could reduce its global carbon footprint by 70% by 2025, compared to a decade earlier.4 And, as Ashok Krish, Global Head, Digital Workplace Unit, TCS points out: “A borderless workspace is also an inclusive workspace, one that is able to offer equitable opportunities across existing societal disparities such as gender and geography.”5

Finally, building teams across ethnicities and geographies makes sound commercial sense – research by Gartner suggests that employee performance is 12% higher in diverse companies than in homogenous teams.6

HSBC Navigator: The Future of Work

The Navigator: Future of Work survey was conducted by FTI Consulting on behalf of HSBC. Research was conducted online from 3rd to 8th August 2021 with 2,130 respondents who are involved in or influence strategic direction for their company in 10 markets: UK, USA, UAE, India, Hong Kong, Singapore, China, Mexico, Australia and Germany.

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