904 356-JOBS (5627) • Book an Appointment

904 356-JOBS (5627) • Book an Appointment

Thinking of going remote permanently? Consider these 5 factors. (Courtesy of the Jacksonville Business Journal) — Years before Covid-19 forced millions of workers around the globe to go virtual, Checkin.com Group had already embraced the idea of permanent remote work.

The Stockholm-based onboarding company, which has a virtual footprint stretching from Florida to Bulgaria, was founded five years ago, and CEO Kristoffer Cassel said the biggest factor in remote work was talent.

“We have remote working to be able to attract the best talent wherever they sit,” Cassel said.

The company aspires to be a global company, and Cassel said that necessitates recruiting global talent with a variety of backgrounds, races and cultures.

Prior to the pandemic, Cassel’s company may have been relatively unique in offering remote options, but the situation has quickly evolved because of Covid-19.

Surveys have shown the bulk of companies that can practically offer a virtual option are embracing a hybrid model with a mix of remote and in-person work.

But as the Covid-19 crisis drags on, more companies are considering the idea of permanent remote work. Several major technology firms have already made that choice.

PwC is the latest example, and some believe the accounting giant’s decision could set off a chain reaction that creates a tidal wave of companies embracing a remote workplace on a permanent basis.

For those companies looking to take the leap, Cassel and others say there are some key factors to consider and best practices to follow.

1. What’s the why?

Prior employers Cassel had worked for would also recruit talent from across the world but required them to relocate.

“If you had an engineer moving from Rio de Janeiro, they would relocate to Stockholm, go into an office, put on headphones and code all day,” he said. “To me, that didn’t make sense.”

Even though Checkin.com is headquartered in Stockholm, a successful startup hub, Cassel said the company expanded its potential talent pool from 2 million to about 800 million by offering permanent remote work.

That’s not to say Cassel doesn’t see the value of in-person interaction.

Cassel said the company still tries to meet at least once a year, and it also looks for ways to replace the physical interaction employees would have in an office.

2. How to keep culture in a remote world

Cassel said it wasn’t hard to maintain culture remotely for a year or so, but it became more difficult as new employees joined the mix.

The company has grown from a handful of workers when it started its remote setup to more than 60.

Cassel said Checkin.com has tried to find ways to replicate the coffee talk that would have transpired in a physical office through both tech tools and some dedicated strategies.

The company started a tradition of all new employees presenting themselves to the full team for 30 minutes to talk about themselves outside of their professional career.

That might include talking about hobbies or a recent vacation, for instance.

“That’s the type of information or communication that happens in a normal workplace around the coffee machine,” Cassel said. “As you get to know each other in a remote setting, it’s important to find outlets and forums that still make people get to know each other.”

3. The tax implications

Unless you’re a business that operates in every state, saying “you can work from anywhere,” might not be as simple as it sounds.

Tax pitfalls may result when an employee chooses to relocate to an area where the company didn’t previously have a physical location.

Michael L. Raff, director of the tax department at Gordon Law Group Ltd., previously told The Business Journals those moves can affect income, sales and payroll taxes, depending on the local or state rules involved.

A company that previously had all its workers in one place could be treading into a complex situation if workers scatter to numerous locations under a permanent work-from-home scenario.

Raff said most states have rules that once a company eclipses a threshold of payroll, property or sales within a state, they are then considered to have a “nexus” in that state for income tax or sales tax purposes.

That doesn’t mean companies can’t allow remote work from anywhere on a permanent basis. They just need to make sure they are complying with the tax requirements the policy could activate, which could result in increased tax costs or administrative burdens.

Many are ultimately deciding to allow remote work from a preapproved list of locations, such as cities where the business already has a physical presence.

4. Where does real estate fit in?

For Cassel, embracing permanent remote work didn’t mean there were no longer real estate considerations for his company.

In cities where Checkin.com has multiple employees, Cassel said it tries to find coworking space, office space or dedicated places where employees can gather.

Other firms making the shift are facing similar questions.

PwC, for example, said it plans to continue to honor its lease commitments while working to optimize its office footprint.

The Big Four accounting firm expects 30% to 35% to accept the permanent remote work offer, and those who choose the remote option will still have to come into the office up to three days a month for team meetings, client visits and learning sessions, the company said.

Companies that are weighing a shift to permanent remote work need to make similar considerations of their own about if and how often employees would need a physical space.

Experts say businesses need to consider the “why” of the office in a hybrid or remote world and find a cost-effective solution that doesn’t leave the business suddenly scrambling for space when it’s needed again.

5. Embracing adaptation

One reason experts have advised companies against hastily exiting all their office space in a rush to go remote is the expectation that the policies being announced today — at a time when the pandemic is still underway — are likely to change in the years to come.

Return-to-work strategies have already been evolving — often due to delays associated with rising Covid-19 cases or related issues — throughout 2021.

Many large companies have tweaked their previously announced plans, such as Amazon.com Inc. recently diverting from its prior plans for an “office-centric culture” and instead settling on a flexible approach that will leave the decision to team leaders.

Numerous experts have told The Business Journals those changes are likely to continue for employers in the long term. That’s why they have advised them to avoid premature declarations or implying policies will be permanent.

Instead, they suggest being transparent with employees about where things stand, where they are likely heading and the reality that policies are likely to evolve.