The future of work, working from home, hybrid workforce are now phrases forever associated with Covid-19. The workforce has undergone a technological revolution in the past year. All of the tech heavyweights, including Facebook, Google, and Apple, are looking at remote or hybrid work to expand, diversify, and drive their business models. Small enterprises and startups, as well as established firms such as AIB, are following suit.
People have had the chance to pack their bags and relocate somewhere sunny, which is a dream come true for many Irish workers. According to a recent NUI Galway study, the vast majority of Irish employees desire a hybrid work style, which is consistent with global findings. This is the second poll this year gauging remote work and the percentage of people who want some level of remote work has grown from 83 to 95 per cent. These trends are likely to continue with 9 per cent of respondents having already relocated for a better work/life balance. The west coast is one popular destination and this is something we’ve certainly noticed in Mayo. It’s safe to say that a popular consensus means a hybrid work model is here to stay but as, always, change is never quite that simple.
In a competitive international talent market, businesses, and especially SMEs, will have little choice but to hire remote workers and there are challenges they must plan for if they wish to expand globally. Companies also face issues with employee retention, with many workers wanting the hybrid option or seeking it elsewhere. Employers must have the right tools in place to keep employee trust and prove they too can deliver on their commitments to hybrid work.
Read my lips, no new taxes
Remote workforce software like Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams and task management SaaS companies have exploded in popularity and have been adopted as the primary means of keeping remote workers engaged and productive. Separate to remote work apps however is perhaps the most pressing software need of remote companies — how to pay staff in different jurisdictions. Tech restrictions are the main hurdle for 67 per cent of global businesses when it comes to payroll delivery and processing.
Businesses face two significant problems as a result of moving to remote work: taxation and regulation.
Covid-19 has created ambiguity and confusion about how to guarantee that employers comply with long-standing tax arrangements for various employees based on their working location. Payroll professionals are now overburdened as initially temporary relocations now appear to be remaining longer-term. This has caused a massive strain on taxation issues for bewildered accountants and HR teams as individual contracts now need to be updated to reflect individual pay scales and tax laws per country. These problems are further exacerbated by questions such as: which country do staff pay tax if they work remotely in another country, but only for a few months each year and how do they avoid double taxation? Companies still managing their payroll workload via email and spreadsheets are starting to embrace new and readily available software solutions to ensure tax compliance.
Many companies have no prior experience dealing with local governments and regulatory frameworks beyond their base country. Covid-19 has unearthed a litany of country-specific considerations to be addressed, such as maternity leave, sick pay and other employee rights issues. US firms are suddenly attempting to comply with rigorous EU employee protections. Take the example of an employee who returned home to Ireland in March 2020 from their US based job and continued to work remotely, what are the implications if they become pregnant and under Irish law are entitled to longer maternity leave? These complexities, if managed incorrectly, can cause internal backlog and discomfort, while also damaging employee trust, probably the most vital resource a growing company can have!
By employing a software that can ease with adjusting payroll, in much the same way payments company Stripe eases online transactions for companies big and small, SMEs and large multinationals can continue to grow into the rapidly expanding digital age, without relying on outdated spreadsheets and without breaking any employment laws.
Appearance versus reality
Companies must get ready for long-term hybrid work and the myriad of underlying complications it presents. Are global employers ready to modify and amend their payroll structures to accommodate this new hybrid working model? The answer for many companies is “no” due to their outdated software. These shifts are necessary for companies to continue and survive long term, but each adjustment to existing processes comes with its own set of dangers. Every business that transitions to a hybrid model faces logistical challenges that may be costly if not handled well, and as the new "norm" emerges post-pandemic, the stakes for getting this transition right are higher than ever.
Companies that get this right, however, have a strategic advantage over competitors that employ archaic methods when it comes to expanding into new areas and talent pools. All in all, employers are embracing remote working despite its underlying complexities; it brings innovation, diversity and opportunity to those gridlocked from their dream careers and from employers looking to scale up without losing out on talent, but more is needed to make the transition seamless.
Being based in such a beautiful part of the country in Co Mayo was inconceivable to the tech world when we started our journey in 2016. Yet, it’s been a relatively easy transition . . . with the right tools. Payslip faced all the same trials and tribulations starting out but now we are comfortably established and proving a hybrid workforce can function and drive growth globally. But with that growth, employers in an attempt to appear innovative must also have the necessary tools to become innovative.
Fidelma McGuirk is the founder and chief executive of Payslip