How the Work-from-Home Shift is Spurring a New Global Competition to Attract Remote Workers

E-work visas are reshaping how we work, live and travel.

September 1, 2021, Gökce Sandal

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, digital nomads were a niche but still a steadily growing phenomenon. With many countries offering remote work visas and major tech companies developing virtual work software, the trend is now firmly in the mainstream.

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Although the shift to remote work was envisioned already back in the 1990s, work and office culture remained largely the same until 2020. Before the pandemic hit, around 6% of employees worked full time remote in the European Union, and the numbers were even lower elsewhere around the globe.

With the pandemic’s acceleration of the trend, many countries have started launching schemes to attract remote workers. From Barbados to UAE, Greece and Costa Rica, remote workers can now apply for special visas that allow them to live and work in these countries for extended periods of time, often up to a year.

In the US, some cities have also launched talent incentives that offer various perks for remote employees. The “Life Works Here” initiative by Northwest Arkansas provides $10,000 and a free bike to successful applicants who would move to the city for a minimum of one year. In Tucson, Arizona, the “Remote Tucson” program similarly offers relocation funds, free internet, access to co-working spaces and career support, among other benefits.


Envisioning the future of the global remote working and flexjobs

As it has been manifested by the Great Resignation of 2021, employees are not willing to go back to the status quo in the post-pandemic era of work. They want more flexibility in where and when they work, and an increasing number of employees are quitting instead of having to clock 9-to-5 workdays in offices.

While remote work and virtual meetings may decline to some extent in the pandemic recovery phase, they will most likely remain well above pre-pandemic levels. This accelerated rise in remote work will have profound impacts across several industries.

In real estate, for example, Airbnb has already reported that bookings stating remote work tripled in 2020 compared to the previous year. Similarly, many hotels have started offering remote work packages with longer stays during the pandemic. If long-term rentals overtake tourism, this will have long-lasting implications for rental market prices and local businesses that cater predominantly to tourists.

The extensive adoption of telework is also likely to disrupt business travel, which is one of the most lucrative segments for the airline industry. According to McKinsey’s estimates, 20% of business travel may never return, which would have several spillover effects on adjacent sectors such as hospitality, food service, and airports.

Last but not least, the work-from-anywhere revolution may also trigger a shift in the power dynamics of the global economy. Experts argue that the low share of remote jobs in China and India compared to the US or Europe may put the rising powers of the East at a disadvantage and harm their ability to bounce back from the pandemic.


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