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5 Steps to Take Your Company’s Remote Work Ambitions from Policy to Practice

Remote work is here to stay. Eighty percent of organizations around the world have now articulated some form of remote work policy, according to Deloitte’s recent global remote work survey. More than half say they permit hybrid work, allowing employees to work outside of the office regularly but still requiring some in-office presence. Twenty-seven percent say they allow employees to work fully remote without ever going to the office. Just one in 10 say they do not allow any form of hybrid or remote working.

For many organizations, remote work is increasingly a key lever of the business and talent strategy. Most business leaders say they expect greater flexibility to provide employees with a better experience and allow their organizations to draw from an expanded talent pool. Leaders also hope remote work will help them achieve their cost savings and sustainability goals. And many workers now consider the ability to work remotely as an inalienable right.

Top motivations for implementing remote work

Remote, controlled?

The shift to remote and hybrid work raises tax and compliance issues to consider and address. Every time an employee crosses a domestic or international border to work, their movement can trigger human resources (HR), immigration, payroll, and tax ramifications. Organizations face increased risk management challenges such as legal, corporate responsibility, and duty-of-care considerations when individuals are working under the radar in new and different jurisdictions.

As the risks become clearer, so does the gap between policy and practicality. Leaders are struggling to enact remote work policies that enhance their talent and culture strategies while managing their complex business and tax risks. Regulation, culture, and tax compliance were the top three obstacles to remote work in Deloitte’s survey.

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Figure 5 – Top Challenges to enabling remote work (% of respondents)

Out of sight, not out of mind

The results of the survey of more than 820 tax, HR, mobility, and payroll professionals from 45 countries reveal worrying gaps. Many companies have yet to articulate any limits to their remote work policies. Almost one in three say they are still considering their guardrails for remote work or have none. Nearly a quarter say they are still thinking about time limits they might impose.

Figure 3 – Guardrails implemented to enable cross-border remote working (% of respondents)

Other key risk areas also emerged. Forty-five percent of respondents say they have not reconciled their business travel policies with their tax and compliance thresholds. Less than half say they use technology to support their remote work policies, and most of those say they use in-house tools, such as spreadsheets, exposing their organization to legal and financial risk. Only 40% say they track each remote work request.

Figure 9 – Tracking remote work requests (% of respondents)

And while most say their remote work policy is part of their talent strategy, many are struggling to realize their ambition. Only 23% of organizations Deloitte surveyed say they have implemented virtual assignments; 69% say they do not permit long-term international remote work; and fewer than 10% have implemented an alternative employment model, such as a global employment company or third-party employer of record.

Activating ambition

Organizations are at varying points on the remote work journey. Those at the beginning may have explored implementing a remote work policy or a set of guidelines, while those further along may have designed and integrated policies that align with their overall talent and business objectives. Those furthest along on their journey are seeking to identify and implement technology and tools to enforce their policies, mitigate compliance risks, and develop long-term agile talent strategies.

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Organizations should consider taking five steps to move their remote work ambitions from policy to practicality:

      1. Align your remote work model with organizational strategy. Understand what your business wants to achieve, and design a remote work policy that will enable it. To effectively implement a remote work policy, align it with the business strategy and involve HR, mobility, and tax functions in the process. A triage process is essential to enable informed decision-making within the business.
      2. Assess the risk. Companies need to implement guidelines and guardrails around remote worker policies, including eligibility criteria and approval routes (for remote work requests), location identification, and associated due diligence. Adopt a holistic view to properly control and assess individual cases from the corporate tax, employer and employee compliance, legal, and regulatory perspectives, and track them appropriately.
      3. Identify the routes to enablement. Tax and regulatory compliance are complex issues, particularly for organizations that want to enable cross-border remote work. Well-designed policies with a clearly stated purpose, eligibility criteria, compliance risk guidelines, governance processes, employee rewards and benefits, and roles and responsibilities tend to succeed in enabling remote work.
      4. Determine how to govern your remote population. Increasingly sophisticated technology and tools can deliver better insights and analytics—which lead to more efficient programs, better enablement, and better employer duty of care—as well as improved employee experiences and more robust tax and regulatory compliance.
      5. Stay connected to the long-term talent strategy. The impact of remote work on people, their purpose, the work they do, and where and how they do it differs across sectors, businesses, and roles. This variation requires leaders to shift their thinking to talent and the nature of work itself to unlock the growth potential of remote work.
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Embrace the future of work  

Employers increasingly view hybrid work models as central to their talent strategies, growth objectives, and culture. But every organization is at its own point in the journey, depending on its business objectives, role requirements, risk appetites, and talent strategies.

Moving from policy to practicality on remote work requires organizations to be nimble, encourage continuous improvement, and remain ready to update their policies as workforce needs and tax and legal rules evolve. Is your organization ready to embrace the future of work?

Read Deloitte’s Global Remote Work Survey.

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