With the rise of the Internet and telecoms technologies there has been an increase in the number of overseas commuters and workers. Their business and customers may be in the UK but they are choosing to work from anywhere. Part of this has been driven by the high cost of housing in the UK, compared with say, the Costa del Sol; cheaper housing and better weather. But t is not just housing costs that are fuelling this trend; a Brighton to London railway season ticket is now £4,452 – that can pay for quite a few air trips if booked well in advance.
So what technology does the global remote worker need to fulfil this different type of lifestyle and what does it cost? Dave Millett from independent telecoms brokerage Equinox has some advice:
Broadband is not always available where you think it is abroad – so check first. Within Europe, from 2017, mobiles and data dongles can be used anywhere without extra charge, which will help cap costs. Of course, if the UK votes to leave the EU that might well change but so then will many other factors affecting the overseas worker.
- If you don’t want to wait until 2017 or are outside the EU then VoIP apps for around £10 a month let you have a UK number both for incoming and outgoing calls.
- The cost of professional voice and video conferencing plus collaboration packages has fallen dramatically. The more sophisticated ones will include screen and document sharing as well as whiteboarding. Some good quality ones can be had for around £30 a month.
- Skype is free – providing the client you want to talk to uses Skype. However it can be expensive for contacting non Skype users, it gives the game away that you are a small business and working remotely, and in recent years Skype has had major outages for several days, which could sabotage your business. Given how much you are saving on housing and commuting less than £100 a month for broadband, VoIP and video conferencing / collaboration is not such a bad deal.
- When visiting the UK with the availability of free wifi you don’t even need an office. We have all seen people huddled over their laptops in coffee shops seeing how long they can make a double decaff latte last.
- The advent of cloud storage such as Dropbox means files can be readily shared and worked on without the need for a server.
These changes not only enable you to work from anywhere – you can also recruit from anywhere, which widens the talent pool you are recruiting from.
So what are the challenges? Certainly it is easier for an established business owner to change his or her location where clients are already settled and new ones come through recommendation. Time differences if you stray too far away from Greenwich Mean Time could create issues and mean you don’t get to enjoy the lifestyle of your new location.
Probably the largest challenge, certainly for smaller companies, will be that of managing their staff whilst they are not in the UK. It requires a lot of trust and having the right people who won’t resent your remote desk in the sunshine.
The size of the world is getting smaller and someone working in Normandy is geographical closer to London than someone in Cumbria. So with improving and cheaper technology it is likely these trends will continue.
Dave Millett wrote this article from his remote office in Spain, he divides his time between London and Spain, commuting between the two.