Planning to Work Abroad? Here’s What You Need to Confirm with Your Employer First

UPDATED: June 24, 2024
PUBLISHED: June 25, 2024
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Until recently, it was rare for employees to work abroad as digital nomads. But since the beginning of the pandemic, when many businesses switched to employees working 100% remotely, the concept is trending—leading to a threefold increase in the number of digital nomads from 2019–2022.

Ready to hopscotch around the world as a digital worker? It’s easier said than done. Here are some critical issues you need to discuss with your employer before you start packing.

Michel Koopman, a Miami-based CEO and founder of CxO Coaching and 2Swell, a fully remote enterprise with employees scattered across the globe, recommends starting with the fundamental question of working hours. Understanding what your employer’s expectations are is incredibly important, he says.

Over his 30-year professional career as a digital nomad working abroad from every continent, Koopman brings a unique perspective to the topic. “Personally, I grew up working this way,” he says. But he realizes most face a learning curve, and he suggests nomads should be ready to make sacrifices, since they’re the ones choosing to travel across different time zones.

Working in different time zones, when to clock in and considering potential travel expenses

Unless the agreement is logging in eight hours whenever you want, you may need to keep odd hours to engage with your team. “Your colleagues are going to expect a certain amount of timely responsiveness,” says Koopman, who has worked with more than half of the Fortune 500 companies. As for your customers? They certainly don’t care that you are working in a different time zone. But in-person collaboration is still important: Will your company expect you to occasionally visit the office, and will they pay for travel?

“Even while working 100% in a virtual environment, everybody would agree there’s a certain amount of value in face time,” Koopman says. If your boss needs to see you in person during the year, know from the outset who pays for what.

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Examine the fine print on your health care policy

Go over your health care policy and ask about coverage. Michel Koopman points out that while most companies provide care, it may not extend internationally. Gain clarity from your boss about liability, so you know what risks you’re assuming before working abroad.

Determine your tech needs and requirements

Find out if you’ll be responsible for maintaining a U.S. phone number—a notable expense, Koopman cautions. Get fully briefed on everything related to technology. Is the company liable, for example, if you lose your laptop, even though they have no control over your workplace environment? Koopman also advises asking questions like how you’ll gain full access to sensitive data and what communication platforms will be used. Overall, you should have absolute confidence in your company’s technological readiness to support its traveling employees.

Lay the groundwork before working abroad

Since a healthy culture with engaged employees drives productivity, Koopman suggests waiting a year to adopt a digital nomad lifestyle to build rapport in the workplace. From years of experience, he’s observed that managers are more traditionally inclined, and overseeing digital nomads, who are characteristically free-spirited, requires training to ease the adjustment. Laying a groundwork of trust will help.

This article originally appeared in the May issue of SUCCESS+ magazine. Photo by PeopleImages.com – Yuri A/Shutterstock.com