The past few years have seen a rise in the number of digital nomad startups and lifestyle businesses. There are tons of entrepreneurs making a living off online businesses like dropshipping, affiliate marketing, social media marketing and blogging. There are also traditional VC-funded startups like Buffer, Zapier, Process Street and the likes that are run with a completely remote workforce.
Managing such businesses can come with a set of unique challenges. Most labor regulations have jurisdictions within certain states or countries. If you have remote employee from another country, working out their employment status can be tricky. Also, depending on what kind of business you manage, you might need certain types of commercial insurance policies. Picking the right insurance with the right kind of coverage can also be iffy, which is why it’s important to use a knowledgeable broker.
This is just the start. Handling a business as a digital nomad can come with a number of challenges. Here is a short guide on how to negotiate these issues.
Managing business productivity
When it comes to working with a remote workforce, business productivity is one of the primary factors that drive decision makers for or against this policy. While there are studies that show that employees are more productive when they telecommute, business owners are also wary of a possible lack of focus and trust when it comes to dealing with remote workers.
One thing, however, is certain - it is not possible for a business to police their employees as effectively as they can in a regular office job. Some organizations tend to prefer policing employees at the cost of dwindling morale and loyalty.
However, if you want your employees to enjoy what they do and stay loyal to your business, then letting them work remotely is a no-brainer. While it is indeed possible that many of them might moonlight on other projects and may not be available for the contracted hours all the time, it is worth looking at the bigger picture - as long as your workers get their tasks completed on time, you may overlook these other possible missteps.
Offering perks and amenities
Letting employees work from anywhere in the world is perhaps the biggest amenity a business can ever offer. However, as this work lifestyle becomes mainstream, it is no longer as big an incentive as it used to be. In the end, employees do care about the financial and growth related perks that come with working for your organization. This includes things like insurance coverage, networking opportunities and the ability to grow.
To begin with, you could opt for health insurance policies that cover employees from across the country. This should fulfill the insurance needs for a large part of your workforce. For your international employees, you may choose to monetarily compensate for an insurance of their choice in their country. While retail insurance policies are often not as great or cheap as corporate policies, it is a start and a perk that your employees will appreciate you for.
Building a team and culture
This is perhaps one of the most overlooked aspects of running a completely remote team. It is a well known fact that retaining employees is far more profitable than hiring new ones. For your employees to stick around, they need to believe in your team and align with your company culture. For a team that is entirely remote, this can be a daunting challenge. How do you build a team culture when your workers cannot put a face to the name that they engage with everyday?
Buffer, the social media scheduling app spends over one hundred thousand dollars for their team building activities every year by bringing their team from across the world together. Is this an expensive exercise? For sure. But it also helps foster a team spirit and allows your employees to get to know their colleagues better. This allows for greater sociability which pays off through other factors like better loyalty and motivated employees.
Running a digital nomad lifestyle can seem exciting, and certainly is for a lot of reasons. However, if you do plan on scaling your business with remote employees, things can get complicated. The tips provided above can help you build a team and grow your business effectively and with little friction.
*Anand Srinivasan is the founder of Hubbion, a suite of free business apps and resources. *