Moving for work? No thanks. Foreign talent increasingly chooses remote work over relocating amid COVID-19

Requires some thinking regarding implications for immigration policy with respect to those highly skilled who can largely work remotely. Virtual immigration should not be conflated with immigration and integration. Remote workers are highly unlikely to use Canadian government services or pay Canadian taxes:

With more opportunities emerging to work remotely in these uncertain times, fewer people appear willing to move abroad for work, according to a global survey that also found Canada is overtaking the U.S. as the world’s top destination for foreign workers.

Overall, only 50.4 per cent of the 209,000 respondents from 190 countries said they would move to another country to work, citing the COVID-19 pandemic as a key reason, according to the survey by Boston Consulting Group and The Network.

The report on global workforce trends shows a gradual decline in people’s interest in working abroad, from 57 per cent in 2018 and 64 per cent in 2014, when the surveys were previously conducted.

“These findings reflect several new factors that have penetrated the world’s consciousness and changed the workplace. The factors — the fallout from a difficult-to-control pandemic and a sharp rise in nationalism — have altered people’s thinking,” said the report released this month.

“Businesses and governments must understand these new attitudes and make adjustments of their own in order to ensure they’ll have the future workforce they need.”

Almost a quarter of respondents picked Canada as their first choice to relocate, four percentage point ahead of the United States, which, along with Australia, ranked second.

Canada is the No. 1 destination for many of the types of people that “countries prize,” including those with master’s or PhD degrees, those with digital training or expertise, and those younger than 30, said the report.

Almost all of the countries that moved up in the Top 10 rankings have a relatively low incidence of COVID-19 cases. That includes Canada (up two spots from last survey); Australia (up one place); and Japan (up to No. 6 from 10th place).

Two Asia-Pacific countries that were recognized for their public health response — Singapore and New Zealand — also appear on the Top 10 list for the first time. Many previously popular destinations, such as Germany and France, saw their ranking suffered.

“The travel restrictions that have come and gone during the pandemic have clearly had an impact on people’s attitudes,” said the report. “Relocation willingness has also been affected by the trend toward remote work.”

No physical presence needed

Fifty-seven per cent of respondents said they were willing to work remotely for a foreign employer that doesn’t have a physical presence in their home country. About one-quarter said they aren’t sure but would consider it. Few rejected the idea outright.

The overall openness to virtual work is especially high among people in the information technology and digital fields, with 71 per cent of people with digital or analytics backgrounds saying they would be willing to work for a company with no physical presence in their own country. Among those with postgraduate degrees, 62 per cent would say yes.

“Hiring people from other countries is not a new practice for employers,” said report co-author Pierre Antebi, a co-managing director of The Network, which is a global leader in online recruitment, serving more than 2,000 international corporations.

“But the trend of remote working makes it possible to do it on a broader scale and expand the available talent pool. There’s also an upside for workers, who can advance their careers without uprooting their lives.”

As a destination for international remote employment, the U.S. ranked first and was the choice of 25 per cent of respondents, followed by Canada and Australia, both getting 22 per cent of the votes.

A global and remote talent pool

That virtual mobility allows multinational companies to tap into talent without having to pay to relocate people or set up offices in foreign countries, said the report.

“An embrace of virtual mobility could mean a reversal of some of the skills shortages that countries face,” it noted.

However, the report pointed out, companies and governments must first navigate complex taxes, labour laws and work regulations. There are also other logistical challenges, such as cultural integration of remote employees and time-zone problems that need to be considered.

Seventeen governments in Europe and the Caribbean have already introduced visas that simplify the recruitment of foreign digital workers. Some of the countries offer tax exemptions to the foreign employees they need the most.

“If you’re a company or government that hasn’t previously considered international remote employment as a way to address your skills shortages, it may sound like a very complicated thing to do,” said the report. “In fact, you’re probably more ready than you think.”

Source: Moving for work? No thanks. Foreign talent increasingly chooses remote work over relocating amid COVID-19

From The Folks Who Brought You Boring Meetings: CEOs Want To Ditch Sterile Zoom Calls

I wonder how these assessments compare with the experience in governments. Large scale social experiment on the value of in-person versus remote work. Expect some b-school and other researchers will have ample opportunity for studies and the like.

On a personal level, given some hearing issues, I actually prefer webinars and the like to in-person sessions:

Lately, Zoom meetings have been hitting a nerve with CEOs.

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon says there’s no vital “creative combustion” happening in virtual settings.

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker finds Zoom meetings awful.

And Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella calls them transactional, where “30 minutes into your first video meeting in the morning … you’re fatigued.”

Early during the pandemic lockdowns, in April, many were touting the benefits. James Gorman, CEO of Morgan Stanley, said his bank would need much less real estate in the future because even though he was a fan of having teams together, “we’ve proven we can operate with no footprint.”

Now members of the C-suite have gone full boomerang on Zoom meetings. After finding them awesome and productive at first, they’re now questioning how much they really achieve and are suggesting they lead to a sterile work culture lacking in imagination.

“What we as human beings need, want, seek … is human contact,” Nadella says. He was speaking at a virtual conference organized by The Wall Street Journal last week.

Dimon is particularly worried about how working from home has affected JPMorgan’s younger employees. He told analysts that productivity had dipped, especially on Mondays and Fridays. Dimon says bringing people back to the office is paramount to fostering creativity.

The bloom is clearly off this rose.

Remote workers are using the bathroom during meetings

What Dimon and Nadella are articulating is increasingly bearing out in broader surveys. Architect and design firm Vocon, which of course has an interest in people returning to office spaces, conducted a survey in September. It found that 40% of people who ran businesses have noticed decreases in productivity from remote working staff. Among the same group back in April, 56% rated productivity as “excellent.”

As for the employees, who sit in front of a computer every day in the same spot of their homes, often on video chat, they found the experience “draining.” They missed being able to connect face to face with colleagues and had trouble setting boundaries for when work started or ended.

“It was surprising to see so many people felt this remote work fatigue, especially given the headlines of 100% remote forever,” says Sarah McCann​, a real estate strategy associate at Vocon.

Another survey by virtual tech firm Lucid found that workers didn’t feel like they needed to behave during virtual meetings when no one was looking. Most of them admitted to “questionable behavior” during virtual brainstorm meetings, including 1 in 10 who admitted using the bathroom while on a call.

Some workers also admitted to exercising, taking a shower, watching TV and cooking or preparing a meal while participating in virtual brainstorm meetings.

Nathan Rawlins, the chief marketing officer at Lucid, said that’s because virtual meetings are often a series of monologues where people are often checked out and feel “this meeting is the sort of thing where I could lift weights.”

Rawlins said workers were put off by hearing multiple voices simultaneously, which might not be that distracting in a physical setting. The survey also found that younger workers — as many as 1 in 4 — were even breaking company pandemic protocols and meeting with colleagues in person to discuss work projects.

And corporate leaders found that they had to delay major launches, campaigns, or initiatives. Rawlins says these are exactly the kinds of projects that need people to work together in person and collaborate to finish.

Companies hedge their bets on remote work with new office space

Recognizing the importance of collaboration, some large companies, including those that are offering flexible options to employees, are doubling down on office space. Facebook is leasing all the office space at an ornate New York landmark, the former James A. Farley Post Office building.

Amazon, which so far has said employees can work from home until early next year, just bought the marquee Lord & Taylor building on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue and leased another 2 million square feet in Bellevue, Wash. But these tech giants will continue to offer employees flexible options, recognizing that much work can be done at home, while betting that their employees are also driven by the human impulse to socialize.

Still, there is a recognition by workers and employers alike that more is possible with virtual settings than before.

“A lot of people have learned that they can work at home, or that there’s other methods of conducting their business than they might have thought from what they were doing a couple of years ago,” the legendary investor Warren Buffett said at the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting in May. “When change happens in the world, you adjust to it.”

And despite all the misgivings, Microsoft itself announced just last week that its staff will have the option of working from home permanently. It’s what many other companies are — from Facebook and Twitter to Zillow and Nationwide Insurance — are doing.

Many workers enjoy working from home and are saying so. What most surveys show, however, is that they also want to meet their colleagues. They miss the casual moments that spark spontaneous ideas. Some tasks — such as reading, research and writing — can, in fact, be done better in a remote setting. But creative brainstorming sessions, project discussions, new client meetings, onboarding of new employees are better suited to in-person settings.

As with anything, one size hardly fits all. Escaping the drudgery of work from home routines is a great attraction, with more than half saying they are most looking forward to the camaraderie with colleagues at the office. However, 23% said they are not looking forward to any part of returning to the office.

Source: From The Folks Who Brought You Boring Meetings: CEOs Want To Ditch Sterile Zoom Calls

Donald: Give us your wired masses, yearning to breathe free

Intriguing idea of Scott Gilmore (have seen similar suggestions from India and Europe):

Two historic developments have aligned to create a momentary and monumental opportunity for Canada.

First, we are weathering a global pandemic that has dramatically changed the way the world works. Suddenly, we are all discovering that the technology exists to allow many of us to work remotely, and to continue to be effective doing so. In fact, experts are predicting a sizeable portion of the workforce will choose not to return to the office when this is over.

At the same time, a tide of nationalism has risen in many western countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States. There, governments are making it increasingly difficult for immigrants to arrive or to stay.

For example, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that cancels the H-1B visa category, which permits highly skilled workers, who have already been offered a job by an American company, to live and work in the United States. American economists and CEOs are horrified at the decision. Without these well-trained immigrants, Silicon Valley would still be pastureland.

And here is Canada’s golden opportunity: we should immediately offer residency to all 85,000 holders of H-1B visas, permitting them to live in Canada while they work remotely for their current employers in the United States.

The benefits to Canada are numerous and obvious. To begin with, this would not take any existing jobs from Canadians. There are legitimate (albeit mostly misplaced) concerns that our current unemployment crisis would be exacerbated by increased immigration. Holders of this visa would be permitted to remain only if they have a full-time job in the United States (or another foreign country) that can be performed remotely.

It would give Canada an instant boost in revenue. These new arrivals might be working in the U.S., but they’d be paying their taxes and spending their paycheques here. Our services industry is in desperate need of a boost, and with international travel facing a long recovery, relying on foreign tourism will not be enough. We can replace that by effectively transplanting billions in household spending that is currently rooted south of the border.

This new visa class would be a tremendous boost to our pool of creative and productive talent. Canada has traditionally been a runner up when it comes to attracting the world’s best and brightest. This has gradually been changing, but this new visa could accelerate the shift. We would inject some of the world’s brightest minds into our cities, and if the visa provided a pathway for citizenship, we could hold on to that talent and all the benefits it would bring.

As many public policy experts, demographers, economists and others have pointed out, we need more Canadians. We have an ageing population that will produce relatively less tax revenue to support a growing number of elderly people. And if we want to achieve our full potential, we need a critical mass of talented citizens to do so. This is an argument that has been best made by Globe and Mail writer Doug Saunders in his recent book ‘Maximum Canada’. This visa class is one of the easiest paths towards that goal. The U.S. government has basically pre-screened all these immigrants, vetted them for security and health issues, confirmed they are employable, and socialized them to living in a western democracy. We should be paying Washington for the privilege of taking these people off their hands.

This visa would be an obvious blessing for the would-be immigrants. Unwelcome in the U.S. and facing unemployment, they will be greeted warmly here and allowed to continue to do their work and even remain in the same time zone. What’s more, they will benefit from Canada’s high quality of life, and excellent (but improvable) health-care system.

They will also discover that the American Dream has moved north. Compared to the United States, Canada now has higher rates of employment, education and homeownership. We even have longer lives and more vacation days. And while working from home is not ideal, all of our major cities now have ample shared workspace facilities.

This visa is even good for American employers. First and foremost, they get to keep their talent. And, they would no longer have to pay extravagant health insurance costs. Even Donald Trump would welcome this move. In his mind, out of sight is out of mind and these would be just one less class of immigrants to worry about.

We could call this an IWFC: an International Work From Canada visa and offer it to more than just H-1B candidates. If someone has a high paying job in Paris that they can do on their laptop from Montreal, why wouldn’t we want them to do so? It is a new world, and we need to look at it from a new angle. As the global workforce shifts to tele-commuting, the idea of living in Whistler while managing a marketing team in San Jose is not only possible, it is logical.

If Canada were to seize this opportunity, we would have to do it fast. Other countries are likely considering something similar. Who wouldn’t? And, the American election is just months away. The political landscape could shift, and this incredible pool of talent might be allowed to remain in the U.S. Let’s act before then, let’s bring them home to Canada, before someone else puts out their own welcome mat first.

Source: Donald: Give us your wired masses, yearning to breathe free