Employers and employees alike should be aware of the opportunities offered by internationally remote work as companies look to build entirely remote overseas teams.
Speaking to Information Age while visiting Sydney last week, Mark Porter, CTO of database company MongoDB, suggested Australian businesses ought to lean on internationally available talent to support their in-house innovation – as long as they’re mindful of time zones.
“I’m very passionate about having full vertical teams that can design, ideate, build, deploy, and support their product without crossing over to the New York time zone, or the Dublin time zone.
“Otherwise, they spend their lives too late in the day or too early in the day – or waiting – and it causes delays.”
Porter leads a 1,000-person strong global engineering organisation but tries to keep workers of product lines latitudinally localised.
WiredTiger, MongoDB’s open-source storage system, is largely maintained and operated from Sydney, for example, far from the company’s New York headquarters.
Porter doesn’t mind remote teams in Dublin and Barcelona working on the same product because of their similar time zones (only an hour’s difference) but would avoid spreading their workforce much further to minimise disruption.
“To the degree possible for Australian companies, my recommendation is you be very conscious of time zones,” Porter said.
“It doesn’t mean you can’t have teams in other geographies – but try and make sure they have a full featured product to work on to minimise disruptions at an individual level.”
Digital nomads unite
IT workers are among the most in-demand remote workers, according to remote job posting board Flexjobs – which warns that even many fully remote postings may have geographic requirements because of time zones.
Because IT workers are so needed at the moment, internationally remote work can be valuable not just for companies willing to expand a virtual workforce, but also for employees.
A recent global survey found remote tech workers reported earning nearly twice as much as their office-bound counterparts.
The rise of remote work has also helped excite the digital nomad movement that sees people hop around the world with their laptop in hand, typically on tourist visas, working remotely from co-working spaces.
It’s a movement that even has its own activists who see digital nomads as pioneers of a borderless, globally connected community.
Plumia is a project spun out of travel insurance company SafetyWing and aims to “build an internet country for digital nomads”.
The vision is to create a passport-like service, which countries would sign onto, allowing people to freely travel and work without being stopped by border patrol who question why they're getting off a plane in a suit if they’re on a travel visa.
Having seen first-hand the power of technology to transform the way we live, work, and play, Plumia’s executive director Lauren Razavi wants to make the digitally nomadic lifestyle more accessible.
Razavi’s idea is disruptive, as she recently explained to the University of College London’s Dave Cook for an article in the Conversation.
“The nation state is outdated – it’s based on 19th-century thinking, and we aim to upend all of that,” she said.
“We’re all enrolled into this automatic subscription based on the coincidence of our birthplace or our heritage, and that really doesn’t work in the 21st century.”