By Nora Walsh
Published Oct. 7, 2022 Updated Oct. 11, 2022
As more employers offer flexibility, countries, travel brands and entrepreneurs are stepping in to make working from anywhere easier, with everything from special visas to work pods.
Months into the pandemic, Jess Romano moved from California to Croatia, becoming the third person to receive that country’s “digital nomad” visa when it launched in 2021. “When I worked in the office, my time off — and more important — the flexibility around where, when and how I could work was limited,” she said. “Now I can spend months or years at a time living and exploring new places while working full-time.”
Now, as coronavirus cases have fallen and working patterns are being reestablished, many companies are acknowledging the seismic shifts in the workplace and giving their employees increased flexibility about where they work in both the long and short term.
Kayak, the travel search engine, embraced remote work early in the pandemic, letting its staff set up anywhere the company has a legal entity, which includes 25 countries around the world, and counting. “If we have a legal entity somewhere, we can make payroll, pay taxes, and offer health care. They would just need the appropriate visa to work there,” said Steve Hafner, a co-founder and chief executive.
“We used to always compete for talent on the basis of how awesome our offices were to work,” he said. “Now we compete on a totally different dimension, which is flexibility.”
Companies like Spotify, Twitter and Airbnb have also adopted work-from-anywhere policies. In a report released in June 2021, Gartner, Inc., a technological research and consulting firm based in Stamford, Conn., found that by the end of 2021, 51 percent of what it calls knowledge workers worldwide are expected to be working remotely, more than double the number from 2019.
As remote workers flood the market, governments, travel companies, hospitality brands and entrepreneurs are responding with innovative ways for location-independent professionals to make the world their home. Here, a guide to new developments in the work-from-anywhere world.
Remote work visas
More than 20 countries across the globe offer specialized visas that let foreigners live and work remotely within their borders, including the European nations of Portugal, Norway, Georgia and Malta. Spain is working on a new Start-ups Law that’s expected to pass by the end of the year, making it easier for professionals and their families to relocate there. The bill proposes 12-month visas for remote workers with the option to apply for a three-year residence permit that’s conditionally renewable for another two years.
In Latin America, Brazil was the first South American country to offer a remote work visa in September 2021. When requesting the one-year digital nomad visa (which can be renewed for additional periods), applicants must provide proof of an income source outside Brazil, have health care coverage, and earn at least $1,500 per month or have $18,000 in the bank. Brazilian Consulates abroad have so far granted 197 digital nomad visas to citizens from more than 15 different countries, including the United States, Germany and Colombia.
A popular vacation spot for U.S. travelers, Costa Rica signed its new digital nomad visa into law this August and has already received 27 applications. “We estimate that each remote worker who stays in Costa Rica to work will generate $46,400 per annum for the country, which will contribute to tourism industry revenues, and mean more jobs for Costa Ricans,” said Carolina Trejos, director of marketing for the Costa Rica tourism board.
Thailand’s new 10-year long-term visa, which launched in early September, seeks to supplement an aging work force by attracting a fresh pool of foreign talent that will drive economic activity, explained Janthapat Saichumin, the deputy director of Thailand’s board of investment. The visa is available for remote workers, highly skilled professionals, pensioners and wealthy global citizens who receive a range of benefits, including tax exemption for overseas income, permission to work locally and fast-track service at international airports throughout Thailand.
Those who love island life can set up a toes-in-the-sand office and work remotely from a handful of Caribbean countries or head to far-flung shores of Bali, Mauritius and Dubai.
Companies get in on the act
As part of its new Live and Work Anywhere program, Airbnb is partnering with 20 destinations around the world to create custom digital hubs featuring information like visa requirements, tax policies and a comprehensive list of the best long-term-stay accommodations. Buenos Aires; the Austrian Alpine region of Salzkammergut; Tampa Bay, Fla.; Tulsa, Okla.; and the Caribbean have already launched, with more to follow later this year, including Thailand, Cape Town and the Friuli Venezia Giulia region in Italy.
“Remote work is where the world is going,” said Brian Chesky, the co-founder and chief executive of Airbnb, in an email to employees. “The right solution should combine the best of the digital world and the best of the physical world.” Airbnb employees can now live and work in more than 170 countries for up to 90 days a year in each location.
As of the second quarter of 2022, Airbnb said it has seen long-term stays (28 days or more) increase nearly 25 percent from 2021 and by nearly 90 percent from 2019.
Sojrn, a new travel brand that started last year, offers monthlong experiential learning programs for remote workers around the world (from $3,199 for four weeks). “It’s like work from home meets study abroad for adults,” said the founder, Tara Cappel. “We scout great places to stay, Wi-Fi-enabled work spaces and immersive experiences centered around an educational theme, which adds an element of purpose to the trip.” Top sellers include Spanish in Medellin and Wine in Tuscany.
Yaroslav Prygara, a Ukrainian entrepreneur, founded Remo last August as a creative solution to hotels’ growing need for flexible work spaces that guests can use during short- or long-term stays. “I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s more people working remotely than from the office in the next decade,” he said.
Remo builds prefabricated mirrored-glass cubes that house work spaces kitted out with reliable high-speed internet, ergonomic office furniture, temperature controls and terraces. The modular cubes are designed to make use of a hotel’s underutilized outdoor locations. In July, the first Remo work spaces launched at Sensira Resort & Spa on Mexico’s Riviera Maya (rates from $385) with four individual offices and one team pod located on the fourth floor terrace with sweeping ocean views. Guests who book their hotel stay through the Remo.Club app receive complimentary access to the office spaces for the duration of their stay. (They are usually priced at $50 per day.) The brand plans to expand to seven hotels in Miami by the end of year, followed by Austin, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Hotel brands double down
Hotels that already had their hand in the co-working game are seeing investments pay off as a global work force pushes back against traditional nine-to-five office jobs.
In 2019, Accor started Wojo, a brand of co-working and flexible work spaces, across its economy, mid-scale and luxury hotels. “Accor was ahead of the curve and saw this movement coming,” said Markus Keller, the company’s chief sales and distribution officer. Today, it has 400 Wojo installations at hotels in Europe and Latin America, with sub-Saharan Africa in the pipeline.
Wojo work spaces range from shared desks to meeting rooms and closed offices, all of which can be booked by the hour, half-day or day through the website or the app (starting at $30 per day for a shared desk). Longer-term contracts are also available: Shared desks are on offer from $300 per month and private offices start at $500 per person per month.
The Hoxton hotels launched Working From in late 2019 at its Southwark, London (co-working rates from $125 per person, per month) and Fulton Market, Chicago (co-working from $75 per person, per month) properties. A new outpost at the Hoxton Brussels will open next spring with four floors of co-working spaces. Each location is equipped with steady (200 megabits per second) Wi-Fi, on-site tech support, full-time baristas, stocked pantries and on-site showers (day passes for hotel guests and the public are available for about $30).
Also quickly expanding throughout Europe is the British aparment-hotel brand Locke Hotels, which features fully serviced studio apartments, co-working spaces, lively restaurants and community programming (rates from around $200).
Crowne Plaza, a premium brand from IHG Hotels & Resorts, recently released a white paper on “blended travel” that notes 80 percent of travelers plan to tack on leisure days to upcoming business trips as well as capitalize on the opportunity to work from anywhere.
Crowne Plaza properties have undergone significant renovations to create flexible WorkLife rooms (rates from about $180) and public spaces where guests can work comfortably. Its new brand, Atwell Suites (rates from about $215), caters to long-term stays with work areas equipped with counter-height tables, office chairs and virtual-conferencing-ready backdrops. There are also co-working zones and huddle rooms in common areas.
“This new generation of remote workers has the flexibility to travel any day of the week, every month of the year, not just on weekends and major holidays. As a result, we’re seeing a rise in longer stays and midweek travel,” said Lisa Checchio, chief marketing officer of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts. To accommodate demand, Wyndham is launching a new extended-stay economy brand in the U.S. later this year with a starting portfolio of 72 hotels. The company is also expanding its Wyndham Residences collection for longer stays in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (suite rates from $63 per night plus tax).
Remote workers interested in living and working from abroad can turn to a spate of new digital resources for help. Rowena Hennigan, a globally recognized expert in remote work based in Spain, introduced a LinkedIn Learning course in June called Becoming a Digital Nomad ( $24.99 or free for LinkedIn Learning subscribers). The 27-minute beginner’s guide covers the pros and cons of a remote work and travel lifestyle, as well as important details like how to navigate visas, how to tap into the community and ways to decrease your carbon footprint while traveling.
Ms. Hennigan is an adviser for the start-up Boundless Life, which specializes in remote work family travel, providing furnished homes, educational programs for children, and co-working spaces in Portugal, Greece and, come January, Italy.
The Italian start-up Nomads Embassy is planning to launch a new digital nomad visa platform at the end of the year that connects visa applicants with immigration lawyers (legal services will range from $600 to $3,500, depending on the firm). Remote workers will be able to upload required documents, communicate with lawyers and track their visa status in real time through the platform.
“The application process usually takes from 10 to 28 days, but as we test the platform, we’re seeing that time decrease to less than a week,” said Brittany Loeffler, who founded the company with her partner Jacopo Gomarasca. The website, which gets about 20,000 unique visitors a month and has been seeing that traffic increase about 20 percent a month, is updated daily with each country’s digital nomad visa requirements, fees and processes.
Tanja Polegubic, the founder of Saltwater Nomads, a remote work consultancy company based in Croatia, recommends MeetUp for community building, Wolt for food delivery, Discord for communicating with other remote workers, and Revolut or Wise for skirting hefty A.T.M. and international money transfers fees.
“As a Black woman traveling alone, my travel research must always take this into account,” said Marquita Harris, a journalist who participated in Airbnb’s Live Anywhere initiative last year. “I often use The Xpat App, which is amazing for connecting with other Black expats living abroad and getting insight into their experiences.”
Two new booking platforms, RemoteDream and NomadStays, help remote workers find accommodations with work-ready spaces, speedy Wi-Fi and a community focus. App in the Air’s newest travel tool, Remote.ly, enables users to filter destinations by preferences such as “sea” or “mountains” and find information related to fees, regulations and requirements to live and work in destinations worldwide.
Kayak’s Work from Wherever guide ranks the best countries to work remotely based on categories like time zones, weather, safety and social life. “Once we’ve eliminated the thicket of regulations of being able to work from anywhere,” Mr. Hafner said, “everyone is going to be a global citizen.”
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