Hitting the beach between Zoom meetings: wouldn’t it be nice? As more teams go remote-first, working while traveling is on the rise. Whether staff are diving fully into the digital nomad lifestyle or just taking an extended trip, employers may find themselves with questions. Can you legally employ someone while they’re traveling? For how long? Do they need a visa? What if they never come back? 

If you’re already set up with remote work, letting employees do their jobs from anywhere can be a great recruitment and retention strategy. "Work from anywhere" policies allow people to live out their travel dreams, visit loved ones, fulfill caregiver duties or just design the lifestyle they want, career included.

However, without a proper policy in place, companies may find their employees jetting off to a sunnier location without warning, sometimes even without telling their team. While this may seem harmless, it may land both the traveler and the employer in hot water. Especially if that employee were to become ill or harmed during their travels, or if a local authority discovered that they were working remotely as a nomad in a new country without a work permit. Our advice? Think through the sticky situations in advance, and have a policy on the books.

Ready to get started? Here are the steps that will help HR practitioners and leadership teams design a fair policy for aspiring travelers, along with a template that you can steal and adapt. Aspiring nomad yourself? Try sending this to your manager for a gentle nudge.

*Disclaimers: Implementing a digital nomading policy involves a lot of compliance factors based on where your team is headquartered and the various countries that your team may consider “snowbirding” to. This guide is merely a high-level overview of how to approach building a policy, and it does not replace legal counsel or HR advisory on building your policy. 

Step 1: Get clear on your philosophy

Does your company believe that the freedom to work from anywhere is something that is essential to your team and culture? Do you believe that, in the long term, having your team outside of the same time zone could hurt productivity? Or do you believe that the team has strong enough asynchronous practices that they should thrive in spite of differing time zones? Your leadership team should discuss these considerations at a high level, and the team’s stance towards digital nomading should be shared at the beginning of the policy so that everyone is on the same page. 

Step 2: Define eligibility - can anyone be a digital nomad? 

In an ideal world, everyone can snowbird to a sunnier destination during the winter, if they so choose. However, your team may want to consider if team members who are in their first three months of onboarding and/or working on a performance improvement plan should be eligible. If for any reason these team members were off-boarded, they may not be able to apply and receive unemployment insurance while abroad. If they are traveling alone (versus traveling with others and/or visiting family/friends) they would have less of an immediate support network around them to help them deal with a job loss. Lastly, if the team member wanted to travel somewhere in a different time zone, they’d have to work an irregular schedule to fully overlap with the team and ensure there is enough communication to set them up for success during onboarding.

Note that some teams may have roles where this type of travel is possible, and other roles where it is not. If this is you, try to be sensitive to how things are communicated, and consider if any special perks or resources can be earmarked for others. 

Step 3: Define the length of stay abroad

Mention how long a team member can stay abroad cumulatively in a calendar year. Many companies cap this at 90 days, as it’s often the maximum amount of time one can stay legally on a temporary visa without a work permit or residency (dependent on the exact visa type the team member obtains). Again, in practice, be sure to look into the visa requirements of each specific situation. 

If your policy allows for greater than 90 days of travel in a year, remember to clarify the cap on consecutive days of travel. If the company approved 180 days of travel, you may want the trips to be broken up into a maximum of 90 consecutive days, and you may want the trips to be several months apart. You may want to consider this guideline if your team is hybrid, for example, and you expect a certain presence in the office throughout the year. 

Lastly, if you’re considering allowing employees to exceed the 90-day cap, remember that a stay of greater than 180 days outside of one’s country of residence may affect an employee's tax and residency status, in turn affecting your ability to employ them locally 

Step 4: Address potential requests for longer term stays

There may be times when someone requests to work abroad for longer than the time frame you set out in your policy (let’s say 90 days). For example, the country they’re visiting may have a longer stay policy, they might have obtained access to a longer term visa, or they may already be a citizen of that country. 

First, clarify in general your company’s stance on the time frame. If compliance was not an issue, would you be okay with an employee working remotely for longer than 90 days? You can mention in this part of the policy if you’ll be sticking with the 90 day time frame for all cases, or if you’d consider longer time frame requests on a case-by-case basis if the employee is able to secure a visa or citizenship that enables them to work elsewhere legally. 

There are further compliance issues that you’d need to consider, depending on the route the employee is taking to stay long-term in a new country: 

With a digital nomad visa: Digital nomad visas allow remote workers to live and work in a specific country, provided that they are working for an employer outside of that country. These visas involve less compliance risks for the company. The employer does not need to change the original employment agreement, or any payroll functions/tax deductions, unless explicitly required by that visa. However, the employee is responsible for understanding the tax implications of this visa and filing in the new country accordingly. 

With citizenship (or other legal manner of staying long term): technically there is still a compliance issue for the company. While the team member can legally reside in the new country, they shouldn’t be working for a company outside of that country unless:

  • They’re working as a consultant and they’re on a consultant agreement (and no longer treated as a full-time permanent employee).
  • The company has established an entity in the country where the employee is residing AND the employee is on an employment agreement aligned with the labor law of the country where the employee has decided to reside. 
  • The employee is hired through an Employer of Record (such as Deel or Oyster). This will realign the employment agreement to the labor law of the new country and eliminate the need for a new entity. 

If the team member stays somewhere longer-term, you’ll also need to define at what time frame their stay becomes a relocation (e.g. is it after 6 months? Is it after 1 year consecutively?). 

In the event of a relocation, you'll have to consider your stance on employing internationally, and any associated pay changes or processes, like utilizing an EOR and updating compensation.

Step 5: Clarify the team member’s role in digital nomading

Since the team member is deciding to travel while working remotely, the following responsibilities should fall on them: 

  • Having some form of visa that makes them eligible to temporarily reside in the new country.
  • Having proof of a return flight, if you require one.
  • Having health insurance that provides global coverage.
  • Having a proper remote work set up and internet access (and any rules you have about security compliance here).
  • Aligning their hours of work to that of their team; this can be a complete alignment with their original time zone, or partial alignment. Ensure you are both happy with the arrangement and that it’s realistic. We recommend having a written agreement here and checking in after a couple of weeks.
  • Disclosing certain information such as their updated address, any new emergency contacts, etc.

Step 6: Outline the process 

How should the team member communicate their plans to work remotely? At this part of the policy, you can clarify:

  • If the team member needs to put in a formal written request to their manager and a representative of the people team.
  • If the company reserves the right to not grant approval for remote work in certain countries due to sanctions, safety, and/or compliance risks.
  • If the team member will need to provide confirmation of completing the checklist above. This could look like having a meeting to go over everything, or signing a written acknowledgement of their commitment to this process.

Additional safety considerations for your policy

As part of your policy, you may consider putting the following info to help your team out: 

  • A list of “off-limits” countries for travel due to sanctions, safety, or compliance risks.
  • A list of international health benefits providers they can consider.
  • Ways the team member can maintain contact with their government while abroad.
  • How to register with their country of residence so they are alerted of emergencies while traveling
  • Contact information and location of government offices in their chosen location
  • Contact information for emergency assistance
  • How to look up travel advisories

Step 7: Up and away! 

Have a team member nomading across the globe? Feel free to encourage this person to share their journey in your internal communication channels so that the team can see what works and what doesn’t when working remotely, and how they can work with your company to embark on their own work-cation. 

A final disclaimer on digital nomading

To wrap up: we encourage remote companies to have a policy that enables their team to work from another country in a safe and compliant way. This being said: we want to take a moment to acknowledge that while digital nomading can at times drive tourism and investment into a local economy, it can also cause displacement within communities. At Bright + Early, we root all of our work in equitable practices and are conscientious of the negative impact that nomading can have. If teams want to work abroad, we want to encourage them to do so mindfully by: 

  • Acknowledging the privilege we have of being able to travel and work abroad.
  • Learning the culture and language to engage with local businesses.
  • Expanding your bubble by connecting with the local community in addition to expats.
  • “Slowmading” - staying in one place longer-term versus changing countries every month; this will increase one’s investment in single local economy and make it easier to use local vendors for accommodation versus vendors that inflate the cost of living.
  • Paying taxes where they’re due, if you use a digital nomad visa.
  • Finding ways to invest in the community, such as volunteering or donating to an organization that supports the local economy during your stay abroad.

Without further ado, here’s a policy you can steal — remember to have your policy checked by your employment lawyer and HR team! 

Sample Policy

Here at [COMPANY], we believe that enabling our team to work temporarily from another country is part of what differentiates us from other companies. We are already a remote work environment, where people can work from anywhere. Why not open this up by letting our team access other locations across the globe? We believe this is not only essential to remain consistent with our work-from-anywhere philosophy, it’s also an amazing experience that can elevate our team’s productivity and overall happiness. 

If you’re looking to work remotely from another country (temporarily), here are our guidelines: 

Eligibility: all team members are eligible to work remote from another country unless:

  • They’re within their first 3 months of onboarding on our team.
  • They’re working on [or will be working on] a performance improvement plan.

Length of stay abroad: team members are able to work for 90 days cumulatively and consecutively within the calendar year, which runs from January 1 to December 31. Team members can take several trips throughout the year to work abroad, just as long as the cumulative length of those trips combined does not exceed 90 days per year. 

At this time, for compliance reasons, we’re not considering requests for longer-term stays.

How to inform your team: First, send a formal written request to your manager and a member of our HR team. Please note that our team reserves the right to reject requests of travel to a proposed country due to sanctions, safety, and/or compliance risks. 

If your initial request is approved, you’re responsible for presenting confirmation of the following: 

  • Confirmation of your work hours (needs to be approved by your manager).
  • Explanation and proof of the visa you will utilize for your temporary stay. 
  • Proof of a return flight.
  • Proof of health insurance with global coverage.
  • Proof of proper remote work set up and wifi access.
  • Updated information in our HRIS regarding your new address and emergency contacts.

Click [HERE] for more resources on managing your safety & wellbeing and traveling ethically while working abroad. 

If you have any questions on the policy, please reach out to [NAME].