TMF Group Head of Global Entity Management Services Hong Kong Kenneth Lee argues that more Governments will realise tax revenue opportunities and human benefits with a digital work visa, which will bring to a head the question of talent attraction – and its re-distribution.
By Kenneth Lee
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many around the world, to rethink their lives and turn to digital tools whilst at the same time maintaining some semblance to normality. Companies have had to fast-track their digital transformation whilst others have had to rethink their business models. Commercial activities in general, have continued except for a few extremely hard-hit industries such as tourism and retail, where physical presence is absolutely essential.
Now, most economic activities are carried out electronically and digitally, many of which with minimal or no human intervention or involvement. Many goods and services are delivered in digital form, and the people involved are paid electronically. Thanks to the havoc caused by the pandemic, many of those pre-existing notions of working onsite and attending to work physically had all been almost completely eradicated, and we realise how much of what we do regularly can in fact be done remotely and digitally.
This recent change is taking the earlier co-working space revolution to a completely new level, where the traditional sense of workplace is being rapidly re-defined.
With the advent of technology and the improvement in connectivity and mobility, employers and employees, all-over and across industries and geographies, have quickly adapted to this new form of human-to-human collaboration. We are beginning to see selected countries making quick advances in this new change to their advantage and will most likely be seeing more countries following suit, in some shape or form.
Governments such as those of Barbados and Estonia have been re-evaluating work visa requirements. Both have issued a new digital work visa or permit requirements in light of the pandemic, as well as this new normal of online collaboration, to attract more talents (and eventually more tax revenues and economic prosperity) to their country.
For many employees, this new trend in the digital work visa and working remotely offer a tremendous benefit, as it provides even greater mobility where they can have the added flexibility to work remotely in another country of their choice. For millennials and the younger workforce (particularly those more of the adventurous-type and without family constraints), this can offer freedom and experiences of living in another country, while maintaining a stable income source and being able to continue accumulating valuable work experiences as well.
As more countries adopt this type of work visa arrangement, and employers embrace these remote work solutions, employees no longer need to make hard choices, should they decide to choose to live in another country for personal reasons. Time-zone differences will have an issue, and that needs to be accommodated, although that is similar to employees working in large multinational organisations.
For employers, this new trend of working-from-home, which is slowly migrating to working-from-anywhere, will improve overall staff engagement, and loyalty in general. At our organisation, we have been surveying our staff on a very regular basis, since the early days of the pandemic, and it is very clear that there is an overwhelming support and desire at all levels and with the different stakeholders that a flexible working arrangements should continue, even in the post pandemic stage.
In Asia Pacific, there is still a strong culture centered around the workplace, physical attendance and discipline. However, with the outbreak, employers and employees alike have been forced to change their work habits, and the way they carry out their duties and responsibilities. With some of the most expensive cities in this region, this flexible work arrangement will offer considerable savings in real estate costs in the longer-term.
Similarly, from a human resource perspective, this change will ultimately reduce costs as well, with higher staff engagement, and lower churn. Costs in training and development can be channeled to improve existing staff’s skill sets and capabilities, rather than, training new hires.
Currently, we stand at the cusp of another revolution, and with the passing of the pandemic, more governments will undoubtedly realise the benefits of this new form of digital work visa and be forced to face this talent issue head-on.
(Ed. Kenneth Lee He is currently the Head of Global Entity Management with TMF Group in Hong Kong. Lee He says he has a Bachelor’s Degree of Commerce from the University of Toronto, and he is a Chartered Financial Analyst and member of the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants as well as a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accounts. Featured image by Photographer DoDo Phanthamal.)