„New studies show: Employees increasingly want to open their laptops in more remote locations, according to Corona. And employers are scoring points with remote work options, even if there are legal hurdles to overcome.” Sylvie Konzack
“We have under underestimated how flexible we are,” said British futurologist Oona Horx Strathern (photo) in December 2020 at the Serviced Apartment Congress SO!APART in Munich, referring primarily to the way we want to live, work and travel during Corona and especially afterwards. “We will work in more flexible places – more at home, mainly for peace and quiet, but also increasingly in other places, and go on ‘journeys of discovery’,” she adds. In the “Hoffice”, as the futurologist says, i.e. in the office in a hotel, in the “Boffice” at the bar, at the seaside, in the forest or in an old estate in co-working with strangers – everywhere where one is protected and at the same time finds an inspiring environment to work, switch off and live for a while.
For Oona Horx Strathern, this means that the desires for more freely definable, digital work and for more free time in other places meet the trends towards new, diverse life phase models as well as community, localhood, resonance and connectivity. Going on a private business trip, so to speak, for the modern mix of job and leisure. Enjoying a little more freedom and flexibility, as digital nomads have been doing for a long time.
Remote work as an appreciation of the employees
The trend of mixing business with leisure while travelling has been around for a long time: seven out of ten employees in Germany have already combined this for a bleisure trip, according to the study “Chefsache Business Travel 2020”. 57 percent extended their business trip to get to know a new city or environment. This is especially true among the under-40s, among whom 84 percent have already taken a Bleisure trip, and especially CEOs, in that nine out of ten have already taken advantage of the opportunity, compared to 50 percent of executives and professionals. And: almost two thirds (64 percent) see the private extension of their stay as a decision criterion when choosing a job. 76 percent of business travellers even say that bleisure opportunities increase their productivity.
According to Corona, in this sense the topic of bleisure work as a work trend could develop an unimagined dynamic. “The home office is experiencing a big push and creating new opportunities to combine work at the kitchen table with a view of the beach, lake or mountains,” explains Derpart Managing Director Andreas Neumann, who initiated “Chefsache Business Travel” with other travel management companies in the German Travel Association (DRV). Many employees develop the desire: if they are already sitting in the home office and possibly working reduced hours, they at least want to treat themselves to something and open their laptops in an attractive place – and employers can say “thank you” to them for their support during the Corona months with the flexible choice of work location and continue to retain and develop them as valuable professionals.
Pay attention to tax and social security details abroad
For some, a temporary home office in a hotel in the same city or nearby is enough. Some are looking for the dream of a “home office abroad”, which some countries are now making possible with new work visas as a Corona reaction. Those who are self-employed have more options here than ever before, also because local hotels are opening up with special long-stay offers and holiday clubs are tempting with laptops by the pool, on the beach or near the ski lodge.
Employees must always discuss their remote work plans with their employer and have them approved. This involves establishing rules on topics such as working hours, length of stay, accessibility, IT security, details to be adjusted in the travel policy on cost absorption, etc. In addition, tax and social security details must be clarified for remote work abroad. “This is because national ‘social security law’ basically ends at the national border. In this respect, there is a need for European or international agreements that have a broader scope of application,” explains Prof. Dr. Tobias Ehlen, Professor of Business Law at Worms University of Applied Sciences.
Within the EU, there are regulations that provide for mutual recognition, for example of health, nursing care, accident and unemployment insurance, as well as bilateral agreements with individual states outside the EU. “When it comes to questions of tax law, it has to be decided whether there is a double taxation agreement between the country of residence and the country where the work is performed,” the business law expert further emphasises, adding that Germany has already concluded such agreements with very many states, many of them EU member states.
In some countries, under the regulations or without agreements, it is necessary for a company, for example, to register a branch under commercial law, to incur a tax liability in the “remote work foreign country” for the time of the stay there or to interrupt the social security obligation. And anyone who deliberately travels to a high-risk area at this very moment jeopardises continued payment of wages in the event of illness.
As a rule, however, stays abroad of up to three months are unproblematic, provided the employer gives permission. In October 2020, for example, the German Federal Ministry of Labour presented a law that could establish a legal right to 24 days of mobile work or home office per year. If this or similar legislation is passed, German workers could have more freedom to work remotely abroad.
Sylvie Konzack …
sees the future of work and travel in the topic of “Bleisure Work – Bleisure Travel”. In the coming months, she and her team of authors want to provide more information about remote work opportunities and present employers who make remote work and bleisure travel possible.
Photos: © iStock.com/boana, © iStock.com/jhorrocks, Julia Baumgart Photography