Remote Work Programs: What They Are and How They Work

Perhaps you’re exploring the idea of a remote work program, or you have employees who have requested to participate in one. Either way, check out these tips on traveling while working remotely.

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Remote Work Programs: What They Are and How They Work
Is a remote work program right for you?

Here's what you need to know:

  • More people are traveling while working remotely
  • Remote work programs help take care of logistics for employers and employees
  • There are pros and cons to consider with work abroad programs

The rise of work done exclusively (or nearly exclusively) on internet-equipped laptops quickly gave way to workers wanting to make the most of the freedom that the shift towards digital work gave them. Enter the digital nomad, working with little more than a laptop from coffee shops, poolsides, and remote villas across the world.

Once digital nomads entered the picture, infrastructure to support them soon followed. One such “invention,” if you will, has been remote work programs. And once the pandemic hit and work shifted towards home, even more people got turned onto the idea of remote working as a method for traveling.

Whether you’re exploring the idea of a remote work program for yourself or you have an employee who just requested to participate in one, here’s a crash course in remote work programs.

What is a remote work program?

Being a digital nomad might sound simple, but once you give working from abroad a try you’ll quickly discover many unanticipated hurdles. From coffee shops that don’t have power outlets to internet that’s either so slow or has such little bandwidth that you can barely get anything done, there’s a lot to contend with.

Enter remote working programs. In many ways, they’re much like how they sound. For a fee, a company takes care of the hassles for you. They’re all similar, but also different.

For a fee, a company takes care of the hassles for you. They’re all similar, but also different.

Some focus on professional development and volunteering in one location. Others offer a year away with a new destination every month. Some remote work programs set you up with the basics you need to work. Others will source everything from accommodations to gym memberships for you.

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How do work abroad programs work?

Just like each program offers something a little bit different, they’ll also come with different requirements. The best thing to do is identify the program you want or the programs available in the specific country or location you want to go to. Once you have an idea of the programs you’re interested in, look into their specific requirements.

That said, many of them do require some of the same things, such as:

  • Proof of employment in the form of a letter from your employer or verification that you’re self-employed
  • Meeting minimum income requirements
  • COVID-19 testing and vaccination restrictions
  • Visas and other restrictions around the length of time you’re allowed to say

Popular remote work programs

In addition to companies that run programs themselves, certain countries are actively looking to entice remote workers with incentives and programs of their own. If you’re on the hunt for a remote work program for yourself or want to offer them to your employees, here are a few country-based standouts to consider:

  • Aruba: The country’s One Happy Workation program advertises an office in paradise that’s geared towards U.S. nationals in particular. It’s also pet-friendly if you want to bring Fluffy or Fido along for the ride.
  • Curaçao: @Home in Curaçao is an option for Dutch and U.S. citizens to work from the island for 6 months (and possibly more!) by simply requesting a judicial declaration.
  • Dominica: The country’s Work In Nature (WIN) Extended Stay visa allows remote workers to stay in Dominica for up to 18 months.
  • Dubai: Explore Dubai’s remote work program allows visitors to stay for up to 1 year upon arrival in the country.
  • Iceland: With the country’s new visa, remote workers from outside of the EU can stay in the country for up to 180 days!

When it comes to non-country-based remote work programs, some of the best are:

  • Remote Year: From one-week retreats to one-month trips to 4- to 12-month journeys, Remote Year has options designed to work for almost anyone. Naturally the cost varies. You can expect to pay around $2,500 a month for Remote Year. They handle everything from planning and booking to programming.
  • Hacker Paradise: The cost for Hacker Paradise also varies. Expect to pay around $2,000 a month for them to handle housing and utilities, a coworking space, and social and professional programming in locations from Marrakesh to Medellin.
  • Behere: This one is specific to women! Behere costs around $1,500-$2,000 a month and includes housing, utilities, and coworking space. It also includes a fitness membership and access to local city hosts to boot.
  • Venture with Impact: In addition to the usual amenities named above, Venture with Impact offers something unique — partnerships with local nonprofits and volunteer organizations for roaming do-gooders. Expect to pay around $2,000-$2,500 a month for this option.
  • WiFi Tribe: WiFi Tribe uses a retreat-based model. In addition to housing and coworking expenses, the roughly $1,000-$2,000 you’ll pay per retreat also includes weekend trips and activities.

The pros and cons of work abroad programs

As with most things, there are positives and negatives to consider.

One of the central perks of these remote work programs is that someone takes care of all of the hassle for you. That’s the case whether you’re the employer or the employee.

There’s everything from local taxes to adequate WiFi for businesses and travelers to consider. All of those things are made much easier by going through a professional company that takes care of everything for you.

If you’re someone who struggles with making friends on your own, a remote work program offers an easy way to connect with fellow travelers who are doing the same thing that you are. For those with demanding jobs, having a program that takes care of everything from housing to social events can be quite the draw.

Plus, there’s the whole travel element to consider. You get to live life in another country for a while. The growth and learning that can come from that is priceless.

That said, you’re restricted to the places where these remote work programs operate. So, if you’re looking to travel to a specific, far-flung location, you might struggle finding a program that operates there.

In a similar vein, it’s nice for all of the hassle to be taken care of. But if you’re a hyper-independent person you might find the structure of such a program a bit suffocating for your taste.

However, it’s likely going to be easier to tell your employer that you’ll be on a structured remote work program that comes with guarantees than it could be to sell them on you embarking on a solo travel adventure around the world.

Pros and cons for employers to consider

Just like there are pros and cons for the employee, there are pros and cons for employers as well when it comes to work abroad programs.

Especially if your small business can’t offer some of the same competitive benefits that big companies can, working with your employees to help them do things like this can go a long way.

Let’s start with the positives. First, the structure that they provide will most certainly minimize technology-based interruptions that employees could otherwise contend with that has the potential to get in the way of their work.

Then, there are the perks for the employee. Especially if your small business can’t offer some of the same competitive benefits that big companies can, working with your employees to help them do things like this can go a long way.

But just because a company takes care of the logistics for your employee doesn’t mean that they will for you. Don’t expect them to help you when it comes to paying taxes on your employee in the country where they’re working. You should be prepared to figure tax compliance out on your own.

It’s certainly not a clear path, but it’s important to remember that remote work isn’t going away anytime soon. Even if it comes with extra hurdles, chances are you’re going to get a request like this from a remote worker one of these days. So, why not be prepared to field it?

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