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What challenges will you face if you want to let your employees work from any corner of the world?

We already in June gave permission for all its employees to work from home without limits even after the quarantine, as of September will give its employees even more freedom to choose where to work – whether at the company’s offices in Vilnius, Kaunas or Šiauliai, from home in Lithuania, or from any country of the world.

And if at the start of the quarantine, when all NFQ people moved to working from home, it seemed like it would be simple to introduce long-term unlimited work from home and work from any country in the world, doing so in practice has shown that daring to implement such a liberal policy means facing a whole list of challenges not just within the organization but also externally. The principal ones are legal, political and technical issues of work safety, data security, infrastructure, communications security, and team dynamics and work productivity.

“Just like our unlimited work from home policy, this one too –freedom to choose over a broader geographical range– also brings with it an added, broader element of employee responsibility. The responsibility to coordinate work schedules and tasks with one’s managers and team, the responsibility to keep promises to the team and customers, and, of course, the responsibility to not forget to care of oneself: to balance work and rest, take care of one’s health and loved ones,” says Paulius Insoda, the CEO of NFQ Technologies.

“I’m pleased that at NFQ we’re challenging the status quo and boldly adopting new possibilities. What once seemed not easy at all to implement is now within arm’s length, which once more goes to show that we aren’t afraid to grow, to learn, to find new ways of organizing work, and that we trust each other in going down this path,” Mr. Insoda adds.

He notes that, when they have the possibility to change their work setting, employees’ satisfaction and motivation increase. A survey by the analytics firm Gallup, for example, found employees who work remotely can be 20-25% more productive and the same amount happier than those working in the office.

The head of NFQ agreed to share the key moments that are worth taking care of before any significant part of an organization’s people set off to work from abroad long term. 

How long does an employee working from abroad legally remain employed in Lithuania?

For an employee of a company registered in Lithuania who goes to work from a foreign country long term to not lose their legal status of being permanently employed in Lithuania and for the employer to not have to legally formalize the employee’s permanent employment there, the Lithuanian employee may not work in the foreign country for more than 6 months a year. Otherwise, the employer can consider the possibility of registering a subsidiary of the company in the foreign country where their employer is working or arranging for the employee’s taxes also to the country from which the Lithuanian employee is working.

How to handle the issue of different time zones?

In considering allowing employees to work not just in Lithuania but also remotely from abroad, the question of time-zone compatibility naturally arises. In order for an employee to be able to work as part of a team and at the same time feel comfortable, it was agreed within the organization at NFQ that the employee will agree with their direct manager on specific hours when they will be accessible to the team in Lithuania.

How to ensure secure data transfer for someone who is working abroad?

As an IT company, a secure data-transfer connection is just about the most important factor in determining the real possibilities for employees to do their work securely not just from Lithuania, where NFQ has set up secure infrastructure, but also from any foreign country. As is known, VPN communications are blocked in some countries. So before an employee sets off to work from a foreign country for any longer period, it is important to assess the situation and find alternatives for secure data transfer, if there are any in the employee’s chosen country.

“Under NFQ’s Work From Anywhere policy, our employees can work from any foreign country and there are no countries we’ll forbid working from. But employees must be able to perform their job function from the chosen foreign country. Factors that can limit choice geographically may include legal restrictions (work visas), political issues (military considerations in the chosen territory), and questions of internet speed and cybersecurity,” Mr. Insoda explains.

“For example, for some employees a condition will hold: those employees whose work requires connecting to systems via a VPN secure data-transfer connection, in planning to go to countries where VPN doesn’t work, will have to work together with our team of system administrators to find an alternative to the standard VPN connection to ensure secure transfer of data and the security of the data itself,” he continues.

Countries where VPN use may be restricted include Belarus, China, Iran, Iraq, Oman, Russia, Turkey, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela. So employees whose work requires a VPN connection cannot work in those countries if they do not find an alternative secure connection.

What to do if an employee’s productivity falls or their results weaken?

Among the biggest doubts that may arise in an organization when deciding whether to introduce the opportunity to freely choose a geographical workplace is the issue of employee productivity. In the case of the NFQ organization, employees’ managers were left with the right to shorten an employee’s time abroad working on the Work From Anywhere policy if they see clearly that while working remotely the employee’s performance clearly deteriorates. But based on years of experience, in practice we do expect to have to do that.

“We’re a trust-based company to the very roots of our organization. We’ve accumulated long years of experience of work both at offices and remotely, and we know that our employees accept freedom responsibly. And a company’s results rise when the people who work there are happy. After all, you won’t solve the most complex problems or make good decisions when you’re overly tired or when an employee needs something but due to formalities it’s not allowed,” Mr. Insoda notes

How to arrange for an employee’s healthcare in other countries?

NFQ employees who go to work outside the territory of Lithuania (where their compulsory health insurance and private health insurance for NFQ employees are both in effect) will be provided with essential care in foreign countries free of charge.

Moreover, in case of illness, an employee who is working abroad can use the SoDra e-system to submit the required documents remotely and obtain official, paid sick leave.

How to ensure safe use of the equipment needed for work?

To provide the equipment needed for work in a foreign country and ensure its safe use, it is important to plan strategically not just how the employee will take the equipment with them, but also what will have to be done if it fails in a place geographically far from offices of the company, where it could be repaired or replaced without difficulty. At NFQ we have a list of certified hardware maintenance companies all over the world with local offices that could quickly repair or replace the equipment an employee needs. In sending equipment abroad to employees from Lithuania, from the company’s offices, it is important not to forget to first declare the equipment at customs.

The security of the data stored in an employee’s computers is a separate issue. It is important in the organization to plan in advance for how ensure the security of data if an employee’s hardware is, for instance, stolen.

“In arranging such a large-scale opportunity covering the entire organization to allow employees who traditionally work in offices to freely choose to work from any country of the world, questions come up that otherwise would never arise. We realize it’s impossible to foresee and prepare for all possible situations, so in applying our new Work From Anywhere policy, we eagerly await new discoveries and challenges, which we will overcome, finding and acquiring both new ways of working and useful experiences,” Paulius Insoda concludes.