The Xe Guide To Working Abroad

Xe Consumer

March 27, 2019 5 min read

How to Leverage International Assignments and/or a Laptop Lifestyle to Build Your Career

Digital nomad-ism and long-term international assignments are growing trends for ambitious professionals and creatives in 2019. According to a KPMG research study, 83% of international companies offer short-term work assignments abroad, and 97% offer long-term overseas assignments.

For businesses that are making their first forays into global markets, having an internal employee with an explorer's mindset, the courage of a pioneer and the instincts of an entrepreneur is very lucrative.  

Let's take a look at the opportunities and strengths of work-abroad assignments relative to digital nomad freelancers and full-time employees who work remotely at or close to home.

International Work Assignments

International assignments are a great way to:

  • Nurture the careers of future business executives

  • Establish a presence in an emerging market

  • Launch a new product

  • Reward a high-performing employee that has requested an international assignment

The KPMG study found that about 40 percent of international assignments fail, however many of those failures are typical because companies don't track overseas expenses accurately, and don't educate their employees on potential tax, cross-cultural and immigration issues when they are on assignment. Some assignees are cut off EAP programs and health benefits support when they move overseas, which can be profoundly isolating and counterproductive.

Paying employees for expenditures, and either a portion or all of their salary via an international money transfer is an excellent way to maintain accurate records of expenses.

Photo by Trinity Treft / Unsplash
A PWC study found that 71% of millennials expect to experience an international assignment during their career. There is, however disparity in where millennials would want to work, as most would want an assignment in countries like the US, the UK, Australia or Canada. Only if the assignment would have a significant positive impact on their career trajectory would they consent to an assignment in an emerging country like India.  

Frequent overseas travel gets costly, and some employees that commute across borders on a frequent basis regularly get flagged for customs/security reasons and be denied access or visas if they decide to settle in the country on a long-term basis.  For these reasons, longer assignments, though less frequent is preferable to the opposite.

According to an SHRM study, a three-year assignment abroad for a senior professional can easily cost as much as US $3 million including benefits and living expenses.  

Many of the 60% of employees that are sent on a work assignment abroad are so successful there, and they create such a bond with the country they are assigned to that they become "accidental expats." If and when employees do return to their home country, however, their employers should have repatriation programs to get over the "culture shock" of re-acclimating to their native country.

Scott Redmond, the XE Managing Director for North America, moved his family from Australia, and he recently wrote about his experiences as an expat in the United States.

Digital Nomads Living the Laptop Lifestyle

According to a Citrix research report, by 2020, 50% of the workforce will be comprised of remote workers and telecommuters. This shift is in part a result of the ubiquitous nature of the cloud and mobile devices, and in part because of the environmental impact on ever-increasing highway congestion, urban gridlock and commute times.

Photo by Austin Distel / Unsplash
Most Generation Z and millennial employees are very digitally savvy. Many companies are transitioning to having employees work remotely on a regular basis, which saves these companies significant real estate and infrastructure costs.

Whether a freelance writer, application developer or UX designer is working from their home office in the same country as their customer or a coffee house overseas is often a moot point. As long as project milestones are being met and projects are being completed on time, many businesses hiring digital expertise are happy to let their employees or contractors work where ever it suits them.

Digital nomads that change countries on the regular, and digital "slow-mads" that linger in specific countries for long periods of time are becoming more prevalent. Depending on whether they are independent contractors, freelancers or untethered full-time employees, they may be fortunate enough to have healthcare benefits. Others maintain a "home base" in their native country, but travel and work abroad as a location-independent worker.

Is your business considering starting a new venture or launching a new product overseas? Are you considering taking an international assignment, be it a short-term gig as a full-time employee, or a long term work assignment abroad as a contract consultant?

Check out our blog on a regular basis for strategies for expats, accidental expats, and even stealth expats that sometimes work among us.

For fast, easy payments abroad, such as mass payments for payroll or one-time project payments, register for a free account. Whether you are paying rental deposits on a London flat, receiving project payments or sending money to loved ones from overseas, XE Money Transfer enables you to live your best international life. And empowers your business to compete and win in international markets.