With the remote working trend picking up more than ever before, a large number of employees are opting to work from outside of the US while still reaping the benefits of working for a US company. In fact, experts predict that by 2020, remote employees will constitute 50 percent of the American workforce. Choosing an expat life of travel isn’t for everyone, but working for a US company while living abroad definitely does have its set of perks. Personally, I’ve made the same choice, and so I’m going to share some of the pros and cons of living abroad while working remotely for an American company:
Exchange rate in your favour
Probably the biggest benefit of working for a US company while living elsewhere is that you will be earning your income in dollars. Considering the dollar is one of the strongest currencies out there, the money you make will go a long way if you live in another country, especially developing ones. A salary that is seen as “average” within the US itself will push you into the “upper class” bracket in most developing countries, just by virtue of the exchange rate regularly being in your favor. This means your standard of living can significantly improve, and you will be able to save a good portion of your income every month for the future.
Of course, you’ll have to deal with international payment issues — in my case, I had to research how to get properly paid in India and navigate some taxation complexities — but once you’ve figured out the legalities, it’s easy to implement a simple process of receiving payment. In this way, you will earn a lot more working the same profession for a US-based firm than you would were you to be employed in a similar profession in your home country.
One of the great things about working for a US company while being based elsewhere is the flexibility it provides. A traditional career is quite rigid in nature, with fixed schedules and having to work from a particular office space. Working remotely, on the other hand, offers an unprecedented level of freedom and flexibility. According to Quickbooks, employers that allow for telecommuting actually stand to benefit themselves, as they have access to a wider talent pool since distance from office isn’t an issue. It can even save the company money, since employees must use their own equipment. Telecommuting also results in a lower turnover rate.
Be it the the beach shacks that line Southeast Asia’s coasts, or in my case, the colonial cafes that dot Mumbai’s bustling downtown neighborhood, all you need is a steady internet connection and laptop to power through the day. Studies show that these environments will lead to overall higher job satisfaction, often making you more productive than in a traditional office setting.
Increased time and money for your passion
Remote working is the perfect way to supplement your passion. In an ideal world, you’d be able to make a living by simply pursuing your passion. Unfortunately, this isn’t possible for the vast majority of employees. The lack of passion in the workplace is one of the reasons why millennials are constantly considering career changes; in fact today’s young adults change jobs approximately seven times in the early parts of their careers.
In my example, I was able to work for a US company while traveling around areas famous for scuba diving (my passion). The income generated from working part time in scuba diving wouldn’t have enabled me to continue to sustain the type of lifestyle I am comfortable living. However, the ability to work from anywhere, as well as earning my income in dollars, made it possible for me to afford to travel, dive and still have some savings left over. In this way, I’m able to work while also spending time doing what I love, which in turn encourages me to be productive and earn my keep.
Time difference and time lag
One of the most problematic aspects of working for an overseas company is the time difference. In my case, the average time difference is about 12 hours, which means I’m almost a whole work-day ahead of my colleagues in the US. The time difference can be combated with email and other tools, but there’s a definite time lag when it comes to communication. For example, a work question that might arise on my Monday morning will only get answered during what is my Monday nighttime. These are things that any employee quickly learns to deal with and plan for, but can be stifling to your workflow at first.
Lack of office environment and company culture
Standing true for any remote job, the lack of an office environment can be daunting and demotivating at times. Nathan Gervais, a remote worker from Appnovation accurately describes his experience working from outside the office, “When you work in an office building this structure is created for you, everyone generally shows up at the same time, eats lunch together and leaves around the same time. Your day is easily encapsulated by the environment you are in. When working from home you need to be the office manager as well as the employee.” The lack of office environment sometimes makes it very difficult to prepare your mind for a “work day.”
Furthermore, US-based companies tend to have a lot of company and team-bonding events that become a part of an employee’s social life even after work hours. Some events my company promotes include gym sessions, team breakfasts and sponsored lunches. Being away means being unable to participate in these activities, which in turn creates a marked distance between you and your colleagues. While it is possible to keep in touch via social media, you will never feel fully integrated within the company as those that are actually present within its offices.
Limited growth opportunities
If you plan to work for an overseas companies while living abroad for an extended period of time, limited growth opportunities is something you will have to consider. While most companies don’t discriminate between employees working in-office and remotely, the reality of the situation is that you won’t have that comfortable rapport with managers/superiors as opposed to your other colleagues. This translates into them being preferred over you when it comes to filling up promotional openings within departments, while you may stay at the same position for a longer period. For millennials, who find the remote work lifestyle appealing but also place a high emphasis on moving up (otherwise, moving out) this can be create a career dilemma. On the other hand, considering you will be earning in dollars and making enough to live well, this isn’t always a bad thing. However, it is something you might want to keep in mind before rushing to move overseas and work remotely.
Even though this sort of work setting may not suit everyone, I’ve found that working for a US company while living abroad can be extremely rewarding in both a professional and personal way. Like anything else, it has its benefits and disadvantages — but if you’re able to balance the two out into a situation that suits you, you might find that you enjoy the lifestyle it yields.
Akshata Mehta has a passion for traveling and exploring the world. She loves to scuba dive, and is always on the lookout for her next diving adventure. Being a foodie, she spends a good amount of time cooking up concoctions in her kitchen, recording her recipes and travel adventures on her blog, With Love From Akshata.