Real Leaders

Why “Working on the Road” Can Strengthen Your Team

Seventy percent of millennials who took part in a recent survey stated that the ability to travel was the main motivation for working, second only to paying for necessities such as rent and bills.

But while millennials may be foot-loose and experience-driven, they are also career-minded, ambitious and motivated by jobs that allow them to acquire the skills and knowledge they need to grow both personally and professionally.

Offering flexibility for work schedules and vacations is important for employers who want to attract the best talent out there. Increasingly, companies are allowing and even encouraging employees to work remotely for set periods of time, which is proven to improve morale and productivity.

But instead of simply offering employees the perk of working in pyjamas from their over-priced inner-city apartments a couple of days per week, there are multiple benefits to embedding a company culture that encourages staff to travel and work “on the road” for short periods of time each year.

Here are three reasons encouraging employees to work while travelling could improve a lot more than just team morale:

1. Traveling and working allows your team to grow personally and professionally

According to a recent survey by Hipmunk, 38 percent of millennials travel for business, compared to just 23 percent of Gen Xers and 8 percent of baby boomers. However, Sara Sutton Fell, founder and CEO of FlexJobs states, “From the surveys we’ve done of millennials and flexible work, it’s not so much that they want their jobs to include travel such as traditional business trips to meet clients,” says Sutton Fell. “It’s that they want to be able to travel and still do their jobs.”

While not every job role requires foreign travel, there are multiple opportunities for growth and learning abroad which any employee could benefit from while still doing their normal job remotely, such as visiting foreign branches, business cross-pollination exchanges with companies in the same sphere, networking events and conferences.

Offering the opportunity to represent your company abroad is not only an attractive incentive for talent acquisition, but also has a positive impact on many other levels. Travel experiences increase employee commitment to the organisation, focus and productivity and give a goal for employees to work towards. Travel has been proven to broaden individuals’ horizons, and boost professional and personal growth by placing people out of their comfort zones, and forcing them to adapt to foreign norms, languages and customs.

In the increasingly ‘global’ work ecosystem, sending employees to work and cooperate with, and learn from other companies is a great way of growing your network. Thanks to a growing number of events, conferences and accelerator programs emerging around the world, cooperation and communication is improving in the startup ecosystem. Rather than going head to head, startups are increasingly learning from each other, and gaining inspiration from the innovation of other startups in their sphere.

Encouraging your employees to interact and cooperate with other startups around the world can inspire them to implement ideas spawning from different cultures as well as strengthen their entrepreneurial mindset, which they can transfer back to their work back home.

2. Embedding working ‘on the road’ forces your company to provide real flexibility.

Rigid 9-5 office based schedules are fast becoming a thing of the past. Forward thinking companies are realizing that aside from improving morale, offering flexibility in schedules and for vacations actually improves productivity too. With smartphones, portable devices and increased wireless internet saturation, workers can effectively be plugged into their desk from anywhere, at any time of the day, and if they want to take an afternoon off and catch up over the weekend it shouldn’t affect their overall output.

However, while timetable and vacation flexibility are becoming more common, for many companies they still remain a perk, to be taken advantage of or not at the employee’s discretion. Leading companies like Netflix, Best Buy and Virgin are pioneering “unlimited vacations” a policy which on face value appears attractive to experience-driven millennial employees, and talent-hunting managers alike. But critics argue that in reality this tricks employees into taking less vacations, isn’t applicable to all industries and is hard to implement fairly across teams.

For early stage startups the limitations posed by skeleton teams and limited resources can often make ‘unlimited vacations’ unrealistic, but if working trips are embedded in your company culture, your company will be forced to make this flexibility part of day to day operations.

Rather than being forced to hastily organize cover and shift responsibilities at the last minute before someone takes vacations, your company needs to have systems in place to accommodate remote working. These include rolling out communication tools like Slack, and using shareable documents like Google Docs and Excel which can be accessed by different employees easily. Employees working remotely can easily join team meetings and brainstorming sessions via Skype or Google Hangouts, and tools like even allow for screen sharing and interactive online whiteboards for conference calls.

3. Traveling and working allows you to attract the best talent

Attracting and retaining talent is becoming more challenging. As the demand for qualified professionals with specific skills grows – especially for development and technical roles – so do potential candidates’ expectations in terms of flexibility, work environment and many other perks that go way beyond financial compensation.

Adam Kingl, director of learning solutions at the London Business School argues “With younger workers being fully aware that you can email or call someone from anywhere, the idea of working differently becomes a criterion that people are expressly looking for before they’ll sign on the dotted line, it’s not a perk or reward.”

Modern employees want the whole package. As well as being paid appropriately, they expect to work in environments where they can learn, challenge themselves, and fulfill their own personal goals, whether that be initiating their own projects, or travelling the world.

Until recently, employees who wanted to take an extended trip needed to quit their jobs, or take unpaid sabbaticals. However, startups like Remote Year, now offer ‘round the world’ year long digital nomad experiences, and can arrange openings with leading companies for people with specialized skill sets as well as entry-level employees. Similarly, Embark, We Roam, and Hacker Paradise offer shorter couple of weeks to twelve months experiences in Latin America, Europe and Asia. To stay competitive, attract and keep ahold of experience driven millennials, offering the chance to travel while working remotely could put your company in good stead with potential employees, who want to discover the world, but also develop their careers.

Managing remote teams has its challenges, and will require extensive training and adoption of new tools to facilitate team members being away from home base for extended periods. However, the benefits of encouraging team members to spend time in foreign countries outweigh the challenges. So instead of worrying which talented employees are getting cold feet and will move on to new adventures, allow them to pick up their backpack, their laptop and get out there, with the knowledge they will come back even better than before.

By Juliana Hernandez and Juan Nates, co-founders of  


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