How to build custom benefits strategies for remote teams

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Your company is growing faster than ever, and you’re adding new team members from all around the world. Sound familiar?

Or maybe you’re looking to hire your first international employees, but you’re worried about the complexities of things like benefits.

Wherever you are in the growth and hiring phase, one thing is certain: You want to attract the world’s best talent and need guidance on how to hire global workers the right way. Fortunately, the people experts at Remote are here to demystify the process. This article will help you offer competitive, culturally aware benefits packages to ensure all your employees feel like they belong in your organization, no matter where they live.


Compliance and statutory benefits

When hiring internationally, the first question to ask is: Should this worker be an employee or a contractor?

In many countries, hiring someone as a contractor can create big business risks. Not only does working with contractors in other countries make it harder to protect your business’s intellectual property, but doing so also opens the door to issues of misclassification, which can lead to fines and other penalties. Beyond that, many workers are looking for the stability and benefits that come from long-term employment. Hiring your international workers as employees instead of contractors confirms they are valued members of your team.

Once you hire an international employee, though, you have to consider the statutory benefits required in their country – and every country has its own requirements. Keeping up to date with requirements while finding the right vendors for things like healthcare and pensions can be a challenge.

That’s why global hiring requires extensive research and planning. It’s also why working with a partner with owned local entities is critical to help you stay compliant in every country where you hire.


Competitive supplemental benefits

What should you offer your global workers beyond statutory benefits?

Supplemental benefits set you apart from your competitors when hiring. “Benefits are the key to creating an environment that makes talent gravitate toward your organization,” says J. Michael McMillan, global hiring specialist at Remote. “The appropriate investments in your people’s well-being will pay both intangible and monetary dividends.”

Competitive supplemental benefits for distributed teams include:

  • Life insurance

  • Travel insurance

  • Mental healthcare

  • Coaching

  • Pensions

  • Matched retirement (like a 401k in the US)

  • “Work from anywhere” policies

If you can’t find a vendor that will support a benefit in a given country, you can offer your employees who live there a stipend to help them address those needs. For example, in many countries, it’s more common to provide employees with a stipend for a private health insurance policy than to offer an employer-sponsored plan.

Additionally, consider offering your employees stipends for things like their home office setups and continuing education. A good ergonomic chair, desk and second monitor can boost employee productivity and morale, and learning opportunities will help them bring new knowledge and skills to the workplace.

Many companies still don’t offer robust supplemental benefits to their international workers, but that’s a mistake that might cost them their best talent and hurt their ability to scale. As Bruce Gilbert, director of benefits at Remote, says, “Don’t just look at benefits as an extra cost. Having the right benefits protects the financial, physical and mental health of your employees and is important for your overall business.”


Flexibility as a benefit

In the post-2020 era of work, employees expect remote work and flexibility by default. When done right through company policy, flexibility is a huge benefit that companies can use to attract top talent and keep their workers happy in the long term.

“Flexibility means that workers don't just work at specific times that suit their organization; they work at the times that suit them as individuals,” says Nadia Vatalidis, director of people at Remote. “Companies need to be leaning into asynchronous and flexible work as a benefit instead of requiring employees to be online from 9 to 5, Monday through Friday.”

More than anything, people want to know that their companies respect their work-life balance and wellness. That starts with flexibility. “You have to consider the modern benefits that every single employee in the world requires right now, which is support with mental health and wellness,” says Vatalidis.

The flexibility to tend to personal and family needs during the day instead of sitting at one's desk until their boss signs off is one of the best benefits you can offer your workers to show that you care about their overall wellness.


Paid time off policies

Paid time off (PTO) goes hand in hand with flexibility. Generous paid time off policies help your people handle major life events (especially important during a pandemic) and give them the space they need to recharge. When you normalize taking time off as part of your workplace culture, you are rewarded with more loyal, more productive and happier employees.

If you’re going to offer unlimited paid time off, be sure to include a minimum number of days so employees actually feel comfortable taking that time away from work. In addition, leaders must regularly and visibly adhere to the minimum time off rules to ensure employees feel comfortable taking the time allotted to them. Supplement PTO policies with separate parental leave policies and consider instating a company-wide policy for self-care days to help employees deal with potential burnout.


Making global benefits scalable

Ultimately, your global benefits plan needs to be scalable for employees across your organization and across the globe. In the context of benefits, scalability means not having to switch vendors continuously.

“It will almost always take 12 months to change vendors, and 12 months is a long time to be stuck with any vendor that does not meet your needs,” says Vatalidis. “Lean into research, quality and potentially slightly more expensive vendors to ensure you have longevity on what you offer.”


If you are looking for a partner to advise you on how to offer competitive, culturally aware, scalable benefits to your global employees, Remote can help. Find out how you can work with Remote to scale your global team at Remote.com.

Job van der Voort

Job van der Voort

is the CEO and co-founder of Remote, the company making global employment accessible for businesses of all sizes. Job previously worked as a neuroscientist before leaving academia to become the VP of Product at GitLab, the world’s largest all-remote company, where he hired talent in 67 different countries. Job is the dad of two children. Reach Job on Twitter @Jobvo.

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