Working from anywhere: SAP uncovers secret life of employees

SAP Concur research has uncovered the number of employees 'working from anywhere'
Eye-opening new research from SAP Concur has revealed the extent to which European employees are ‘working from anywhere’ without telling their employers

The COVID-19 pandemic and resultant stay-at-home orders ushered in a new era of remote and hybrid working

But now, eye-opening new research from SAP Concur has revealed the extent to which European employees are ‘working from anywhere’ without telling their employer, with the majority (58%) agreeing it would be easy for them to incorrectly report the number of days they spend working abroad.

What’s more, it seems staff are tactically covering their tracks, with more than two in five (41%)  admitting they avoid social media activity to hide their location to colleagues. Almost half (47%) admit to applying a virtual background to cover up their real location, while a third (33%) work unsociable hours to account for time zone differences.

“It’s clear that employees are itching to travel, with many happy to secretly work from anywhere to do so,” comments Rob Harrison, Managing Director for the UK & Ireland at SAP Concur.  “With this employee desire in mind, it’s easy to see why many organisations are implementing policies around it. 

“Allowing employees to work from abroad presents exciting opportunities, but also brings with it certain risks. There are immediate complications related to taxation, but considerations should go beyond that – with HR and finance teams also needing to consider data privacy or their duty of care regarding health and safety.”

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Employers want to work from anywhere – and are doing so secretly

In carrying out its research, SAP Concur spoke to 1,670 decision-makers working in HR and finance across the UK, Benelux (Belgium and The Netherlands), DACH (Germany and Switzerland), France, Italy, the Nordics (Denmark, Finland and Sweden) and Spain.

The software developer made a series of striking discoveries in regards to the desirability of working from anywhere, with two-thirds (66%) of employees stating they would be willing to accept a salary reduction to permanently do so.

Other key findings include:

  • Almost a third (31%) cite ‘work from anywhere’ as a key perk in the workplace, ranking it above other core benefits such as pension contributions (27%)
  • Around a fifth (18%) of employees have worked from anywhere without telling their employer over the past 12 months; leaders predict this figure to be just 7%
  • Six days is the average number of days that employers have knowingly worked from anywhere 
  • Almost two-thirds (65%) of HR and finance leaders are concerned about employees incorrectly reporting the number of days they are working from anywhere

How to fix the ‘work from anywhere’ problem

SAP Concur’s research at least shows employees have a satisfactory understanding of their company’s work from anywhere policies. Almost two-thirds (65%) understand how often they are allowed to work remotely from anywhere, while the same proportion understand what they can and can’t expense while doing so. 

However, there exists a gap in employee knowledge around tax implications. Just 8% of staff members consider penalties for themselves or their employer – because they unconsciously neglected tax regulations while working from anywhere – as a top risk. 

Leaders strongly feel that adjusted business processes (including finance), better expense management technology and more training are required to allow their people to feasibly work from anywhere. 

“To navigate these unchartered waters, organisations should look to automated travel and expense management technology providers who can help them to gain better visibility into expenses while ensuring compliance with policies and regulations,” adds Harrison. 

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