Millions of Americans are quitting their jobs and rethinking what they want when it comes to work and work-life balance. Companies are responding, meeting their employees’ needs in areas like remote work, flexible hours, four-day workweeks, compensation and more. This story is part of a series looking at the “Great Reshuffle” and the shift in workplace culture taking place right now.
For Sevdha Thompson, the average workday can look very different from week to week or month to month.
One week she may be working outside in the Jamaican sun, another she may be at an AirBNB overlooking a Costa Rican rainforest.
As a digital producer of marketing for digital marketing and website design company Coalition Technologies, she can work remotely from anywhere in the world.
“I, for one, love traveling. I have family in many different places,” she said.
“Having that flexibility to be able to spend time with people who are very important to me, in different parts of the globe, it’s of major importance.”
Thompson, currently staying in Orlando, Florida, lived in Los Angeles when she was first hired by Coalition Technologies in July 2020. She then moved to Kingston, Jamaica, to be closer to family during the Covid-19 pandemic. While she considers the Caribbean island her home base, she has also spent time in New Orleans, Atlanta, Panama, Texas and Oklahoma.
She visited Costa Rica for three weeks last year, touring the country and visiting several rainforests. The company’s flexibility with work hours really helped, so she could shift her schedule around, she explained.
“I was able to really delve into many facets of the country and culture that would otherwise be out of reach for the usual tourist,” said Thompson, who is in her early 30s and travels with her fiancé.
“I was able to gain more of a local experience in a lot of these areas because I had more time and flexibility to do so.”
She has also traveled to take jobs for her side gig as a professional Bollywood and belly dancer. When choosing a place to stay in each locale, she makes sure she has a good internet connection. She has worked while on the road as well — from cars, an airport lounge and a boat
While some U.S.-based employees, like Thompson, have used the work-from-anywhere policy to travel, others simply work from where they live. Today, Coalition Technology’s more than 250 workers are spread out across the globe — from the U.S., Canada and Mexico to India, Germany and South Africa.
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The tech company’s policy was borne out of a need to compete against larger firms for talent, said president Jordan Brannon.
Founded in 2009, Coalition Technologies has been remote-first for nearly a decade — a decision that was driven largely by traffic in Los Angeles, where the company was based. As more big tech firms moved into the area, dubbed Silicon Beach, Brannon and his team had to start looking for workers in other cities, states and countries.
“When we’re up against well-funded, VC-funded, publicly traded companies and startups, we really have to be able to source talent in a way that allows us to continue to grow without having, necessarily, a short-term profit objective for shareholders,” Brannon said.
To be sure, work-from-anywhere jobs are uncommon, according to career website FlexJobs. About 95% of remote jobs require employees to be based in a specific location, it found. Geographic requirements may be based on state, city, country or even regions of the country.
There are legal and tax issues to consider, as well as time-zone differences and the ability to be available for in-person staff or client meetings.
Multiple time-zones is one of the biggest challenges facing Coalition Technologies, Brannon said. Most clients are in the U.S. eastern time zone, so schedules for some workers have to shift. They also use a common calendar where employees can sync schedules and coordinate meetings.
The management team also deals with legal, tax and financial issues stemming from the different work locations. For instance, there are regional adjustments for pay based on cost-of-living in a particular area, but there is also the opportunity to earn additional pay based on a team’s performance.
Yet the trade-off is worth it, Brannon said. Not only does it help the company compete for workers, employees are happy. It also enables Coalition Technologies to bring more talented people to client accounts and projects, and staff up quickly since there is a large pool of candidates to choose from, he noted.
“This is something we’ve been committed to for a decade and we don’t have any reason to change,” he said.
Thompson expects to eventually make the U.S. her home again, although she doesn’t know exactly where she’ll land. For now, she’ll stay based in Jamaica, where she can help out with family members, as well continue her travels.
“All of those little things mean a lot,” she said.
“They’re very immeasurable ways to spend your time in which you otherwise couldn’t in a more rigid job structure.”
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Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.