Last week, when you could not fall asleep because you felt overwhelmed by the increasing number of items on your to-do list, you had the brilliant idea to buy post-its and start to plan your next four weeks. Then, you also thought about writing down your “Top 25 Priorities”

You already felt a little relieved and fell asleep. But did you actually do what you planned the day after?

I bet you didn’t do it even if you thought it was a great idea.

The good news is that what happened to you last week happens to most of us too. The bad news is that when you do this in your personal life, you are more inclined to do the same in your professional life as well.

We accept a mediocre solution or we try to put a plaster on a process instead of analyzing the root cause of the issue.

According to Schwartz et al (2014), the great majority of companies see this phenomenon as a challenge to productivity and overall performance, but struggles to handle it. According to Deloitte, over half of the organisations say that “their organizations are not doing a good job helping workers address information overload and today’s demanding work environment.”

57 percent believe their organizations are “weak” when it comes to helping leaders manage difficult schedules and supporting employees manage information flow.

Have we lost all of our ideals of Total Quality Management? Do you know about Kanban Boards? Do you know how to visualize process flows?

We need to learn how to become more productive and we need to learn it now. If, like me, you are always eager to receive tips on how to increase your productivity, check this podcast out.

Kanban 

Kanban is a lean method which originated in lean manufacturing. Lean was inspired by the Toyota Production System. It aims at managing work by balancing demands with available capacity, and by improving the handling of system-level bottlenecks. 

In knowledge work and in software development, the aim is to provide a visual process management system which facilitates decision-making about what, when, and how much to produce.

Among the most important characteristics is that work items are visualized to provide a view of progress and process, from start to finish, usually through a Kanban board. Indeed, in Japanese, kanban means “signboard” or “billboard.” So, we will just use Kanban going forward.

Kanban 

A colorful, tidy and good-looking kanban is one of the most effective tools in project management. It can be used to plan and work through any project. Try to visualize your next move to Singapore on a Kanban too. 

Kanban boards visually display a certain process in its various stages using cards to represent work items and columns to represent each phase of the process. Cards are moved from left to right to show progress and to help coordinate teams performing the work. 

Simple boards have vertical columns for the “to-do”, “doing”, and “done” work.  Alternatively, they may be labelled “waiting”, “in progress” and “completed”.

Complex Kanban boards can also be divided into horizontal “swim lanes” representing different types of work or different teams performing the work. Additionally, it can subdivide the “in progress” work into multiple columns to visualise the flow of work across a whole value stream map.

Seven Core Practices for Kanban

We suggest six core practices for you to become a master of Kanban. We still practice this in our team so don’t assume you have to be perfect from the start.

  1. Visualize the flow of work. You cannot work on a Kanban, either physical or electronic, if you cannot visualize the process steps needed to deliver your work. Depending on the complexity of your process and your work-mix, your Kanban can be very simple or very elaborate. Once you visualize your process, then you can visualize the current work that you and your team are doing.
  2. Use colors. Use post-its in different colors for different types of projects. Or, if you decide to use this tool for personal life projects, consider using different colors for different kinds of activities (orange for the projects you wish to complete at home, yellow for your children’s requests, and so on).
  3. Limit WIP (Work in Progress). It’s important to reduce WIP to a minimum to encourage yourself and your team to complete work at hand first before taking up new work. Work currently in progress must be completed and marked done. This creates capacity in the system, so that you can focus on new tasks. Limiting WIP helps you finish what they are doing already before taking up new stuff. This practice is also useful because it communicates to the customer and other stakeholders that there is limited capacity to do work, and they need to plan carefully what work they ask you or your team to do.
  4. Manage Flow. A Kanban helps you manage flow by highlighting the various phases of the workflow and the status of work in every single phase. Based on how well you defined the workflow and set the limits to WIP, you will observe either a smooth flow of processes or work piling up as a bottleneck. Kanban helps you analyze the system and adjust their work accordingly to improve flow. In this way, you will manage to reduce the time it takes to complete each task. By improving flow, your delivery of work becomes smoother and more predictable, making it easier to communicate to your customer when you will manage to get any work done. You will also automatically increase your reliability to your customers’ eyes.
  5. Make Process Policies Explicit. Visualize explicitly your policies, process rules or guidelines for how you do your work. In this way, you create common ground for all those involved in the process to understand how to work in the system. The various policies can be at the board level or at a “swim lane” level or for each column. Examples of explicit policies are: what defines a task complete, what describes individual “swim lanes” or columns, who pulls when, etc. 
  6. Implement Feedback Loops. This practice is an essential part of any good system. Kanban encourages and helps you implement different types of feedback loops. If you want to deliver the right work in the shortest possible time, it’s crucial to get feedback early, especially if you ended up on the wrong track.
  7. Improve Collaboratively, Evolve Experimentally (using the scientific method). The Kanban helps you implement small changes and improve gradually in a way that is sustainable for you and your team. It encourages you to form a hypothesis, test it and make changes according to the results you obtain. In a few words, it aims at tackling issues through a scientific method. As an individual or team who aims at being agile, it’s fundamental that you evaluate your process continuously and improve as much as needed.

Notable tools

This is a list of tools that implement the Kanban method. You can test some of them for free.

  • Asana, with boards.
  • Azure DevOps Server, an integrated ALM-platform for managing work in and across multiple teams.
  • CA Technologies Rally, provides teams with the option of managing pull-based, lean software development projects.
  • Unicom Focal Point, a portfolio management and product management tool.
  • Jira (software), provides kanban boards.
  • Microsoft Planner, a planning application available on the Microsoft Office 365 platform.
  • Pivotal Tracker provides kanban boards.
  • Projektron BCS, project management tool, provides kanban boards for tickets and tasks.
  • Trello, cards-based project management.
  • Tuleap, an agile open source tool for development teams: customize board columns, set WIP (Work In Progress), connect board with Issue Trackers, Git, Documents.
  • Twproject (formerly Teamwork), project and groupware management tool.
  • Wrike, an Agile Collaborative Work Management Platform.

Resources

If you want to learn more about Kanban: 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanban_(development)

If you want to learn more about Kanban implementations and Kanban boards:

If you want to know why you should use Kanban in marketing https://business901.com/blog1/why-you-should-use-kanban-in-marketing/

If you think your lack of digital competencies is affecting your productivity:

If you’re curious to know more about the benefits of handwriting: https://www.fastcompany.com/90389979/5-times-when-using-paper-and-a-pen-is-better-than-using-an-app

References

Piper, J. (2018). Focus in the age of distraction: 35 tips to focus more and work less. Panoma Press, St. Albans.

Schwartz J. et al. (2018, Aug. 4), ‘The overwhelmed employee: Simplify the work environment.’ Deloitte University Press. 

Hotel Des Finances

As we already mentioned in previous posts “Digital Nomads” are the new black in Global Mobility.  A survey from MBO partners revealed that, only in the US, 4.8 citizens identify as Digital Nomads, while in the UK, the Trades Union Congress calculated that remote workers grew by almost 250,000 between 2005 and 2015. While in one of their Facebook Groups like FEMALE DIGITAL NOMADS I sometimes come across horror stories of visa issues, assaults and taxation issues

The idea of working from a beach in Croatia, a hut in Estonia or below palms in the Bermudas seems an attractive vision for Millenials. However, even trying to log-in to my G-Hangout from South Tyrole or sometimes even Germany can bring down that fantasy castle (in which I also look 20 years younger, have 20 kilos less and my nails are always immaculately painted red).

Despite being almost 50, I aspire to become a Digital Nomad as well so I thought I should dig deeper into what that actually means. We therefore present a series on the topic. 

  • Part 1 deals with the mindset you need to run a “Company of One”,
  • Part 2 explains the technical Global Mobility aspects of being a “Digital Nomad”,
  • Part 3 focuses on one method to become more productive which is the Kanban-style.

Paul Jarvis is one of my favourite creators. I read his “Sunday Dispatches”. I love his online course Chimpessentials, which taught me almost everything you are seeing on the Global People Club Sandwich and which also encouraged me to continue writing to you on a weekly basis by email in the age of social media.

I ordered several of his artistic books already. The latest book “Company of One” was a special delight. Okay, I might be crushing a bit on Paul J. He has an amazing voice too.  However, you really should read the book and follow him. Paul is one of the creators who runs a business from an island in Canada and is very successful with it.

I finally got confirmation that all I had done over the last 10 years as an entrepreneur was not completely wrong. No, instead of founding a “scalable startup” I had founded a “company of one”. And I believe that scaling is possible in my business. However, if I want to continue to stay aligned with my mission of bringing the human touch back into Global Mobility, I cannot scale, automate and robotize everything.

“Au contraire…” (you need to say this with a glass of Rosé in your hand), I really believe that Paul Jarvis hit the nail right in. There are companies who can and should stay small because otherwise they might lose their special “umpf”. And you know what I noticed? This is not a question of what kind of business you have right now. It’s more about where you are heading. If you are dreaming about leading a digital nomad life where you can live in the Italian countryside near a vineyard, spend the summer on Long Island, the winter in Kashmir and a lot more time in between with your elderly family members…then my friend you need to start to take action now.

When I decided to go fully digital in 2018 I knew that I would need to take a few side turns and that this will not happen from one day to another. What I hadn’t anticipated though was that I actually am quite old-school and that I prefer human interaction over online interaction. 

I also noticed that the more I work online (and COVID-19 has brought this to an extreme – online and at home 100% of my work time – ), the more I feel a need to write stuff on post-it notes and use paper to organize myself. For example, I used a Kindle a few years ago. This year during my vacation I had it with me but I preferred to read paper-books. I journal in a diary and I only use my laptops for calls and managing my business. When I now have to present I even print the presentation before because I don’t seem to see enough detail on my laptop.

However, the main idea to have a digital business that I could run from anywhere has been magnified by the corona crisis. Still, the main reason that keeps me in one city right now is my professional network and that a basic income needs to be made every month.

I think Paul is right. Obviously, it depends on your business model and if you are a creator, an artist or a programmer.  I love the creative part of my business but over the last few years I also always had to have enough “billable” time to make a living in one of the most expensive cities in the world. 

My friends in corporate are all wealthier now than I am and I have doubted myself a lot and I’m still not sure how I will manage to survive during my retirement. You might think now that I’m exaggerating and maybe you think that it can’t be that difficult with all my contacts and all the income streams that I have created. You might be right. 

However, I live in a very security-oriented environment and I also come from a family which was poor after the second world war so I have to practice to shake off this insecurity-poverty-story.

For me, the best way to get out of that spiral is through continuous education and ongoing learning. I notice that I am growing when I am implementing new technology or improving programs or just see faster progress with my clients because I could show them a hack. I buy into organic growth because it allows me to maintain my quality standards. In the corporate world I often see a lot of back and forth and low quality products. This is not what I want to create with my team.

How much income is enough?

As I’ve been following Paul’s work for a while I have been asking myself the “enough” question a lot. You probably heard me say this before but my relationship with money completely changed when I became an entrepreneur. I would say that I need only 60% of the monthly income that I needed when I was employed. The main reason, aside from lowering my base costs, is that I feel a lot more satisfied with my life since I started my business. 

Helping you directly through writing, coaching and training makes me happy.

Paul Jarvis asks three questions:

  • How much is enough?
  • How will I know when I got there?
  • What will change if I do?

He explains how he maintains a minimalist lifestyle and how this helps him to save and reinvest while also allowing him to take extended offline periods over the summer and winter. I’m working on getting better at taking these longer breaks as well.

I translated this into ongoing questions on what I would like to achieve financially in my business and when we are there it will help to have a buffer as well. My minimum income is 60k CHF gross. This allows me to survive, not necessarily thrive and the minimum turnover for that is around 140k CHF. You might need to calculate this for yourself but interestingly enough the minimum salary is exactly what has been determined as a substance for people living in Switzerland. 

I usually say that you should have 100k CHF in the bank before starting a business full-time. At the time I started mine, I needed this buffer to get through the first few years. Later on, I would find regular income mainly through consulting projects, interim mandates and classroom lectures or workshops. 

Now, these are usually onsite so they won’t fit a long-term digital nomad strategy. So for me the last question is easily answered: Once I have enough income to stop working onsite in consulting projects and I have a buffer for hard times I will be able to move around more in the world.

How can you digitize even further?

I think it is important that you go through your idea or your current offering and check if you can offer the same service remotely or not. For example if you are a consultant or coach, you might find it easy to digitize your sessions with clients by offering an online course or coaching via ZOOM.

However, if you lecture or run brainstorming sessions it might take more effort to change these sessions to online sessions. Or if you sell actual products, you might need a warehouse or similar production facilities. If you identify those you can start to think about replacing those income sources with digital income streams. You should consider active and passive income. 

Most of you will probably have either no business yet, or a business that could be a “Company of One”. In order for you to become a “Digital Nomad” you need to solve a lot more issues than if you just stayed in your home country. Assuming that you are an expat or expat spouse in Switzerland we will show you next week five technical aspects that you will need to consider if you want to become a digital nomad and run a location-independent business.

For now, I would start with the question of determining whether you want to have a home base and where that should be. I think that you probably also need a “home base”, a place you can call “home” and return to. This will also be relevant for taxation purposes. Your business needs a home as well.

Then I want you to start thinking like a CEO. If you are thinking about starting a company of one, I would suggest that we have a coaching conversation. Let’s have a 15-minute chat to see where you are at right now.

Resources 

https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/high-salaries-aren-t-what-they-seem-in-switzerland/45810010#.XzoYb0AgLTc.whatsapp

https://ofone.co/

https://www.audible.de/pd/Company-of-One-Hoerbuch/B07KFLTK58?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIxd7U_aWW6wIVyAJ7Ch3tsAcnEAAYASAAEgKb5PD_BwE&source_code=GAWOR12604212090BN&ipRedirectOverride=true&ef_id=XP4aQwAAAEgLUl39:20200812182957:s

https://www.investopedia.com/terms/d/digital-nomad.asp

https://tandemnomads.com/podcast/tn75-how-to-legally-set-up-portable-business/

https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/home-working-fifth-over-last-decade-tuc-analysis-reveals

References

Jarvis, P. (2019): Company of One.


How many times do you open your inbox and find over a hundred unread emails? And how often do you “clean your inbox” just to find it overflowing with emails again the day after? One of the reasons why I get stressed around emails is that I spend a whole day in a workshop and I cannot check my emails because it would distract my mind too much. Then I check my emails after the workshop, when I am already exhausted and know that I have a lot of tasks and queries to handle. When I worked in the corporate world I would often have a day full of meetings and calls and come back to my desk at 5 or 6 PM and “started to work productively”. Or, you probably know this: it’s Friday, 4.30 PM,  you are just about to start your weekend and then you see this one email and it keeps you at your desk for another hour. Your partner in the meantime is waiting for you to help with the groceries or wants you to be home early so that you can greet your friends that are coming by for dinner. There are different reasons why our body shows stress reactions and I thought it would help to break this phenomenon down to help you deal with it.

 

If you experience high levels of stress when you find too many unread emails in your inbox, you should know that you’re not alone. In fact, the phenomenon is so widespread that it became known as inbox anxiety

Inbox Anxiety Came with Emails

 

When emails were invented in the 1970s, nobody had a clue of how radically they were going to change the way we work. In time, they have become such an ubiquitous tool that, depending on your seniority, there’s a chance that you haven’t even experienced work without emails. I personally remember the days when we did not have emails at work yet and I went through several tech upgrades since then (desktop, laptop, blackberry, smartphone). Despite more than 25 years of experience with the technology I still don’t know exactly what to do when I get certain emails. One ground rule I established early in my career was: when I am angry I don’t send a response. I wait until I feel calm again. In fact, when I then go through the same email with a fresher approach, I sometimes even notice a certain positivity that I had overlooked earlier. 

 

You might be surprised that our generation still relies so much on email but inbox anxiety doesn’t only refer to email now.

 

I have several other professional inboxes to manage as well (Facebook, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, XING, four email accounts, professional messages on FB pages, Instagram and Twitter direct messages). Sometimes, I feel like I should change my job description to “emailer”. 

 

With the Corona-crisis and the need to work from home, most of us probably worked even more with emails and messages than usual and despite the general reply-to-all rule in some organisations this is still not done so you are falling off a thread and then you have to follow up or update your colleagues in a different way.

 

In our team at GPT, we introduced Slack during the crisis. We had already failed at it in 2016 largely due to my inability to focus on too many channels so now I’m making a more concerted effort to use Slack instead of WhatsApp. I don’t really use it to replace emails but I notice it helps me write less follow up emails and also I can ask the Slack bot to remind me instead of asking our intern. 

 

I’m trying to find out where MY own inbox anxiety stems from and I hope to share this with you so you find ways to overcome this as well.

 

Switching Off and FOMO

One issue that creates inbox anxiety for me is the need to switch off completely for short and extended periods of time. Last year, I took the liberty not to be available for four weeks over the summer. Some of my email accounts were not checked while I was offline. That created stress when coming back. Same happened when I was out sick for three weeks with COVID19 this year.

There is enough research to show that you should completely switch off from work for at least two consecutive weeks each year. However, in most of your jobs it is still expected that you are available during vacation and weekends, especially during launches, emergencies, crisis and personnel related decisions.

As a matter of fact, according to a YouGov survey 60% of people check their work inboxes also during holidays. We don’t do it necessarily because we want to, but because we feel some sort of obligation to do it. The same research found that 80% of the respondents would actually prefer to “switch off completely”.

Being Responsive versus Productive

Another issue is that I would like to be responsive. It’s one of my trademarks. And there are certain limitations between being responsive and being productive. However, in order to be able to do “deep work” and to focus on quality time online with my clients I sometimes have to wait with a response until my work day is over or until I get a break. This might be only an issue when you are a small company and nobody else can cover for you. Most companies now don’t expect a response on weekends and responding within 24 hours still seems to be acceptable.

Underlying Relationship and Trust Issues

The third theme I notice has to do with email anxiety when you receive emails from certain persons. I assume that there is an underlying relationship or trust issue with this person. Maybe this person has treated you unfairly in the past or they have turned around something you wrote in an unacceptable way. Maybe they belittle you in their emails with their manager in cc or they shame you publicly. A good manager would give their feedback in more appropriate ways than emails but we know that there are a number of mediocre managers out there as well.

What is inbox anxiety and where does it come from? 

According to Ron Friedman, author and psychologist, the reason why we feel overwhelmed when we find a lot of emails in our inbox is that each message is a new demand of our time and it triggers one more decision to make. This leaves most of us with less energy for the work that matters. Another reason that could make you anxious might be the lack of clear expectations and etiquette especially in the intercultural context you live in as an expat. 

 

Also not having anybody to delegate emails to and feeling responsible for client service even when it’s not in your direct area of control could considerably make your stress level rise. In fact, studies have shown that checking email frequently leads to higher levels of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress. 

 

We feel stressed also because we don’t feel productive. As we are constantly interrupted by a “PLING” our cognitive performance is reduced resulting in an attention deficit. According to research done on the negative effects of email on productivity, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the tasks after we’ve been interrupted. Now, think of how many times they interrupt you at work and make an average calculation. It’s scary.

There is one more issue related to inbox anxiety and this is known as “email apnea.” In fact, 80% of people tend to hold their breath unnaturally when going through their emails causing a change in  their normal breathing patterns. Holding your breath can contribute to stress-related diseases because it throws off the body’s balance of oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitric oxide.

Seven Tips to Help you Take Back Control

Here are seven tips that will help you take back control of your inbox, time and productivity.

1 – Clarify the Purpose of Your Conversations

Make sure you know the communication policy and etiquette of the company where you work. This will also make clearer why and how you’re using emails and not other tools. 

2 – Build Better Relationships to the Senders and Receivers

If you don’t know the other person well, try to reciprocate their tone. You don’t want to come across as too friendly or too formal if the relationship is just at the beginning. When I communicate in German I struggle because the connotations between how you address a person are quite different depending on the cultural context. In English you can easily be far too informal and hurt somebody’s feelings. As a general rule, avoid emotions and emotional topics.

When you aren’t familiar with the sender, another good alternative is picking up the phone. If you are a millenial calling someone you don’t know might not be your preference, but I still think it’s the best way to establish first contact with someone. 

3 – Stop Escalations and Solve the Real Issue

I love to watch escalation bingo on email only when I’m not in the firing line and cc-ed but not cause of anger. I personally read too many emails that are escalated to the appropriate management level too late. We are then often reading a lot of blame-storms and cover-your-back when the real underlying relationship issue is not addressed. I’m pretty good at NOT responding and I’m often slow when it’s heated or emotional. The reason is that I often need a break from the emotions that are triggered. 

I can leave emails drafted for days only to discard them. It’s a skill I learned. Sometimes I might come across rude or negligent…It even happens that I forget an email. However, it’s often not that important or the person can find another route to talk to me. If the person knows me, they will reach out by phone, text message or just resend. 

4 – Stop flagging, sorting, deleting and trust your inner priority manager

I hear people are still flagging, filing in folders, reading and answering emails all the time although I notice that response time has become from 1 minute to 1 week to ghosting. Frankly speaking, I sometimes don’t respond to an email because I don’t feel that I have anything to say. In some cultural contexts this is a perfectly acceptable behavior, however, in some others this could come across as rude. 

5 – Limit the times you check inboxes and respond

Role model the change you would like to see in this world. If you don’t want to be bothered by emails after 7 pm, either you are powerful enough not to respond anymore or you also stop sending emails after “normal office hours”.

6 – Apply a Filter, Deactivate Notifications and Practice Writing Better Headers for Receivers

Have a policy for all your media who you accept and what kind of messages you will respond to. Instead of responding to every tweet I have now connected Twitter to Slack. I can check first if I want to respond or if it is a random tag.

I get a lot of system notifications, newsletters and promotions that I just scan but usually I only need to read the header or key words to know if it’s worth going deeper.

7 –  Track how much time you spend emailing, messaging and with whom

Try using RescueTime to track how much time you spend emailing. By doing this, you can realistically plan how you can gradually reduce the time you spend emailing. You might try to reduce by 5 to 10 percent weekly the time you spend on your inbox. One way to do this is to practice writing shorter emails. 

If you notice that you are so busy because you spend an hour sending cat videos to friends and family you might want to change that. And you might not know right away what you want to change and how. I recommend you call me for a 15-minute chat. Maybe I can give you guidance on how to reduce your inbox anxiety. A helpful program would be our RockMe! program.

Kind regards

Angie

Resources

My favourite Productivity Hacks – Seven Tips to claim back your Diary

https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/in-practice/201805/3-types-email-anxiety-and-solutions

https://www.businessinsider.fr/us/heres-why-email-makes-us-so-stressed-out-2015-2

https://happiful.com/how-to-deal-with-inbox-anxiety/

https://www.theladders.com/career-advice/the-6-rules-of-email-how-to-eliminate-email-anxiety-and-take-control-of-your-inbox

https://www.businessinsider.fr/us/email-apnea-how-email-change-breathing-2012-12

https://www.rescuetime.com/

https://blog.trello.com/work-life-boundaries-as-a-remote-worker 

References

Mark, G., Gudit, D. and Klocke, U. (2008). The cost of interrupted work: more speed and less stress. Conference Paper, DOI: 10.1145/1357054.1357072, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/221518077_The_cost_of_interrupted_work_More_speed_and_stress

Mark, G., Voida, S. & Cardello, A. (2012). A pace not dictated by electrons: An empirical study of work without email. Conference Paper, https://sites.oxy.edu/clint/physio/article/APaceNotDictatedbyElectronsAnEmpiricalStudyofWorkWithoutEmail.pdf

Waldersee, V. (2018). The majority of employees check work emails while on holiday. YouGov, https://yougov.co.uk/topics/economy/articles-reports/2018/08/15/majority-employees-check-work-emails-while-holiday

Over the last twenty years in Human Resources I noticed that a lot of international talents were frustrated in the process of moving to another country for work. It was not only because their companies paid them another package than what they expected. It was also because a lot of international assignee underestimated the challenge of moving to another country.

For example expats moving to Switzerland often think it will be easier to find affordable childcare, high-quality apartments and a job for their “trailing” spouse. Most expats believe it will be easy to learn the local language (or they even think we speak English). Most expats believe that they are going to have a great career step after their repatriation.

I have seen a lot of anger when assignees went to another country and when they returned home and did not get that promotion or the role they were hoping for. Regularly, I have clients break out in tears because they feel overwhelmed by the international assignment experience. When I worked in India and when I moved to Switzerland I also shed tears. It was not all “Bollywood” or “Chocolat”.

When I started Global People Transitions GmbH in 2012 I was convinced that an international assignment does not have to be a painful experience. I believed that companies can improve their international assignments. I believed that you can have a great experience when you move to a new country. I believed that you can find work you care about – no matter where you are in the world.

So I wrote a vision statement

“We aspire peace and prosperity for all people! Through global mobility expertise, executive coaching and intercultural training our clients build sustainable relationships across the globe and act as responsible leaders.”

Angela Weinberger,
Global People Transitions – Our Vision 2012

And then I developed experience with coaching

In Global People Transitions we have three major goals.

1) We help international professionals to find work they care about.

2) We help global leaders to drive team performance.

3) We work with Global Mobility Professionals to improve their consulting and communication skills.

How do we do this?

We now have four established programs and can also customize workshops for your specific needs.

How much do we charge for these programs?

We have standard rates and are happy to send you our price list.

Who you get in touch with?

It’s time to introduce myself. In the typical German style I talk business first, then I tell you more about myself. My name is Angie Weinberger. I am the founder, owner and main contact at Global People Transitions GmbH.

What is the Global People Club Sandwich?

We write a blog post about international assignments and expat life for the Global People “Club Sandwich” once a week. You will receive a monthly summary of all posts if sign up to our “Global People Club”.

DIgital Nomads

Contrary to what many might think, the term Digital Nomad isn’t an invention of the 21st century. The word, in fact, was first introduced in the homonym book “Digital Nomad” published by Wiley in 1997.

However, up until recently, people tended to connect this denomination with names of fancy Facebook groups where a small number of privileged and tech professionals were allowed. This is because until ten years ago, the typical graduate who entered the workplace would be shown their desk and be tied to it thereafter. If on the one hand, a few digital-first companies were already offering the possibility to work flexible hours and/or from home, on the other hand most employees could not even dream of working from a paradisiac location ten thousands miles away from the company’s office.

Nowadays, digital nomads are becoming a trend. In Global Mobility we speak of “Virtual Assignees” and “Digital Nomads” now as new assignment types. Millennials, are going to make up 75% of the global workforce by 2025, according to Inc.

In fact, in 2015, flexible remote work was already the top priority for Millennials and 85 percent expressed their preference for telecommuting 100 percent of the time (Flexjobs survey).

With this data at hand, it’s easy to see that we’re dealing here with a real new breed and not anymore a restricted circle of tech-savvy gurus. And at this point, it’s also easy to predict that the rise of this category of workers will obviously also have a strong impact on Global Mobility policies. 

The Six Points You Need to Make Sure to Check

Fatima is a young and determined woman who works as a freelancer. She has recently moved to Switzerland from where she continues to work, and she calls herself a Digital Nomad. If, like her, you too are a Digital Nomad and you’re about to or have just moved to Switzerland, this article might enlighten you on some fundamental technical issues that you need to be aware of in the Helvetic Confederation.

Despite this article being Swiss-specific, these points are worth considering wherever in the world you’re dreaming to live, either temporarily or permanently.  

This is an offer an overview of risks we see frequently. For deeper advice on your personal situation I recommend that you seek advice from specialists in the individual areas. I’m happy to introduce you to these specialists in Switzerland.

1 – Labor Law 

The labor law that applies to your case changes significantly whether you are classified as self-employed or employed. In Switzerland, being self-employed means that you work on your behalf, you are independent, and you assume the financial risk. You may decide on the type of company you build.

You will need your own infrastructure, you draw up invoices in your own name, you assume the risk of collection and you work out your taxes. Additionally, you decide on your organization and your method of working. You may outsource work to third parties and you work for more than one client. Based on this employed/self-employed differentiation, the aspects concerning your work permit vary as well.

It is as well possible that, due to different legislations across countries, the Swiss labor inspection authorities could qualify you as an employee of your current “employer” or “client”. This can happen even when in your country of origin your status is of self-employed or freelancer. If this should happen to you, you will need to provide various further documents to the competent authorities. 

Based on your host country you really need to familiarize yourself with the local employment law as well especially if you are planning to hire other people into your business.

2 – Immigration Law

If you share with Fatima the typical Digital Nomad spirit, you will probably travel often. Even during Corona-times, you will most likely travel more frequently than a traditionally employed person. For this reason, it’s important that you have the correct permits to enter the countries and actually work there. 

If you’re an EU / EFTA national not yet residing in Switzerland and working there over eight days per calendar year, you will need both a residence and work permit. If you only work here up to 90 days per calendar year your employer will have to register you via the online registration procedure. Usually, the permission will be given. However, you can then really only work here for 90 days in a calendar year. 

As a “third-country national”, you have to be aware that work visas are limited to quotas and they are therefore not so easy to obtain.  You are not allowed to work in Switzerland while on a tourist visa. You don’t want to get into trouble with the Swiss authorities.

The permits that allow you to work in Switzerland are L, B, C, and G. They have different purposes and durations. If you want to read more details about the characteristics of each permit, check our resources at the bottom. As an expat spouse you generally have the approval when you receive a B-permit. With the L-permit there is often a restriction.

Do you feel confused? Trust me, it’s normal. That’s why it’s always best to get advice from an Immigration Specialist. I suggest you contact Sonia Meier  of BecomeLocal

Special Digital Nomad Visas

You might be up-to-date already, but in case you didn’t know it, some forward-thinking countries have already introduced specific visas for Digital Nomads!

These visas are not for any Digital Nomads and every country has listed its own requirements and benefits, but it is worth it to check them out. Up to today, the countries that offer this opportunity are Barbados, Georgia, Estonia, Bermuda and Thailand, while Croatia is next in line. Check out our resources below if you want to find out more about the topic! 

With the Digital Nomad trend on the rise, Fatima wishes that Switzerland too will have this specific type of visa in the future, simplifying the bureaucratic burden she needs to go through.

3 – Personal Tax

Based on the Swiss federal tax law, you become a tax resident after living and working in Switzerland for a continuous period of 30 days, or after 90 days without earning any income. 

In Switzerland, you are responsible for paying your taxes. You are taxed only on the income generated in Switzerland and not on your worldwide income. This is regardless of whether you’re self-employed or not and it does not depend on whether you receive a one-time payment or a regular salary. 

It’s important that you learn to differentiate between your turnover and a potential salary that you are paying out to yourself. My most important advice is that you either find a good accountant like Joerg Blaettler of Winston Wolf or you learn accounting with a basic software such as Bexio.

4 – Corporate Tax

If you work for an international company without an office in Switzerland, be aware that your presence could create a “Permanent Establishment” for the company. This means that the company might have to pay corporate tax. If you decide that you want to keep  working from Switzerland, you should discuss this with them beforehand. 

If you own your own company and this is registered outside Switzerland, corporate tax issues could become even trickier, and you might incur in double taxation. Depending on the countries involved, treaties have their own specific clauses and you will have to look at your particular situation. 

5 – Social Security

For Digital Nomads like you and Fatima, it can become challenging to ensure at least basic insurance for retirement, disability or unemployment because social security is generally connected to the country of employment. 

The first thing you need to know is that Swiss social security is based on three pillars that I am going to briefly explain here. The first pillar is the basic insurance (old-age, survivors’, disability, and unemployment insurance): this is mandatory if you are a resident and earning an income in Switzerland.

If you are self-employed, you need to pay the full contribution through a self-declaration made to the authorities. If you don’t do this, the authorities will estimate and claim the contribution, and you incur a fine. 

Let’s focus on the pension scheme. When you reach the official retirement age, and if you’ve contributed for at least one year, you gain the right to claim the retirement annuity. Please keep in mind that the annuity is limited and calculated based on the years of contributions.

The second pillar is the employee’s pension scheme. This is mandatory and it covers the same risks as the first pillar, but it’s provided by the employer instead of the State. 

The third pillar is additional, private savings that you’re free to undertake or not, depending on your preferences.

And if you have a foreign employer? 

If you have a foreign employer who has the rights to apply for a certificate of coverage, they might be exempted from Swiss social security. If not, the foreign employer might have the obligation to register in Switzerland and seek for a first and second pillar solution for you while you’re based in Switzerland. 

6 – Health and Accident Insurance

As a Swiss resident, Fatima needs to have mandatory health insurance in Switzerland. She’s entering her third month in the country and her time to stipulate one is almost over. You have, in fact, up to 90 days to sign your health insurance contract from the moment you set foot in the country.

All health insurers in Switzerland provide the same benefits under basic insurance. However, if you want to be covered for other needs such as better hospital accommodation, legal assistance and so on, you need to add a voluntary supplemental insurance. 

In Switzerland, each person must pay health insurance premiums. The premiums are independent of the individual’s income but vary depending on age, residence and health insurer, so you are free to choose the health insurance company with which you wish to take out basic insurance.

If you move to Switzerland but still work in an EU/EFTA country, you must be insured in the country where your employer is based. This also applies if you are self-employed. In this case, it is not possible for you to purchase health insurance in Switzerland. If you feel lost and need guidance in making the right choice for yourself, we personally advise that you contact Ralph Endres of ExpatPartners or Domenico Bilotta at Helsana

As you figured out already, there’s a lot on the list of items that you need to take into account when deciding to work as a Digital Nomad for Switzerland. Having a clear vision of how everything works isn’t easy, especially if you need to understand bureaucracy in a language that you don’t speak well. This is why we always recommend that you reach out to a trusted expert in the field. If Fatima worked it out, you can certainly do it too! And remember it will be worth it, Switzerland ranks number 1 in the world for quality of life! 

Kind regards 

Angie Weinberger

Definitions

Digital Nomad

Online dictionaries such as Investopedia.com or Urbandictionary.com define Digital Nomads as individuals who are independent from their location by performing their work using “new” technologies, i.e. deriving their income by working remotely. A Digital Nomad is not required to commute to the employers’ office / headquarters to be physically present, as telecommuting is their preferred way of working. The typical digital nomad can be found in a myriad of locations, including using public co-working spaces, a home office or travelling around the globe.

Permanent Establishment (PE)

According to the OECD, it is a fixed place of business through which the business of an enterprise is wholly or partly carried on. The term includes a place of management: a branch, an office, a factory, a workshop, a mine, an oil or gas well, a quarry or any other place of extraction of natural resources. A building site or construction site could also be a Permanent Establishment. However, tax authorities are adapting beyond this traditional definition. Overseas contractors, International Business Travelers (IBT), warehouse space, digital activities and so on could also create a PE.

Resources 

Giving back
Working from this hotel in Dubai? A dream coming true for us digital nomads.

If you need to make a self-employment declaration and you don’t know where to start from,  you can check these resources out: 

Social Security in Switzerland

https://www.ahv-iv.ch/p/2.02.d

https://www.svazurich.ch/pdf/Checkliste_se.pdf

https://www.svazurich.ch/internet/de/home/private/arbeitssituation/selbstaendig.html

How to Develop Your Business

Here is a lot of general business advice from us. We can discuss this further. Please email Angie for a first consultation.

https://globalpeopletransitions.com/GlobalMobility/growme/

https://globalpeopletransitions.com/GlobalMobility/solopreneur/

https://globalpeopletransitions.com/GlobalMobility/global-entrepreneurs

World-Class Copywriting Courses

Ash Ambirge – The Middle Finger Project

Best Course on Building Digital Courses

Amy Porterfield

Best Podcast on Building a Global Expat Lifestyle

Sundae Schneider Bean

Dominic’s Advice for Swiss Compliance for Digital Nomads

https://feibv.nl/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Dominic-Suter-MasterCourse-Human-Resources-and-Global-Mobility-Master-Paper-FINAL.pdf 

Details about the characteristics of the various Swiss work permits: https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/work-permits/29191706 

More about Digital Nomads and immigration into Switzerland: https://newlandchase.com/digital-nomads-is-immigration-law-keeping-up-to-the-hype/ 

The guidelines published by the Small and Medium Enterprises (SME)

 

Other Countries

More information on the application procedure, supporting documents and the requirements to obtain a Digital Nomad visa in the countries that offer this: 

Barbados: 

https://www.fragomen.com/insights/alerts/12-month-remote-work-visa-introduced

Georgia: 

The application process is not yet up and running yet but the government is updating their website

Estonia:

https://e-resident.gov.ee/nomadvisa/ 

Thailand:

The SMART visa program is not only but also for Digital Nomads.

Bermuda:

Apply for their Work from Bermuda visa visit https://forms.gov.bm/work-from-bermuda/Apply

 

Guest post by ANGELINE LICERIO

Discrimination of any kind should be unacceptable in any given situation. Gender discrimination, on the other hand, takes this to another notch, especially in the workplace. The sad reality is that gender discrimination still happens in most hiring processes. I found this surprising, and no wonder if you’re shocked too: in light of our new global situation, those who work remotely also experience gender discrimination. An article published by Harvard Business Review has highlighted that women are viewed by employers to be carrying out more domestic responsibilities, while men are seen to be more career-oriented and likely to expand their work spheres. Another article published by Forbes suggests that men are more likely to put in extra overtime on work tasks, while women pick up the slack with more domestic duties.

So, is gender a factor when hiring a remote employee? The short and definitive answer is “no”. The decision to hire a worker should be based on how they fit the role and how they can contribute to the growth of the organisation. Hiring an employee, especially for a remote position, should always be based on merits, qualifications, and skills.

Is Gender Discrimination Still Happening?

Gender issues in the workplace still happen, and it’s a proven fact. Women and men both get discriminated against when it comes to work, especially remotely. Some employers would often put in their job posting that they only hire women or men for specific roles. This is not illegal just across the whole European Union (Directive 2006/54/EC), but also in many other more authoritarian countries and notably less egalitarian countries. Hence, you might be shocked to read this. Human Rights Watch spotted “men only”, “suitable for men” or the like on thousands of job descriptions in China, despite this being illegal there as well. Read the report here.

While this may be the case, we should also highlight that there are a lot of companies that look past gender differences and many leaders genuinely respect a person for his or her achievements at work. More people have the utmost respect for both women and men in the workplace because of their contributions to their respective fields.

A Different Approach

Hiring remote employees, whether a single one or a full team, requires not only the right skill sets but their ability to work in an unsupervised working environment. Remote work has a lot of merits. At the top of that is more savings timewise and moneywise, which makes this option very attractive to both employers and employees. Remote workers are also not bound by geographic locations, which means that an employer looking to hire has a massive pool of talent at his disposal. 

Let’s now look at the skills that make remote workers more employable regardless of their genders.

Self-discipline

A remote employee needs to be able to work with minimal supervision, and being male or female has no bearing on this whatsoever.  Remote workers need to block and manage their time for and focus their energy on work when it is time to. Great employees need to be on the clock without anyone telling them to do so, and this should be among the top considerations when looking to hire remote workers. This quality is never gender-related – it is either a person has self-discipline or not.

Strong, Above-average Communication Skills

Having average communication skills will never be enough for a remote worker because communication is a crucial element for a successful remote-based work. In this case, a person can have excellent communication skills regardless of sex. There is no workaround for not having above-average communication skills in a remote working environment. 

For one, a remote employee would need to be in constant communication with their teammates and their direct supervisors. Instructions will likely be over calls, emails, and video conferences. Average communication skills help when you’re working with someone face to face, but you will need to be an excellent communicator to thrive in the remote work environment.

Remote workers need to have the extra sensitivity to listen and hear what is actually being said in an email or telephone conversation. It would take above average communication skills to read between the lines of an email and to pick up the nuances in a conversation.

Troubleshooting Skills

The ability to troubleshoot not only work-related problems concerning clients but also technical and business continuity problems are crucial when it comes to working remotely. Remember that when a person works remotely, there is no IT department to support them round the clock. A remote worker should, at the very least, have rudimentary troubleshooting skills when it comes to networks and computers. Without this, simple installation or a simple network problem can cause delays in their deliverables.

Troubleshooting does not always mean technical problems, but it is also about finding out the root cause of a problem. We need not to reiterate it, but troubleshooting skills are never dependent on the gender of the employee.

Have Reliable Judgment

Some would say that this is part of having troubleshooting skills, but for us, having a reliable judgment is completely separate. It comes very handy whenever decisions have to be made without the help of a team or a committee. A person who has great judgement, whether male or female, can make decisions that will affect the business he or she is representing as a whole.

The ability to rely on themselves and weigh their options well is one rare but necessary skill to have as a remote worker. 

In Closing

Hiring remote employees brings a lot of benefits to the table. Apart from more productivity and motivation, the company can save money and get higher quality output in the long run. This is why gender should never be a cause for someone’s disqualification.

It is unfortunate that this topic even exists and that we feel the need to enumerate the right qualifications for hiring a remote employee. Gender ultimately has no bearing on the effectiveness of a remote worker to do their jobs well. Any company that uses gender to segregate their employees should rethink their hiring process if they want to thrive in their chosen industry. Being male or female has nothing to do with a person’s ability to succeed in their jobs, be it remote or not.

How the Author Defines a Remote Worker

In this article, the author refers to remote workers as anyone who works outside of a traditional office environment. They can be working from home, working from a coworking space, at a coffee shop, etc.

Resources and further reading

Guest post by ANGELINE LICERIO

Discrimination of any kind should be unacceptable in any given situation. Gender discrimination, on the other hand, takes this to another notch, especially in the workplace. The sad reality is that gender discrimination still happens in most hiring processes. I found this surprising, and no wonder if you’re shocked too: in light of our new global situation, those who work remotely also experience gender discrimination. An article published by Harvard Business Review has highlighted that women are viewed by employers to be carrying out more domestic responsibilities, while men are seen to be more career-oriented and likely to expand their work spheres. Another article published by Forbes suggests that men are more likely to put in extra overtime on work tasks, while women pick up the slack with more domestic duties.

So, is gender a factor when hiring a remote employee? The short and definitive answer is “no”. The decision to hire a worker should be based on how they fit the role and how they can contribute to the growth of the organisation. Hiring an employee, especially for a remote position, should always be based on merits, qualifications, and skills.

Is Gender Discrimination Still Happening?

Gender issues in the workplace still happen, and it’s a proven fact. Women and men both get discriminated against when it comes to work, especially remotely. Some employers would often put in their job posting that they only hire women or men for specific roles. This is not illegal just across the whole European Union (Directive 2006/54/EC), but also in many other more authoritarian countries and notably less egalitarian countries. Hence, you might be shocked to read this. Human Rights Watch spotted “men only”, “suitable for men” or the like on thousands of job descriptions in China, despite this being illegal there as well. Read the report here.

While this may be the case, we should also highlight that there are a lot of companies that look past gender differences and many leaders genuinely respect a person for his or her achievements at work. More people have the utmost respect for both women and men in the workplace because of their contributions to their respective fields.

A Different Approach

Hiring remote employees, whether a single one or a full team, requires not only the right skill sets but their ability to work in an unsupervised working environment. Remote work has a lot of merits. At the top of that is more savings timewise and moneywise, which makes this option very attractive to both employers and employees. Remote workers are also not bound by geographic locations, which means that an employer looking to hire has a massive pool of talent at his disposal.

Let’s now look at the skills that make remote workers more employable regardless of their genders.

Self-discipline

A remote employee needs to be able to work with minimal supervision, and being male or female has no bearing on this whatsoever.  Remote workers need to block and manage their time for and focus their energy on work when it is time to. Great employees need to be on the clock without anyone telling them to do so, and this should be among the top considerations when looking to hire remote workers. This quality is never gender-related – it is either a person has self-discipline or not.

Strong, Above-average Communication Skills

Having average communication skills will never be enough for a remote worker because communication is a crucial element for a successful remote-based work. In this case, a person can have excellent communication skills regardless of sex. There is no workaround for not having above-average communication skills in a remote working environment.

For one, a remote employee would need to be in constant communication with their teammates and their direct supervisors. Instructions will likely be over calls, emails, and video conferences. Average communication skills help when you’re working with someone face to face, but you will need to be an excellent communicator to thrive in the remote work environment.

Remote workers need to have the extra sensitivity to listen and hear what is actually being said in an email or telephone conversation. It would take above average communication skills to read between the lines of an email and to pick up the nuances in a conversation.

Troubleshooting Skills

The ability to troubleshoot not only work-related problems concerning clients but also technical and business continuity problems are crucial when it comes to working remotely. Remember that when a person works remotely, there is no IT department to support them round the clock. A remote worker should, at the very least, have rudimentary troubleshooting skills when it comes to networks and computers. Without this, simple installation or a simple network problem can cause delays in their deliverables.

Troubleshooting does not always mean technical problems, but it is also about finding out the root cause of a problem. We need not to reiterate it, but troubleshooting skills are never dependent on the gender of the employee.

Have Reliable Judgment

Some would say that this is part of having troubleshooting skills, but for us, having a reliable judgment is completely separate. It comes very handy whenever decisions have to be made without the help of a team or a committee. A person who has great judgement, whether male or female, can make decisions that will affect the business he or she is representing as a whole.

The ability to rely on themselves and weigh their options well is one rare but necessary skill to have as a remote worker.

In Closing

Hiring remote employees brings a lot of benefits to the table. Apart from more productivity and motivation, the company can save money and get higher quality output in the long run. This is why gender should never be a cause for someone’s disqualification.

It is unfortunate that this topic even exists and that we feel the need to enumerate the right qualifications for hiring a remote employee. Gender ultimately has no bearing on the effectiveness of a remote worker to do their jobs well. Any company that uses gender to segregate their employees should rethink their hiring process if they want to thrive in their chosen industry. Being male or female has nothing to do with a person’s ability to succeed in their jobs, be it remote or not.

How the Author Defines a Remote Worker

In this article, the author refers to remote workers as anyone who works outside of a traditional office environment. They can be working from home, working from a coworking space, at a coffee shop, etc.

Resources and further reading

Read the insights of the 4th edition of the Advance and HSG Gender Intelligence Report.

https://globalpeopletransitions.com/?s=Tips+for+Managing+an+International+Workforce

https://globalpeopletransitions.com/?s=Values+in+Global+Virtual+Teams

https://cdn.gendereconomy.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/COVID-and-gender-GATE-policy-brief-.pdf

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11205-018-2025-x

References 

Ibarra H., Gillard J., Chamorro-Premuzic T. (2020, July 16). ‘Why WFH isn’t necessarily good for women’. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved August 14, 2020 from https://hbr.org/2020/07/why-wfh-isnt-necessarily-good-for-women

Stauffer, B. (2018, April 23). ‘Only Men Apply’, Human Rights Watch. Retrieved August 14, 2020, from https://www.hrw.org/report/2018/04/23/only-men-need-apply/gender-discrimination-job-advertisements-china

Gaskell A. (2020, April 1). ‘Breaking Down The Gender Divide To Survive Working From Home’. Forbes. Retrieved 2020, August 14 from https://www.forbes.com/sites/adigaskell/2020/04/01/breaking-down-the-gender-divide-to-survive-working-from-home/#7996063720cf

https://globalpeopletransitions.com/?s=Tips+for+Managing+an+International+Workforce

https://globalpeopletransitions.com/?s=Values+in+Global+Virtual+Teams

https://cdn.gendereconomy.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/COVID-and-gender-GATE-policy-brief-.pdf

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11205-018-2025-x

References 

Ibarra H., Gillard J., Chamorro-Premuzic T. (2020, July 16). ‘Why WFH isn’t necessarily good for women’. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved August 14, 2020 from https://hbr.org/2020/07/why-wfh-isnt-necessarily-good-for-women

Stauffer, B. (2018, April 23). ‘Only Men Apply’, Human Rights Watch. Retrieved August 14, 2020, from https://www.hrw.org/report/2018/04/23/only-men-need-apply/gender-discrimination-job-advertisements-china

Gaskell A. (2020, April 1). ‘Breaking Down The Gender Divide To Survive Working From Home’. Forbes. Retrieved 2020, August 14 from https://www.forbes.com/sites/adigaskell/2020/04/01/breaking-down-the-gender-divide-to-survive-working-from-home/#7996063720cf 

Author’s Bio

Author's headshotAngeline Licerio is a content writer for Elevate Corporate Training. Like the rest of her teammates at Elevate, Angeline believes that she can help create better bottom lines, happier and healthier staff and build communities where people engage with each other in high functioning relationships.  

Here is her LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/angeline-licerio-2a3406107/