Recent findings from SAP Concur, a leader in integrated travel, expense, and invoice management solutions, shed light on the emerging trend of “Working from Anywhere” (WFA) among European employees. Surprisingly, many are embracing this trend without informing their employers.

In the past 12 months, 18% of employees have worked remotely from a different country without their employer’s knowledge. This contrasts sharply with the perceptions of business leaders, who believe that only 7% of their workforce have done so.

Moreover, a significant 58% of employees believe it would be easy to misreport the number of days they work abroad. This behaviour, akin to expense fraud, seems to be viewed as largely acceptable, potentially due to a lack of understanding about its consequences. Alarmingly, only 8% of employees are worried about repercussions stemming from neglecting tax regulations related to WFA.

Employees are becoming savvy in their efforts to conceal their true locations while working remotely. Over two-fifths (41%) deliberately avoid social media to prevent giving away their whereabouts, while 47% use virtual backgrounds during video calls to mask their actual environment. Furthermore, to compensate for time zone differences, a third (33%) adopt non-standard working hours.


Perceived Benefits of Working from Anywhere

  • Employee Preferences:
    • A significant 66% of employees are ready to accept a pay cut to enjoy the flexibility of permanent WFA.
    • ‘Work from Anywhere’ is valued highly, with 31% of employees ranking it as a primary workplace benefit, even above pension contributions (27%).
    • On average, employees have secretly worked from a different country for 6 days in the past year.
  • Mismatch in Leadership Perception:
    • Business leaders grossly underestimate the extent of undisclosed WFA. They assume only 7% of employees engage in this practice, while the actual figure stands at 18%.
    • One-fifth of leaders even believe that none of their staff have ever practised undisclosed WFA.
    • Concerning misreporting, both HR (65%) and finance leaders (65%) express their apprehension about employees inaccurately declaring the days they WFA.


Addressing the WFA Trend

  • Employee Awareness:
    • The majority of employees (65%) are aware of their company’s WFA policies and know the dos and don’ts concerning remote work expenses.
    • 68% understand the right way to report their remote working days from overseas.
    • However, there’s a glaring knowledge gap regarding the tax implications of WFA. A mere 8% view potential tax penalties as a significant risk for them or their employer.
  • Leadership Concerns:
    • 68% of finance leaders are uneasy about WFA due to tax concerns.
    • To make WFA viable, leaders think there’s a need for revamped business processes and enhanced expense management technology. 70% of HR leaders believe that further training is crucial.
    • 71% of finance leaders think that significant alterations to finance processes, including tax and compliance, are necessary for facilitating WFA.

Rob Harrison, the Managing Director of SAP Intelligent Spend Solutions at SAP Concur, remarked on the findings, emphasising the evident eagerness among employees to blend work with travel. While organisations are adapting to accommodate this desire, there are potential pitfalls. Beyond the immediate tax concerns, Harrison highlights the importance of considering data privacy and ensuring employee health and safety.