International Distributed Work is Growing: Why, How, Where, and for Whom?

June 23, 2023



International Distributed Work is Growing: Why, How, Where, and for Whom?

International Distributed Work is Growing: Why, How, Where, and for Whom?

John Lee is the CEO and Founder of Work From Anywhere and a serial entrepreneur. John describes his experiences living and working in multiple countries and the complexities of intercultural communication across large multinational organizations. He discusses the opportunities and issues for employers who seek to offer employees options to work remotely internationally and increase their international hiring, which his company helps with. John shares his expectations about the Future of Work and the advantages for employers of accessing a broader talent pool.


[02:48] John studies accountancy — the “language of business” — to support his desire to become an entrepreneur.

[03:50] John was inspired to create something bigger than himself and leave an imprint for the better.

[05:00] John develops his natural language gift.

[05:45] John explains how learning other languages enables deeper human connection.

[6:10] John picks his worst skill to work on in college which propels him internationally at Deloitte.

[07:10] How John's language skills are useful working on performance improvement initiatives around Europe.

[07:35] Plant managers share many more issues when communicated with in their own language.

[08:20] John built strong relationships and learned much about the international businesses thanks to his communications and cultural sensibilities.

[08:55] A transition moment to leave the corporate world, catalyzed by John's mentor.

[09:18] John's wife, Dee, conceives of the first business concept focused on intercultural training.

[10:12] They launch a travel well-being community to foster and share travel related soft skills.

[11:20] John and his wife noticed their Lonely Planet guide didn't share information about countries’ cultures and people.

[12:14] Intercultural research was a core resource integrated to offer culturally-focused local videos and information.

[13:12] CultureMee wins a prestigious award for best business travel technology product.

[14:36] Dutch and Irish cultural differences had interesting repercussions when John worked at CRH.

[16:28] A yes/no Bulgarian example of communication differences!

[17:18] John has a deep curiosity about people, their cultural and other identities.

[18:20] The shift from studying national differences to encompass diversity, inclusion, and more.

[19:14] Pivoting to a business travel API, they have major growth opportunities in the US.

[20:00] The pandemic hits at the worst moment—John takes time off to regroup.

[21:55] What is the No 1 obstacle preventing internationally distributed working for millions of people?

[22:50] What is the right solution for your next remote hire?

[23:51] Companies are exploring distributed work: temporarily working in different countries and structurally hire people in different jurisdictions.

[25:00] Key reasons include accessing a deeper talent pool or getting closer to customers.

[26:45] Cities are assessing the visitors they attract—from cruise passengers to digital nomads.

[29:45] Digital nomad visas—which had gaps initially—are accelerating the future of international remote work.

[30:39] Local economies benefit by encouraging new visitor types.

[31:16] The second accelerating factor is the new “employer of record” arrangement.

[32:00] How businesses can expand internationally easily using new options.

[33:43] John on the recent partnership with Mercer.

[34:38] Some companies are adjusting better than others to new working options. John feels we are still working it out.

[36:25] John’s own preferences, perceived benefits, and balance.

[38:31] What are the implications for income tax?

[39:24] What will the impact be on traditional education systems?

[40:00] John is intrigued by Plumia, a venture trying to create a country on the Internet!

[42:02] IMMEDIATE ACTION TIP: If your company is interested in offering international remote working options, review useful white papers for benchmarks about global mobility, chat with a tax or immigration provider, and a good employment lawyer about new international working models.


“A lot of the talks I’d been to from entrepreneurs, those that didn’t have a finance background said they felt it held them back. They described accountancy as the language of business.”

“I loved the fact that when you speak in somebody’s language, you connect with them on a much deeper level.”

“I was at the 10-year-point in my career and I still had a burning desire to be an entrepreneur. My mentor at the time said to me, ‘John, you have a great career here, but if you do want to become an entrepreneur, do it now. You can always come back but if you stay here for another five or 10 years, you’re gonna become institutionalized. It’ll be much harder.’”

“The Dutch tended to discuss things democratically but were very direct in their communication. Whereas Irish people tended to decide hierarchically, but were indirect in how they communicated. What ended up happening was a lot of intercultural friction because you’d have misinterpretation.”

“That’s what we've built with Work From Anywhere—a platform that automates the ‘how.’ It tells you what the risks are. It tells you if you can or cannot do remote.”

“In Barbados, a year after they launched digital nomad visas, they had over 100 million generated for the local economy. You can imagine they had a huge drop off in cruise passengers because of COVID-19. So obviously, launching this helped mitigate the shortfall from cruise passengers.”