How to sell remote work from overseas to your employer

By Jerome Doraisamy|13 October 2020

There are two key elements to consider when discussing the prospect of working overseas for your Australian employer, says one senior associate: the personal considerations and the business ones.

Speaking recently on The Lawyers Weekly Show, Sarah Bullock – who recently won the Senior Associate of the Year category at the 2020 Australian Law Awards – said that successfully selling a stint overseas whereby you continue working for your current legal employer requires striking the right balance between why it will benefit you on a personal level, and what professional benefit can be gleaned both for yourself and your employer.

“There is a very strong argument to be made that working remotely – or at least working flexibly – increases employee wellbeing. You will get the best out of your employees if they are doing the best things for themselves. I think it is possible to sell the situation by saying, ‘If you want the best out of me, this is a situation I need to do it in’. You can also say that remote work or flexible work arrangements create opportunities for a business,” she outlines.

“To give a personal example: while I was working in Canada, I was obviously in a different time zone, and so we actually found it meant that we could turn around documents quite quickly. So, if a client would send something in late at night, instead of having a lawyer stay back in the office and work until the early hours of the morning, or just make the client wait a little longer, I could actually work on that document overnight in my own time zone. I essentially was providing an overnight service so that the client could get a document earlier.”

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Part of these deliberations is ensuring, Ms Bullock – who is a senior associate at Cornwalls – added, that such an arrangement is what is right for the individual lawyer.

“If that is the way that you work best, and that is a way of working that you can make positive for your workplace, then I would not be discounting the option at all. There is still bias in the profession, and I am very hopeful that COVID-19 will help to break down some of those biases, but there is still that mindset that you need to be present in the office to show that you’re working,” she reflected.

“But, when it comes down to it, the whole career, it’s a marathon; it’s not a sprint. So, if you work better from home then, in the long run, you’ll show that you are partnership material, no matter [how often you are] in the office. You have to do what’s right for you. [Especially in light of] the fact that COVID-19 has proven that we can actually work in a less traditional way and yet not sacrifice the interest of the client.”

Such distant working arrangements will most likely become more commonplace in a post-pandemic landscape, Ms Bullock mused, especially given how WFH and remote working has been proven effective in the age of coronavirus. If one can be productive from home instead of travelling half an hour into the office, there is no reason, she said, why someone cannot be productive from across borders.

“There will be people saying, ‘Actually, this is doable. What is the difference between working from my home in Sydney or working from my home in London?’ I certainly think that it is going to be much more common than it previously has been, and it will probably be much more accepted than it has been in the past,” she surmised.

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Such arrangements cannot flourish, however, without trust among team members, she noted – which is another critical ingredient in selling the idea of working from abroad.

“The thing is with remote working is that it works when, as it did [for me], when there’s a lot of trust, which is often when there’s a pre-existing relationship with a team,” she said.

In the same episode, Ms Bullock discussed her own journey of working a 16-month stint in Toronto and how she managed that period of her life.

To listen to the full conversation with Sarah Bullock, click below:

How to sell remote work from overseas to your employer
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