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Since the Covid-19 pandemic, work patterns have changed dramatically around the world. Flexible work, which includes working remotely, was once thought of as a grey area for many employers, but now is widely considered as an accepted practice – and this, across a wide range of industry sectors and job roles. Flexible work is also associated with an improved work life balance. But in addition to benefits, there are also some disadvantages to consider.

In this post, we look at some of the pros and cons of flexible working as well as review the two main work models for those contemplating working remotely from Switzerland.

Flexible work
Probably the most well known form of flexible work is freelancing or contracting. But there are other types includng part time work, working in a remote team, “work from anywhere” arrangements, temporary work, seasonal work and so called “gig” work to name some.

Benefits of flexible work for companies
With the “Baby Boomer” generation retiring and new workers entering the market wanting more flexibility, companies are waking up to the fact that they have to be flexible to be competitive. Flexible work engagement models offer several benefits for companies. These include:

  • Improves the worker retention rate. Workplace surveys consistently show that flexible working is one of the most valuable “perks” and it often receives higher priority with workers over additional vacation time or a more prestigious title.
  • Attracts top talent. Flexible working is especially important with younger generations and one reason why around 80% of US companies already have, or are planning to offer flexible working for their employees.
  • Improves diversity. Casting the recruitment net further, allows company to have a wider pool of candidates applying for remote work positions. This is particularly important for highly skilled specialist roles.
  • Increases productivity. A 2019 study showed that remote workers actually work harder than those based in the office.
  • Improves employee / worker engagement. One of the best ways to empower employees or workers is for the employer to allow them to work remotely. This helps build strong relations and increases worker engagement.
  • Cost efficient + Eco friendly. Employees save money on commuting expenses and work clothing, eating lunch out everyday etc. For employers, less office space is required meaning also less overheads. Finally, this all has a positive effect on the environment and supports the UN sustainability goals.

Pros and Cons
While the pros of working from home can be clearly seen, the cons are potentially not so well documented.

  • Diminished communication with staff. At the outset of Covid, many companies set up virtual coffee breaks or end of week meetings on Zoom, to keep staff motivated and up to date with company activities. Although some companies have continued this type of communication and even expanded these – it is probably not standard practise for many. This can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness by remote employees, and even in some cases, to mental health issues.
  • Inclination to work more. Always having a work/home computer accessible, can lead to employees working excessive hours. Discipline is key and setting set hours and where possible, having a separate workspace, can all help.
  • Decreased sense of teamwork. When working remotely, a certain amount of isolation from team colleagues can be felt. Meeting occasionally – even if only virtually, can relieve that sense of isolation.
  • Reduced productivity. Some employers or workers can struggle to adapt to a flexible work schedule, with loss of focus and engagement. To do lists and schedules can help workers stay on track.

Flexible working in Switzerland
There are plenty of job roles in Switzerland that can be defined as being “flexible”. This can be in terms of actual hours worked (60%, 80% etc), or shared job roles between two co-workers (50%/50%) for example.

The above type of situation has been accepted and practiced in Switzerland since long before Covid. One of the main reasons for this, is because of the social culture and practice in Switzerland of young mothers staying home to look after school-age children. In many cases, this is a forced situation due to the inflexible schooling hours and cost of childcare.

Other types of flexible or remote work in Switzerland

  • Those working for Swiss based companies’ partly, – or entirely remotely.
  • International workers living in Switzerland and working in a full or part time role, remotely for non-Swiss based companies.
  • Cross-border workers working part of their remit remotely from home (example France based workers with cross-border jobs in Switzerland are now permitted to work up to 40% of their total hours from home – so called “teleworking”).

How to work remotely from Switzerland
Anyone wishing to live in Switzerland and engage in work for a company based in, or outside of Switzerland, must have a work permit. For EU/EFTA nationals, this is generally not an issue due to the EU FMOP initiative. For so-called 3rd country nationals (also includes the UK since Brexit), the situation is very restrictive and almost impossible. Certain exceptions include family reunification visas and 3rd country nationals who have lived in Switzerland for some time and already have a valid permit.

Assuming the worker has a valid permit, the two main engagement models are:

  1. Employer of Record (EOR). This is where the worker agrees terms such as rates of pay and hours to be worked with the (client) company.
    • The worker then signs an agreement with a licensed Swiss EOR, that in turn signs a supply agreement with the client company to lease the contractor to them at the agreed rates and conditions.
    • The EOR charges a commission or fee for their role, which includes assuming the risk of the employer, including payroll management. This also means calculating and paying the obligatory social deductions, insurances, and pension payments on behalf of the worker and client company.
    • The actual private pension plans are agreed in tandem between the worker and the client company and facilitated by the EOR.
    • The EOR model is available for workers permanently based in Switzerland and working for a client company either based in – or outside of Switzerland.
  1. ANobAG This engagement model allows the worker to be employed by the foreign client company directly.
    • The worker should also have a valid permit to live and work in/from Switzerland.
    • After agreement of terms, the worker has to register as an ANobAG worker where he/she lives in Switzerland.
    • Setting up of the social funds, insurances, pensions etc., is usually managed in coordination with a licensed employment services company.
    • The worker is then protected much in the same way as the EOR model, but is directly employed by the client company. This is sometimes important for those senior skilled workers with share option requirements or signatory rights for instance in the case of start-ups.
    • The ANobAG model is available for workers permanently based in Switzerland and working for a client company based outside of Switzerland.

Summary
Flexible work including working remotely has increased significantly globally since the Covid-19 pandemic. Switzerland is not different. In fact given that there is very low unemployment in Switzerland but a high number of skilled vacancies across multiple industries, the need for flexibility by employees has never been greater. Remote work is on the rise as are other forms of flexible working.

Accurity is SECO licensed, providing payroll (PEO), employment (EOR) and HR management services in Switzerland for companies of all sizes from multi national corporations to SME’s. We also advise on flexible and remote work. Please feel free to Contact our team to find out more about the services we offer clients, contract staff and recruiters, and see how we can help you!