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July 18, 2022updated 03 Aug 2022 11:58am

The best countries for remote work revealed

New research identifies the best countries for remote workers, based on cybersecurity, digital infrastructure and more.

By Afiq Fitri

The future of the IT profession is largely remote. In a recent survey of IT decision-makers, 86% said they are hiring more remote staff, with 71% saying remote work has helped them reach a wider pool of talent to recruit from.

This may prompt IT departments to look beyond their national borders to find much-needed digital skills. With their new-found freedom, workers might consider relocating to another country – and seek employers that would allow them to do so. “IT workers know they’re in high demand right now and they can easily jump to another company that will offer them their ideal working arrangements,” says remote work consultant Melissa Smith.

But where is the best place in the world for a remote work career? A recent investigation by network access security provider Nord Layer weighed the best countries for remote work, based on their approach to cybersecurity, the strength of their digital infrastructure, socioeconomic factors, and their response to Covid-19. 

A remote worker takes part in a video conference, with a landscape view in the window behind him.
Germany tops a new list of the best countries for remote work. (Photo by Esther Pueyo/iStock)

What is the best country for remote work?

Germany takes the top spot for remote work with its high levels of cybersecurity and digital infrastructure, according to Nord Layer’s analysis. Earlier this week, the German government announced plans to reinforce the country’s cyber defences as the threat from Russia continues, with measures that involve increasing the cyber resilience of small and medium-sized businesses, as well as organisations related to critical infrastructure.

The high concentration of financial services firms and cloud data centres also points towards Germany’s advanced digital infrastructure and high network speeds. 

However, Germany is a relatively expensive destination for remote work compared with other countries in the ranking, Nord Layer's researchers observed. Denmark, which came in second on the Index, scored higher for the cost of living. 

Denmark is consistently ranked highly for its cybersecurity largely due to its proactive approach, exemplified in its Centre for Cyber Security which was established under the Danish Ministry of Defence a decade ago. The country’s Agency For Digitisation has also played a key role in driving forward the government’s digital transformation plans, and Denmark now boasts one of the highest network speeds in Europe. 

Smaller countries that scored highly as remote work destinations include Lithuania, which ranked fifth in the Global Remote Work Index. While the country's scores for economic and social conditions were relatively low, the costs for internet usage and strong levels of cybersecurity make it an emerging place for remote tech and IT workers. 

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A large part of the reason why Lithuania has strong cybersecurity is down to its experience in combatting Russian cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns, even before the invasion of Ukraine. The International Telecommunications Union ranked Lithuania’s cybersecurity sixth in the world, and fourth in Europe last year. 

Which is the best country to hire remote workers?

For IT companies, the strength of a country’s cybersecurity and the maturity of its digital infrastructure are the most important factors when deciding to implement remote working policies, according to Smith.

“In countries outside of Europe and the US where it’s more popular to work remotely like Bali for example, internet outages are a somewhat regular occurrence so companies need to think about that on a regular basis and balance that to ensure their employees have constant access to strong WiFi and VPNs, especially if they’re working with sensitive material,” she says. 

An analysis of the top countries for digital infrastructure from different regions of the world based on data from the Global Remote Work Index shows that some places might not necessarily have strong cybersecurity, despite their advanced digital infrastructure. New Zealand and the United Arab Emirates, for example, were recently identified in the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report as being particularly susceptible to “cybersecurity failure”.

For the UAE, the country’s digital transformation boom has made it a prime target for cybercriminals looking to target entities in its public and private sector, according to researchers at Kasperksy. In New Zealand, analysts have attributed the country’s poor cybersecurity to a sense of complacency, after being cut off from most of the world during the early days of the pandemic. 

"We've sort of sat here in a feeling of security because we're a long way away, we're small, and we don't think we've got anything of value,” said Craig Young, CEO of the Technology Users Association of New Zealand. “Well, actually, we do. It's very quick to get here and that complacency has led us to be in a place of not being overly secure." 

How to manage remote IT workers

Knowing how to balance these factors is key to implementing a successful remote working policy. For Smith, her advice for tech and IT companies is to understand the needs of workers and balance these against operational dangers attached to working in countries with higher cybersecurity risks, especially if the work is sensitive. “This is something that businesses need to constantly be thinking about,” she adds. 

Both workers and employers also need to be aware of other intangible costs associated with remote working for long periods, as the shift away from physical offices has also given way to an increasing trend of employee surveillance tools, dubbed by the Guardian as ‘Bossware’. Smith believes that a successful remote working policy should also be grounded in trust. 

“These practices reflect more on the company and its management team than it does about its employees,” she says. “Because when you have that kind of set-up in place to monitor your workers all the time, you’re only going to hire people who are going to figure out how to game the system.” 

Tech Monitor is hosting a roundtable in association with Intel vPro on how to integrate security into operations. For more information, visit NSMG.live.

Read more: Flexible working boom in ‘Red Wall’ towns could aid the levelling up agenda

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