Nearshore Americas

Smart Working in the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica

Employees tend to be happier and more productive if they have the option to smart work. Since 2005, the number of people that work-from-home has increased by 140% in the United States.  Moreover, 16% of US companies exclusively hire remote workers – leading to an employee turnover that is 25% lower than those that don’t allow remote work.

In 2015, Andy Lake published the revised second edition of his Smart Working Handbook.  At the time, directors, officers, owners and employers understood that our ways of working and living were changing. New technologies were driving shifts in the workforce, but the change was still ahead and any adjustment would be adopted gradually. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated that there is no time to lose.

Costa Rica must now push ahead to become the preferred destination for smart-workers. The Pacific coast could become particularly attractive: just keep in mind that you can sit back and relax in front of calm ocean waters and work for an employer located anywhere in the world.

The Smart Working Revolution

Sometimes smart working and teleworking are confused. Both models can share the same origin: you are working outside of your office. But teleworking has always been linked to working at home. However, smart working expands that concept. It means you can work from any place where you have a high-speed connection to the internet: it could be from a coffee shop in the city; a chalet in the mountains; or a terrace overlooking the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Smart working wants people to achieve a better work-life balance.

Lake’s book postulates a list of the main characteristics of the smart working culture. Due to Covid-19, most of them have been adopted (sometimes reluctantly) by organizations and individuals: commitment to flexibility and being open to new ways of working and delivering services; management by results rather than management by presence; promotion of higher levels of staff empowerment and autonomy as well as commitment to new technologies and new ways of working to recruit, retrain and develop the workforce.

Costa Rica could be the perfect spot to relocate and to continue (or to start) with smart working programs. Some of the current advantages of Costa Rica are its well-educated population, the social and economic environment, the political stability, the access to high-speed internet services, the time zone (CST) and the amazing weather.  Additionally, the country offers some marginal benefits for employers: energy is mostly generated from renewable energy projects; it boasts a robust healthcare system; a foreign-currency adapted economy; the ease of bringing in and sending out funds and the options to recruit local personnel.

A Smart Working Hub

The government of Costa Rica will also need to collaborate with foreigners looking to relocate and pursue their smart working careers. Reforms will be necessary. New residency permits allowing people to stay for extended periods in the country will be needed. Tax reforms are also required so outsiders working for foreign organizations in the country will be exempt. Such outsiders with also need to be able to easily register with the local social security system and open bank accounts in the local banking system.

The government should implement a special program to open its borders to foreign workers that will be willing to spend their money in the country but that need legal certainties regarding their tax, residency, health and social security status.

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Although this program should be developed for temporary outsiders living in Costa Rica, the second step of the plan should be to make them permanent residents. Therefore, the appropriate measures shall be adopted in order to have a clear platform to move from temporary status to permanent status, facilitating the change between categories of residencies.

The Pacific coast of Costa Rica could become a major hub for smart working facilities. The government and the private sector should work together to create the necessary facilities to promote such migration into the country.

Guillermo Zuñiga

Guillermo E. Zúñiga is a partner in the areas of Energy and Natural Resources, Corporate/M&A, Real Estate, Infrastructure and Foreign Investment at Ecija Legal Costa Rica.

Guillermo holds a Master of Law degree with honors from Georgetown University, an Economics degree and a Law degree with honors from the University of Costa Rica.

He has attained significant expertise in renewable energy projects and has been recognized as one of the most experienced lawyers in this field in Costa Rica as well as in Latin America. He has provided legal advice to government agencies (Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Ecuador, and Uruguay) and private organizations (Costa Rica and Chile) on designing, installing and operating 150-MW renewable energy projects.

Guillermo has recently advised clients in due diligence processes, M&A transactions, spin-off dealings, internal reorganizations and expansion developments, not only in Costa Rica but also in Central America, taking a leadership role in the jurisdictions assigned to him.

Guillermo has served as board member for several Costa Rican companies that have benefited from his entrepreneurship skills.

He is a member of the New York State Bar Association, the Costa Rican Bar Association and of the National Directorate of Notaries. You can contact him here: hola.costarica@ecija.com

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