Last Updated on by Lohanna Reis
If you love to travel, then why not make it a part of your career? One unexpected side effect of the ongoing global pandemic is the worldwide increase in remote work opportunities. Major news outlets such as Forbes have gone as far as to call remote work the “biggest legacy” left by Covid.
While that statement may be somewhat exaggerated, there’s no question that remote work is a tour de force that’s expected to shape the modern workplace for years to come. Post-Covid, about 20-30% of the U.S. workforce will work from home full time, with a job candidate’s location becoming increasingly unimportant.
For workers across nearly every industry on Earth, the rise in remote work provides a unique opportunity to integrate work and a travel lifestyle.
As remote work can be performed from anywhere, foreign countries aren’t out of the question. For the adventurous, working abroad is a sort of supercharged version of remote work, allowing you to experience other cultures while still making a living. And although there are plenty of benefits that come with overseas work, it does present several ethical dilemmas as well.
For starters, some believe that working abroad takes jobs away from local communities. There are also humanitarian issues to consider, including poor working standards and living conditions, especially in war-torn nations. Let’s explore the various ethical dilemmas you may face as an overseas worker and ways to circumvent those issues with pure intentions, no matter your industry or job description.
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Overseas Work: Opportunities and Challenges
In virtually every industry, there are various opportunities for job seekers looking to work abroad. And for those looking for life experience rather than economic prosperity, volunteer tourism, widely known as “voluntourism,” can be a great stepping stone towards an overseas career.
Volunteer expats don’t receive monetary compensation, but basic living expenses are usually covered. Many volunteer programs and/or hosts offer accommodation, meals, and travel in exchange for a set amount of work hours. If you’re interested in volunteering overseas, avoid those voluntourism companies that charge fees, and instead opt for free volunteer opportunities and work exchange programs around the world.
Volunteering abroad allows you the opportunity to experience new cultures, make lifelong friends and networking connections, and can give you a greater sense of purpose. Yet for all the potential benefits of voluntourism, ethical dilemmas abound.
According to World Vision Canada, there are myriad downsides to voluntourism. For starters, critics claim that well-intentioned volunteers working abroad often disrupt the economy and drain local resources that could be used to better the community. Even more troubling, volunteers may inadvertently contribute to the exploitation of children and unnecessary family separation.
Those considering a voluntourism stint should do plenty of research to ensure that the volunteer program itself is legit and ethical and that you’ll ultimately be doing more good than harm.
Tips for a Successful Overseas Work Experience
Of course, you don’t need to volunteer or even work on the ground in a foreign country. Instead, you could opt for a job that allows you to telecommute on a full-time basis, from the location of your choice. Just make sure that you have a reliable internet connection and keep yourself on task by setting a strict work schedule and sticking to it.
When performing remote work, the lines between job and daily life can become blurry, leaving you at a high risk of burnout, but having a set schedule in place can help mitigate the damage.
Remote work and volunteer opportunities are just a few of the myriad ways you can make money while traveling, however. You may also be able to find seasonal work in various locations: Picking apples at a family orchard in France, perhaps, or working as a U.S. National Park tour guide. Seasonal jobs are great choices for nomadic workers who aren’t quite ready to settle down in a single location.
Is Overseas Work Right for You?
Whatever your career goals, keep in mind that working abroad isn’t necessarily for everyone. Even if you have an adventurous spirit and want to make a difference, overseas work can be extremely challenging, especially for those volunteering their time.
Working travelers from developed nations should expect to experience culture shock and a way of life that’s vastly different from the one you’ve been accustomed to.
And here’s where it gets tricky, from an ethical standpoint. In many underdeveloped nations around the world, questionable activities such as bribery and corruption are ways of life. As an overseas worker, you may find yourself in a position where you’re asked to lie to a government official or charitable organization or worse.
The unfortunate reality is that expats often find themselves in ethical dilemmas of sorts and must decide whether to speak up or stay silent. Either option could result in you getting fired or allowing a shady practice to continue, and the choice is ultimately up to the individual. If you find yourself in a situation that doesn’t feel right, trust your gut but remain aware of the potential consequences of your actions.
Potential Ethical Dilemmas and Cultural Expectations
Cultural differences also come into play in healthcare settings. In fact, culture can affect how a patient views their illness, and whether they choose to seek care. Language barriers and low health literacy are additional factors that overseas medical professionals must consider when treating patients in remote and rural areas.
It may be difficult to explain certain procedures to illiterate or poorly educated patients, and some forms of modern medical care may even be seen as taboo in certain countries.
As such, medical professionals working abroad must do their best to provide culturally sensitive care for all patients, in every setting. In recent years, the concept of transcultural nursing has gained traction within the medical community, with ethics serving as a major talking point.
A form of holistic healthcare, in which the whole body is considered, transcultural care incorporates local culture into every patient’s treatment plan.
Among healthcare providers who practice transcultural care, factors such as family history, religious beliefs, and local customs are crucial parts of the puzzle. But even the healthcare industry isn’t immune from criticism, and many critics of overseas work have taken issue with the very idea of “help” from outside workers.
Considerations for Workers Headed Overseas
The bulk of overseas aid workers hail from prosperous, developed nations, and many remain woefully ignorant of the intricacies involved in “fixing” development problems. The Grassroots Volunteering blog reports that many foreigners inadvertently perpetuate a post-colonial mindset of sorts, wherein volunteer expats “believe that problems in other countries are easily solvable.”
This couldn’t be further from the truth, and those working abroad should consider their intentions before jetting off. If you aim to solve a country’s problems rather than to enrich your own life and career, you may want to re-think the decision to work overseas.
As a working traveler, you’re likely to come across any number of ethical issues while conducting business in a foreign country. How you respond to those situations is up to you, but always make sure that you consider regional customs and laws when making tough workplace decisions. By immersing yourself in the local culture, you’ll be well-equipped to handle any ethical dilemma that comes your way.
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