Global mobility will return to ‘business as usual’ for many employers

The majority of employers are making extra efforts to communicate with employees who are mobile

Almost half of employers plan a return to ‘business as usual’ when it comes to global mobility, according to a survey by consulting firm PwC.

PwC’s pulse survey of more than 350 companies in April found that 44% intend to continue the same number of international moves as before.

The survey, which asked how global mobility teams were dealing with employees who were mobile and their thoughts on future moves, revealed that 40% felt that the pandemic has had a moderate or significant impact on the ability of mobile employees to work in their usual way.

To address this, 70% of respondents said they were making extra efforts to communicate proactively with their mobile employees, while 60% were engaging more with the line managers of those employees.

Two-thirds of companies with staff on secondment or transfer in global locations at the outset of the pandemic had offered them the option of returning home. Only 11% offered support with additional costs, however.

Relocations that were meant to begin during the lockdown period have in many cases been postponed, PwC found, but 58% have allowed employees to start those roles in their home country.

Eighty-six percent had postponed international moves, while 57% had cancelled upcoming plans to move staff. Of those that had cancelled moves, they had done so for around half of their planned relocations.

One respondent told PwC they were “only moving business-critical people” and will allow certain employees to work from a third country on “an exceptional basis”.

Sharan Kundi, PwC Global Mobility Partner, said: “Many organisations have been forced to adopt remote and virtual working arrangements not just for the immediate, but possibly longer term.

“Those employers who embrace virtual working are likely to tap into a broader global talent pool, possibly at lower costs, with the ability to move work more fluidly across borders.”

However, she acknowledged that physical travel for some employers is a “fundamental requirement” to address skills imbalances or deal with labour market demands.

Forty-one percent of respondents to PwC’s survey said that strategic global projects requiring employees to be globally mobile would continue, with the same number of international moves as before.

“For those organisations, knowing how borders will be managed over the coming weeks and months is critical to be able to plan and execute moves,” Kundi added.

Just 12% of survey respondents thought the pandemic would lead to a fundamental rethink on mobility, and only a fifth thought international moves would decrease as a result of the crisis.

Another respondent told PwC: “We have some time now to speed up work on some projects, so we are ready and well-placed for when travel restrictions end and mobility returns again.”

Kundi said this was the case for many employers. “The survey clearly shows that, despite the current disruption, strategic mobility projects remain a priority for the majority of companies, and many are using the pause in their activities to reassess their governance over business travel and examine mobility-related spend, the kind of packages they offer, and whether they can arrange for virtual deployments while travel restrictions are in place.”

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