AIRINC recently hosted a group of EMEA Global Mobility Senior Leaders. In an open and engaging discussion moderated by Mike Wincott, Mira Pathak, and Bruno Lagasse, the members of the network group shared how they are formalising and operationalising international remote work arrangements.
The COVID Trigger
International remote work has always existed in some form or another, but Global Mobility was frequently unaware of the extent of these work arrangements. They were hidden behind international projects, or regions and countries managed them independently. COVID-19 forced an overnight shift in the way Global Mobility supports where and how people work.
Are companies riding or resisting the wave?
The interest in remote work is continuing to build momentum in the wake of the pandemic. Some companies were excited to embrace and ride that wave, viewing it as an opportunity to offer a differentiated employee experience. Others believed that the nature of work in their organisation, as well as complexity and compliance risks, meant that international remote work was not a good fit with their company culture.
Governance and guardrails
Participants anticipate that there will be continued employee requests for the flexibility to work from anywhere. As a result, companies need to formalise a response and, if supporting international remote work, put some guardrails in place to ensure compliance and consistency. In addition to typical compliance risks relating to tax, social security, and immigration, companies should also consider other factors such as their responsibilities and responses towards health & safety, data privacy, secure network access, etc.
Virtual assignments are a useful complementary tool to support the business in achieving specific short-term talent mobilisation goals; they also support DE&I goals by breaking down barriers that maybe prevented some employees from accepting in-person assignments. Yet, they may not be as rewarding for the employee who misses the immersive experience of being onsite, and large time zone differences may have a negative impact on the employee’s personal and family life.
New Ways of Working (Opening up the Conversation Beyond Virtual)
There was a lively debate regarding the productivity of employees working remotely, especially in the context of a “workcation”. Some felt there was a risk of abuse while others see a chance to move away from presenteeism by shifting the measure of employee value from inputs to outputs. In the context of the growing numbers of Gen Z employees now entering the workforce, it was agreed that we need to continue to look at mobility in its broadest sense, think more creatively, and apply the full scope of mobility tools to address different needs and settings.