lobal work arrangements have changed significantly in the past few months due

to the SARS-CoV 2 pandemic. The rapid spread of the coronavirus has prevented international business travel. As many in the global mobility community know only too well, it has also required the repatriation of many expatriates and their families and confined all but essential workers and those unable to work from home to new working arrangements. Virtual assignments have grown

during lockdown as employees harness the benefits of technology to service international operations from their home or third-country bases. As arrangements begin to be relaxed (albeit at different rates in different parts of the world), global mobility is poised to resume. Yet the lasting impact of Covid-19 is likely to mean the types of assignments in future will change.


survey research

into global mobility policy trends – such as that conducted by Santa Fe, winner of the Relocate Global 2020 Award for excellence in research – highlights the latest trends across a range of assignment types.

Even before Covid-19, Santa

Fe’s 2019 research showed 70% of organisations used short- term assignments of under a year (averaging six months). A further 65% used international business trips under three months to service their international work demands. The long-term assignment (over a year’s duration) used for strategic as opposed to developmental purposes stands at 63%. This interesting research

result indicates that flexpatriation (including commuter, rotation and extended business travel) appears to be overtaking more traditional expatriation, even before the current pandemic. The data also indicate that 47% of firms were using international commuting


(of up to three years), suggesting the replacement of family- accompanied long-term mobility by solo-status flexible assignments.

IS COVID-19 ACCELERATING CHANGE IN GLOBAL MOBILITY? The current coronavirus crisis is likely to result in an acceleration of the trend to use virtual international mobility as a replacement for physical movement of individuals and their families to host locations, particularly given potential

future lockdown scenarios. Once businesses, individuals and their families have become used to the new normal, the virtual environment may potentially be supplemented by business trips and/ or shorter periods of international commuting. Of course, this assumes there are no restrictions on travel such as quarantine requirements on arrival/return in countries reporting low incidence of the disease. These approaches may reduce further the reliance on traditional long-term assignments. Rotational assignments in

sectors where location challenges predicate the need for periods in-country followed by lengthy rest periods at home, such as in oil and gas exploration and remote mining operations, may mean short, but regular, host-country on- shift periods interspersed by home country return periods. These may become a more frequently used global mobility option in a range of other industries. Nevertheless, the strategic

purpose of the assignment and the nature of the work being performed will dictate the options that can apply to global working and the assignment types used to service it. Physical presence is required

in many industries where skills are required on the ground to complete tasks that cannot be done remotely. Global mobility professionals may need to consider whether servicing these roles can make use of flexpatriate working, thereby potentially reducing the need for family mobility. This can assist in managing duty of care if family members remain at home.

IMPROVING BUSINESS FLEXIBILITY AND THE EMPLOYEE EXPERIENCE Looking ahead, research suggests the majority of organisations are increasingly focused on the twin strategic global mobility objectives of improving business flexibility and delivering a positive employee experience. Enhancing both will influence

policy content and design decisions, the focus of control in policy implementation, and how the terms and conditions within assignment policies are communicated. These objectives apply to all types of assignments and the global mobility


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