The COVID-19 pandemic has created a shift in how office workers manage their workload – and where they work from. Businesses across many industries have demonstrated that remote working can deliver outcomes just as well as in-house working, which has encouraged innovation and flexibility as organisations have adapted to challenging business conditions.
Understandably, conversations about overseas working and global mobility may be taking a backseat right now – yet the opportunities still exist to extend businesses into new areas and to nurture overseas prospects. In this article, we explore some of the trends emerging in global mobility in 2021 as a result of the pandemic, including how remote working has offered a fresh perspective on staffing overseas operations.
A Time for Reinvention: From Reflection to Innovation
The pandemic created anxiety about how to stay afloat in difficult times, while also allowing space for organisations to reflect on working patterns, working locations and future opportunities. The arts, travel, hospitality and tourism are just some of the sectors where businesses struggled to survive when there was little opportunity to generate revenue.
On the flip side, some industries thrived or were able to adapt to the challenges presented by the pandemic. For example, businesses that could increase their capacity for fulfilling online orders were able to shift sales from physical locations to online stores, while the unexpected demand for some items during lockdown meant that businesses could upscale production to supply this demand. The businesses that were able to find ways to innovate could even keep up a personal connection with their customers, even if it was no substitute for the in-person experience (think restaurants offering takeaway meals, for example).
Reflection goes hand in hand with innovation, and as the pandemic has worn on companies have started to think beyond the now and into the future. What will your industry look like as we head deeper into 2021 and beyond? Is it possible to rethink the way your organisation works – and the places your employees work – to maximise the opportunities for your business while managing the impacts of the pandemic?
Remote Working: The Business Continuity Booster
The ability to work remotely and connect digitally has been a lifesaver and a gamechanger for offices around the world. It has enabled many organisations to keep their staff active and move their businesses forward. The UK’s furlough scheme has been an incredible support for organisations that have seen declines in revenue as a result of lockdown, and many companies have continued to find ways to work around the pandemic restrictions and evolve into new revenue streams. In short, a business’s ability to offer remote working to its employees has tied directly into its ability to continue business at ‘as usual a level as possible’ during the pandemic.
The continued acceptance of remote working as both a solution and an opportunity means that ‘working from anywhere’ is now seen as more normal than ever before. Splitting time between the home office and the company office is likely to be a way many people choose to work going forward (having appreciated the work–life balance benefits), but what about working from other locations around the world that fit with your business objectives for the future? While travel is still gradually opening up around the world, it is never too early to think about the deployment of your staff in new ways.
Environmental Awareness: Less Travel, More Relocations?
While there seems to be no hurry to return to a world where a business meeting has to be conducted in person, business travel prospects remain important to the success of new ventures overseas.
If businesses are working hard to engage and retain talented employees and give them a good reason to stay with the business, an attractive offer could include business travel plus short-term or longer-term relocation options. And as organisations become increasingly conscious of the environmental impact of their behaviour in the eyes of their customers, a business that creates overseas opportunities for talented, global-minded employees while minimising excess travel will look good all round.
Now that vaccinations are rolling out across the world, global mobility may be viable once more – presenting your business with ways to explore a reopening business world in new and innovative ways.
Virtual Assignments: Staffing Overseas Opportunities from Home
Scaling back for a moment, physical talent mobility (moving employees into a role in another country) is on the horizon, but the world is only now starting to reopen – and some countries have a long way to go before they have a safe level of vaccine coverage. If your business has spied an overseas opportunity but cannot find a way to make it happen in person, might there be another way?
The answer is very much ‘yes!’, which is where virtual assignments come in – short- or long-term roles in another country or region, where employees can work from the comfort of their own homes. While the ideal solution may be to relocate a staff member and their family so they can immerse themselves in a new location, virtual assignments can deliver many of the same professional opportunities (for your business and your employees) while offering a safer short-term working environment. It also allows people to try out an overseas assignment without the upheaval of a big move, giving them the chance to build their language competency and an understanding of the culture while preparing for the possibility of a physical relocation.
Equally, virtual assignments present an opportunity to try out different ways of working – you may only need someone ‘virtually on the ground’ for a short period while you integrate head office expertise with an overseas team to achieve a specific project or deliver essential training. And if you end up creating a dream team in the process, a more permanent move can be planned for when the global situation is more stable.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to many organisations wondering about the shape of their business’s future, but it is never too late to revisit plans, reinvent strategies and refresh perspectives. If global mobility has slipped from a top priority for growth to a future ‘nice to have’, it could be time to look at different ways to make global opportunities work for your business and your employees.
Language-learning training is often a key element of preparing for an overseas move, as is cross-cultural training. Contact us today to find out how we can help prepare your colleagues for different types of overseas opportunities, from virtual assignments to longer-term relocations.