Remote working is rumoured to be endangering everything from office parks to the City of London itself – but is international relocation under threat?
In some ways, it makes sense. If a job can be done from home, why can’t that home be anywhere in the world? Why uproot yourself or your family to take Zoom meetings in another location?
However, when you look at the evidence, the death of relocation seems to be greatly exaggerated. While employee relocation in the US specifically is at a low, millions of employees are still drawn to the opportunities and benefits offered by global mobility.
Are we in the age of remote working?
While the technology for remote working has existed for much of the 21st Century, the restrictions imposed on in-person work during the COVID-19 pandemic were certainly the catalyst for popularising the practice.
Despite the end of legal restrictions, the trend of homeworking has continued. In 2022, 37% of UK adults worked remotely in some capacity, with 11% of Brits working from overseas at some point in the year.
The figures are even higher in certain industries. When asked if they were expecting to transition permanently to remote working, 53.6% of Information and Communication businesses said yes, alongside 43.1% of Professional Scientific and Technical firms. At the other end of the spectrum, only 3.3% of companies in the Accommodation and Food Services sector expect a similar change – understandable given the face-to-face nature of their daily operations.
Among those who can work from home, 78% of those surveyed said they had a better work-life balance. 53% of respondents said they experienced fewer distractions, and 52% said they were able to get more done.
In fact, working from home has become perceived as a right – or at the least an important professional perk. In a recent survey, 64% of those asked said they would consider leaving a job where their employer expected them to return to the office full-time.
With physical location increasingly disconnected from employment, is there still a need to uproot and relocate internationally to pursue opportunities?
Global Mobility drives on
Despite the increasing ease of joining a meeting from anywhere in the world, the global workforce as a whole has not stopped relocating.
According to Altas’s 56th Corporate Relocation Survey Report, 60% of companies expect to relocate more employees in 2023 than they did in 2022. 39% of companies are expecting a rise in the number of employees putting themselves forward for relocation (hand-raisers), while 46% of respondents expected the volume to remain consistent.
However, there was a marked rise in the number of employees declining relocation in 2022 vs 2021 – 67% vs 38% – in large part due to high mortgage rates and inflation. In response, there has been an almost universal uplift in relocation packages, particularly housing assistance and longer employment contracts. The hope is that these will help assuage anxieties about the expense and risk of relocating in 2023.
With the demand for a skilled workforce high across the globe, HR and mobility teams will need to balance practical concerns with making the best possible offer to potentially relocate employees. This can mean a more generous financial package, but employees are also increasingly interested in less tangible benefits. Work-life balance is a priority for many, whether that’s hybrid working to reduce in-office hours or extending relocation support to partners, children and even pets.
An attractive mobility package in 2023 is one that offers support to the person in all aspects of their life, not just the employee during office hours.
Why are workers still interested in relocation?
Despite the rise in employees rejecting relocation last year, global mobility as a whole is still appealing to millions.
One reason is an increasing expectation of a return to the office in some capacity. While some industries are content to stick with remote working, for the first time since the pandemic full-time in-person office workers outnumber their home-working and hybrid peers.
Hybrid working seems to be the solution that many industries have settled on. While this does offer greater flexibility than a five-day in-office week employees still need to be within commuting distance of an office, driving relocation to areas close to regional and national hubs.
The rising cost of living is also driving interest in relocation to more affordable areas. With many relocation offers accompanied by a salary increase or bonus, the combination can mean a dramatic increase in spending power in your new area.
Furthermore, relocation presents substantial professional benefits, whether it’s moving to take a role at a new company or a new position within the same organisation. Employees who relocate expand their professional network, even those who split their time between the office and remote working.
A new base of operations can grant the opportunity to gain valuable skills. This can be through working with new teams in new departments, but also applies to the so-called ‘soft skills’ that developed through engaging in a different culture and potentially gaining a new language.
Has remote working killed relocation?
Despite in-office working reaching a post-pandemic peak, remote working – and certainly hybrid working – doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon.
This hasn’t killed professional relocation, but it has changed what that means for millions, and it is now up to the global mobility industry to respond. Employers can still draw from the vast global talent pool available, but to do so they will need a relocation package that offers flexibility and support for all aspects of their workforce’s lives.
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