The COVID-19 pandemic set the scene for the Work From Home (WFH) trend, allowing more people to experience remote working and businesses to test if their infrastructure is ready for such a step.
This meant that, for about 56% of the non-self-employed US workforce (people with jobs that are compatible with remote working), the new norm included a bunch of daily Zoom meetings and trying to find space in their homes for something that could feel like an office.
However, it seems that the time has come for people to return to office work and the daily commute to and from work. For some, this is amazing news, but others felt quite comfortable in their WFH routine and would like to continue, at least partially. And it seems that more businesses are actually considering the idea of remote workers - after all, it has a wide range of benefits.
First of all, businesses that work with remote employees don’t have to invest that much (or at all) in office space, devices, and supplies. Second, if it’s successful, remote working can also mean businesses won’t have to deal with employee relocation, which cuts down costs and frees resources as well. Still, while some businesses have the luxury of considering a fully remote workforce, other businesses are looking forward to welcoming all their employees in person.
These are the same businesses that need to relocate employees or help suitable candidates move their location by offering an attractive relocation package. Since the pandemic is not over yet and people are still fearful of traveling or crowded locations, HR professionals have a difficult task on their hands. After all, with all the extra measures, employee relocation can become expensive for the business. Therefore, they must find the middle ground that works for both the company and the relocating employee (or future employee).
The task is truly difficult, which is why we decided to give it an extra ounce of thought and list some of the best practices that allowed people to relocate even amidst a pandemic.
Most businesses will outsource the relocation activity to a specialized company (or the relocation services supplier). Therefore, if this is your case, the first step for a well-planned relocation is re-evaluating this supplier in light of the current situation.
Under normal circumstances, relocating a person is not considered a risky activity. It does require quite a bit of effort, but a specialized supplier already has all the resources and information needed to do the job swiftly and smoothly.
However, the current circumstances cannot be considered normal nor low-risk. Therefore, it is your job to check if the relocation management company used by your business implements all the health and safety practices required and recommended by the authorities.
For instance, ask the supplier to present their plan for temporary housing sanitation. Also, check how they plan to keep the people who are being relocated safe while they interact with the people in charge of their relocation. The list could go on, but it’s important to understand that it’s your responsibility, as an HR professional, to make sure all the safety elements are in place. So, don’t be afraid to ask questions and probe for details.
If the relocation supplier does not offer extra safety measures by default, ask if they can include them in your package.
For instance, pay attention to the social distancing measures. Many companies choose to forgo social distancing, now that things seem a bit more relaxed, but it’s best to continue staying alert. Therefore, you can ask your supplier to transfer the people who will be relocating off-site while the movers and other people involved in the process are at the location. If this is not possible, ask them to create a protocol that reduces the number of unnecessary interactions to a minimum.
To make sure all these protocols are included and followed, ask for detailed plans from your provider. Also, make sure that during face-to-face meetings all participants are wearing a mask and maintain the proper distance.
Up until now, employee relocation implied that the action was initiated by a company looking to hire new talent or extend their reach to a new area. However, with remote work being a thing now, companies start receiving relocation requests from employees who want to move to a different area (state or country) and continue working remotely.
While this may not seem like a big deal, it’s crucial that the employer (the company, in this scenario) considers all the legal and logistical implications of this move. For instance, in the US, if an employee wants to relocate to a different state, the employer must consider the state tax, work regulations, unemployment benefits, and other similar implications that usually require a lot of legal work.
Additionally, it is important to consider the employee’s new environment. For instance, you should know about their home office setup and the type of internet connection they’ll use. Also, make sure they use approved devices and software, to avoid any security issues. Lastly, it’s a good idea to discuss productivity goals, in order for the employee to know what’s required of them.
As an HR professional, it’s also crucial that you consider the communication aspect of such a request. If the relocating employee is part of a cohesive team that requires strong connections between its members, this move may break the balance and halter productivity. While modern technologies do allow us to maintain communication via video and chat, it is almost impossible to create a strong bond without face-to-face meetings.
Relocation from one country to another was never easy, but the COVID-19 pandemic made things even more difficult. Besides the obvious logistical problems, now you also have to worry about changes in immigration requirements.
In an effort to protect their citizens, many countries have stricter requirements for people who want to enter. Also, depending on your location, the people who are relocating may be asked to quarantine, which is an added expense that needs to be considered.
Lastly, if you plan on offering a lump-sum relocation package, there may be tax consequences for the relocating employee.
Overall, it’s important for companies to consider all the implications of relocation during COVID-19 times. While it’s not impossible, there are additional requirements and costs (for both parties involved in the process) that must be considered.
With or without a specialized relocation services provider, the HR department will be involved in the process. Therefore, it is your job, as an HR professional, to be up to date with all the changes and safety regulations. Moreover, you also have to keep a watchful eye over your relocation providers, to make sure all the safety protocols are followed accordingly.
At the end of the day, nowadays relocating employees is no longer a low-risk activity. And the risk increases with the number of people involved in the process. Therefore, it’s important to manage the process closely and pay attention to all the details in order to have a successful relocation that satisfies both parties.
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