During the COVID-19 crisis, many employees were forced to work from home, and managing a remote workforce has become a priority for companies. The globally mobile workforce was also affected by this new development: many assignees were evacuated and became virtual expatriates forced to work from their home country or from a third country. The need to handle the pandemic constraints together with a growing trend of more flexibility in global mobility programs has prompted companies to review their policies around international remote working and set some new rules. As with other assignment types, it is important to weigh the benefits of virtual assignments against the considerable challenges and probability of success.
Many benefits arise from the growing number of virtual assignments.
Resilience and risk management
A more agile workforce that includes virtual assignees increases the resilience of organizations and helps maintain business continuity.
Virtual assignments can reduce costs by eliminating part or all of the traditional assignment package.
Dual career and family issues
Virtual assignments avoid the need to compensate spouses for loss of jobs, detriment to their career advancement, and the stress on children caused by relocation.
Candidates may be willing to fill overseas roles, but visas, work permit restrictions, quotas, and other legal restrictions may remain impediments.
Families and individuals who were not considering moving might be willing to accept a job if it does not involve a relocation.
Determine if virtual assignments are right for your organization
Although virtual assignments may not involve the same relocation issues as traditional expatriate assignments, they may still trigger a host of practical, compliance, and HR questions. Chiefly, organizations may face unexpected cultural issues or hidden costs. Furthermore, not all traditional assignments can be replaced by virtual ones.
To determine when a virtual expatriate can replace a traditional international assignee and what objective factors determine the feasibility and success of remote working, analyze the work characteristics, technology setup, compliance, costs considerations, readiness and acceptance, cultural and inclusion issues, and the value for the organizations and employees.
Contact us to see if virtual assignments can work for your organization
Overcome cultural and inclusion issues that impede success
Organizations might have the right work and technology setup, but they fail to succeed with virtual assignments due to company culture and misunderstandings between assignees and management. Mercer offers a suite of cross-cultural training tools designed to increase the cultural awareness of virtual expatriates and mobile employees working remotely.
CultureWizardPassport offers complete, country-specific, and affordable online cultural training programs suitable for all your employees.
Global inclusion course explains why inclusion matters, describes the types of implicit bias, and helps employees be more inclusive as individual contributors, as leaders, and when working with customers.
Have accurate program, tax, and travel data at your fingertips
Mercer Mobility Management Platform provides an interactive, configurable, real-time data and content experience while simplifying workflows, lowering costs, reducing risks, and tracking the return on investment.
Personal Income Tax Solution makes determining expat taxes easier by providing everything you need to calculate the tax and social security liability of an international assignment.
Per diem data and business travel expense information helps manage costs of virtual assignees traveling from their home locations to the destinations benefiting from their work, which may be necessary during a virtual assignment.