What does COVID-19 mean for global mobility?

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The novel coronavirus outbreak continues to evolve and influence how we do business and the way we work. As many countries now begin to review the travel restrictions that have been put in place, the impact on mobile employees and their employers continues to have tremendous impact.

In April 2020, PwC ran a pulse survey of more than 350 companies in 37 countries to assess the impact of COVID-19 on global mobility. It asked how global mobility teams were dealing with employees who were mobile at the time and about the teams’ views on planned future moves, as well as global mobility priorities and strategies as we transition from the ‘crisis’ stage to the ‘continuity’ stage of the pandemic.

The results show the reach and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the importance of communicating with those living and working outside their home country: 70% of respondents told us they were making extra efforts to communicate proactively with their mobile employees. And 40% of companies told us the pandemic has had a moderate or significant impact on the ability of mobile employees to continue with business as usual.

Two-thirds of companies who had employees on secondment or transfer at the outset of the pandemic had offered them the option of returning home. As for future relocations, many have been postponed, but 58% of surveyed companies said they were allowing employees to start new roles from their home country.

The survey results also suggest that most companies believe that business as usual will return. Just 12% felt that the pandemic will trigger a fundamental rethink on mobility, and only 20% believed that the number of international moves will decrease in the future as a result of this crisis.

The survey clearly shows that, despite the current disruption, strategic mobility projects remain a priority for the majority of companies, and many are using the pause in their activities to reassess their governance over business travel and examine mobility-related spend, the kind of packages they offer, and whether they can arrange for virtual deployments while travel restrictions are in place. As one respondent said: “We have some time now to speed up work on some projects, so we are ready and well-placed for when travel restrictions end and mobility returns again.”

Global mobility teams are taking the opportunity to show that they can add real value to the business, with some even looking towards designing a more virtual, global workforce — moving work to the people, rather than the people to the work.

Contact us

Leo Palazzuoli

Global Mobility and Immigration Leader, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 7738 310312

Clare Hughes

Director, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7810 050952

Natalie Thompson

Senior Manager, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 7725 068229