By Beth Neilson, Director of Client Services

Whether it is a Black Swan or a Grey Rhino event, the Covid pandemic , subsequent repatriations, working from home arrangements and delays to planned moves on a global scale have highlighted the varying degrees an otherwise international assignment role can be successfully completed remotely.

The necessity to support employees when working outside the office has also uncovered many informal remote working practices that may already have been in place. The phrase that has now become familiar to us all is the ‘virtual assignment’. As the definition of a virtual assignment can vary significantly, for the purposes of this article, the definition is ‘an assignment where the assignee works from the home country or third location for the economic benefit of a host location’. Importantly, all costs and responsibility for the assignee are transferred as a result of the virtual assignment.

Although there was already a trend towards flexibility to support remote working, the events of last year have, and will continue to provide, significant data on which roles can be successfully completed remotely. It appears that the mindset of both individuals and companies has irreparably shifted with companies having to re-evaluate the possibility of the more frequent use of a virtual approach for a wider variety of roles than ever before.

According several 2020 surveys, 40% of companies are thinking about introducing a virtual assignment policy but with only just over half of companies having formal polices in place, this is an area that requires action.

Without planning and adjusting policies and approach now, future years could see significant penalties and time required to unpick and resolve issues relating to incorrect practices. It remains unknown as to how and when governments will start to review and impose penalties on incorrect practices, but with significant revenue loss in most locations, it can only be a matter of time.

At CapRelo we understand that policy design of any kind must align with your company’s talent management strategy, needs and priorities. The Global Mobility team has an opportunity to be strategic, proactively mitigating risks by introducing a policy framework to support employee's ability to ‘work from anywhere’.