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Worldwide ERC® Finds Pandemic-Driven Shifts in Employee Mobility Causing Increases in Business Travel, Assignments, and Relocations

New research from Worldwide ERC® shows global HR and corporate mobility leaders have lowered 'Work from Anywhere' expectations in favor of hybrid, office-based arrangements.
September 21, 2022
Worldwide ERC® Finds Pandemic-Driven Shifts in Employee Mobility Causing Increases in Business Travel, Assignments, and Relocations

Worldwide ERC®, the professional association for employee mobility professionals, has compiled key findings concerning the future of remote work and employee mobility in its most recent research study. The study, which included a survey of more than 500 chief human resource officers and 100 corporate mobility leaders, highlights a new corporate mindset that embraces business travel, assignments, and relocations in the post-pandemic world. 

When companies implemented remote-work strategies in the spring of 2020 in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, many believed that business travel and workforce mobility would be permanently reduced. However, a mere two years after the initial wave of coronavirus, Worldwide ERC®’s survey shows that the reality is quite the opposite. Today, remote work is driving employee mobility, as companies have begun to embrace remote and hybrid models as well as voluntary mobility programs to retain and acquire scarce talent throughout a period known to many professionals as “The Great Resignation.” 

“When the pandemic rocked the workplace, we took it as part of our mission to help HR and talent mobility leaders navigate the ensuing, unprecedented changes,” said Worldwide ERC® president and CEO Lynn Shotwell. “Today’s report is the latest in our look at what’s happening with flexible work arrangements, and the answers may not be what you think. For established organizations, remote work really means hybrid work – and it’s actually driving more employee mobility.”

Senior HR leaders who participated in Worldwide ERC®’s study expressed how only a minority of their respective workforces will be permanently remote in the future, with the average respondent saying only 53% of their workforce will be fully or partially remote — a drastic shift from just a year ago, where Worldwide ERC® research of a similar audience showed that HR leaders believe 96% of the workforce would be fully or partially remote.

The study also found the role of global mobility to be more crucial now than ever, as cross-functional work has been critical to the creation, direction, and administration of remote-work policies. Teams tasked with developing plans for global mobility, tax, payroll, finance, total rewards, compensation and benefits, and general human resources now all play a major role in the management and supervision of remote-work strategies. 

Companies have begun to introduce mobility programs en masse. Many senior HR and corporate mobility leaders reported having already created such programs allowing for increased voluntary mobility, whereby employees could request a move to a new location for short-term professional and personal experiences. A third of those surveyed expressed that they were considering implementing such programs in the near future. 

“While the results of our latest remote work survey clearly show a drastic change from perceptions at the height of the pandemic — like the steep drop in the number of employees in a full-time remote-work arrangement and a work-from-anywhere promotion — what did not surprise us is the fact that employee mobility has become an even more powerful corporate tool for employee engagement,” said Karen Cygal, SVP at Worldwide ERC®. 

“Contrary to early-pandemic predictions, remote and hybrid work has not permanently reduced travel and mobility. Organizations realize the need for balance between in-person collaboration and remote communications, as well as reemphasizing the value of international work experience – and employee mobility professionals are the experts at building compliant and cost-effective programs that drive employee acquisition, engagement, and retention.”

While the workforce may be evolving once again, Worldwide ERC®’s study found most senior HR and corporate mobility leaders believed core policies including compensation and benefits would likely remain the same with little to no radical change. Many companies have tied traditional payment structure models to remote and hybrid positions, and few companies altered benefits packages based on the locations of remote workers. 

To download Worldwide ERC®’s report, “The Evolution of Remote Work,” click here.

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