Vivi Cahyadi Himmel, co-founder and CEO, AltoVita, provides her insight into how businesses can adapt to the new work-from-anywhere landscape.
Much has been written about the flexible working trend during the pandemic. Will we return to the office full-time, or will we adopt a more hybrid approach to remote working? Will we continue to use tech to the max to facilitate virtual meetings and reduce our travel for business, or will businesses harness tech in other ways to blend their response to global mobility needs? Some companies are recalling employees back to their desks full-time; others take a more malleable approach – cautiously taking the workforce temperature and responding to employee needs or preferences. One thing is for certain though, the discussion around remote working is ongoing, and the concept is here to stay, according to a JLL survey.
Back in March 2021, the Governor of the Bank of England predicted that the way people work had changed forever due to the pandemic. The ‘work-from-anywhere’ (WFA) trend will continue to grow as we need to spend less time in the office. He suggested that a hybrid model is more likely whereby workers can drop in and out of offices or a creative hub for day or week at a time. This would mean home, and office working locations would operate in parallel with work and home intimately blended.
The truth is that nobody can accurately predict exactly how things will play out post-pandemic. There is huge uncertainty surrounding working locations and practices. So what does this mean for corporations trying to plan and budget for office rents, global relocation of their employees, and future talent recruitment? Uncertainty in business is always a challenging barrier to decision making and disliked by any C-Suite trying to map out the future for their company.
From my experience as founder and CEO of AltoVita, a tech platform that empowers global corporate housing at scale, I can see that companies have to get to grips with agile working practices at pace. From the most prominent Fortune 1000 corporations to start-up operations, decision-makers have to adopt a flexible approach to recruiting and retaining talent against the backdrop of an uncertain landscape of ongoing travel restrictions and changing employee demands.
If we dial back and look at WFA in practice, we can see that the implications are not quite as simple as opening a laptop, tapping away and enjoying a new view each week. There are jurisdiction and tax regulations in operation wherever an employee is working. If this employee moves around nomadically (Dubai one week, London the next), then it becomes even more complex for a company to monitor which jurisdiction they are currently in.
Further challenges to companies are emerging in employee wellness, which has suffered greatly over the past year. All of us have experienced first-hand the problems associated with pandemic working conditions, and these are feeding into how employees, and companies, want to move forward with mobility decisions. Many companies realise that they need to give their workers more choice, the choice regarding how and where they work, and how they travel or relocate for the business. This is not just about compensation packages associated with moving to another country but more employee involvement in how and where the employee can work when they move countries.
So these are some of the challenges presented by the current situation. So with these in mind, what is the future looking like for corporations that need to move employees worldwide?
Global mobility sector outlook
The general outlook for the sector is stable. Global companies still need to move their employees globally. Like the travel industry, this sector sees pent-up demand from corporations waiting for border restrictions to lift to relocate workers.
Three key factors will shape the future of global work:
- Talent strategy: how companies decide to deploy their workforce globally (geographically as well as how they select employees for relocation)
- Operations: if these are executed efficiently and compliantly (in different jurisdictions)
- Employee experience: of greater importance post-pandemic as companies react by putting more emphasis on worker wellness and choice
Tech is both enabling and transformative
How would we have coped without tech during the pandemic? It’s unthinkable. How would we have communicated, worked, socialised and connected? Without a doubt, tech has enabled companies to survive and for some to pivot and thrive after the past year’s experiences.
For some of us, tech has meant we can WFA and pretty much continue producing, creating and delivering at the same rate as pre-pandemic. For others, those working in factories or construction, the situation has been more challenging. Whichever camp you fall into, companies have had to adapt, and tech has been hugely transformative in allowing for more flexibility.
Tech is transforming the previously traditional, spreadsheet-reliant global mobility sector and supporting businesses to navigate complex, challenging relocation processes. At AltoVita, we built a platform to do precisely that. We help employees with their housing requirements, from ensuring they move around the world safely and securely to finding the accommodation suitable for an individual’s desires. Does the employee need to be near a nursery? Is it necessary to find an apartment in a gated community for security reasons? Does an employee need to travel back and forth to a hub location for dual-based working? All these factors need to be considered, and tech platforms are developing faster to accommodate any number of employee needs.
Global mobility is hugely important to a corporation’s culture and future talent development program. If promising employees are deployed globally at an early stage, it’s possible to nurture an elite crew of talent that can be fast-tracked through a leadership journey.
With this in mind, tech will play more and more of a crucial role in helping companies to navigate the unchartered waters of the next few years for relocation plans. Tech can support and facilitate companies to be flexible and make decisions that are right for their priorities and staff.
Some companies, but only a small number, have WFA policies in place already. 48% have said they are looking to implement remote-working policies in the future. This kind of decision is very much dependent on leadership, which is vital to the success of such policies and culture.
In Asia, for example, the office is the preferred working location, whereas in the West WFA is more accepted as a working practice. Culture is an interesting angle shaping the future of work policies within organisations and impacts global mobility as employees move from one continent to another, from one culture to another.
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Looping back to my initial assessment of remote working and its impact on our working practices and locations. Much has changed and will continue to change, as companies have to keep up with global challenges and employee needs. But what is certain is that tech has a growing role within the working landscape to enable businesses to operate globally.