The concept of virtual assignments has rapidly risen in the priority list of mobility professionals in the last six to eight months. More organisations have virtual mobility scenarios than ever before and the pandemic has caused the surge in these arrangements. While some may argue that these arrangements may be for the immediate term, there are several mobility professionals who will agree that these arrangements are here to stay in some shape or form. The rate of change is accelerating around the HR & mobility professionals and this poses significant people and compliance risks.
There are several possibilities and combinations in a virtual working arrangement that one needs to comprehend the virtual mobility spectrum. First, there are workers who may have to move back to their countries of origin or to other countries as part of their companies COVID-19 response while continuing to perform their roles. This may pose a compliance issue.
Work from home (WFH) may pose a different set of complications for the globally mobile employee. There might be some employees who may have moved back to their countries of origin. WFH then raises a question of working from home in which country?
Some organisations as their response to the pandemic and the uncertainty have regularized WFH requests of their employees. Some companies have brought it in as a long-term measure as part of their mechanism to tackle the situation. This essentially means that policies on payroll, benefits, perks and compliance will have to re-looked.
Virtual assignments where an employee about to relocate before the onset of the pandemic and being asked to stay back also forms a sizeable cross section of relocations delayed / or kept on hold because of the pandemic. Employees in such cases may have started to work on the projects where they were to be relocated while still being in some other country. Compliance, taxation and payroll are risks that an organization may not be prepared for.
As has been clearly discussed above, there is a fundamental issue that needs a closer look or review as virtual mobility / assignments become commonplace – the disconnect between the employment location and the employee’s real / physical location. This would call for a thorough review of the existing policies, guidelines and framework as without a re-worked process or framework companies run the risk of exposing themselves to people and compliance risks. A policy review or a tweak in the process may be involve significant investment of time and resources, however, here are a few points to help you get started:
- Clearly understand and clarify the remote / virtual working scenarios.
- State and clarify the intended business benefits, risks and other variables around each of the remote working scenarios. Try to determine what working arrangements are allowed or disallowed.
- Ascertain the limitations of the existing policies and safeguards that needs to be incorporated. It’s advisable to clearly etch out distinction between short and longer duration assignments, it’s associated risks and application of policies to such scenarios.
- Keep an open mind and search for possible alternatives to remote working. In the broader realm of managing a globally spread workforce, the HR department can support the organisation with a global employee re-deployment by actively promoting talent brokering internally.
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