The Tidal Wave of Employee Mobility


For many businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the future of work. Businesses are reevaluating their needs for travel, talent acquisition and office space. Some have even transitioned away from the physical office entirely and opted to work 100% remotely. Businesses suited for remote work may be looking to hire the right person for the job, regardless of location; however, the ability to adopt a hybrid or fully remote model may be limited by industry. For example, a 2020 study by McKinsey found that the finance, management, professional services and information sectors have the highest potential for remote work with no loss of productivity.

The workplace has been reimagined, not only with regard to where work is performed but also how it is performed through the use of digital transformation strategies. Automation can augment the workforce by increasing the speed and quality of work and/or freeing up employee time to focus on more strategic priorities, which in turn affects where and how workers are needed.


The growing shift toward employee mobility

Businesses may pursue a global mobility strategy for a variety of reasons: talent acquisition and retention, cost reduction, supply chain diversification, real estate optimization and expansion. The COVID-19 pandemic forced many businesses to hit pause on existing programs, as travel bans required employees to shelter in place or return to their home country if able to do so. This rise in remote work gave new meaning to the idea of a global workforce. As borders continue to open, the movement of employees is trending higher than pre-pandemic levels. Mobility programs (including long- and short-term assignments, business travelers and short-term rotations) may be driven not only by business needs in a specific location, but also by employee requests for remote or hybrid work arrangements.

While some employees are eager to return to the office, a survey of employees at top-tier companies found that 64% of professionals would prefer permanent work from home over a $30K compensation increase. For many, after being cooped up for over a year, the ability to accept a remote position and travel is more desirable.

On top of this, employee burnout is at an all-time high, and employees are demanding a better work-life balance. Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, some countries had passed laws to address this growing issue. For example, France has enacted labor laws restricting the work week to 35 hours and Finland has introduced remote working laws that allow employees to work away from the office for at least half the week. While similar federal provisions don’t exist in the U.S., employers who want to compete for top talent are implementing programs to address employee wellbeing and offering more flexibility as to how and where work is performed.

The pandemic has provided a window through which employers can see the effectiveness of remote and hybrid work arrangements. At the same time, employees have realized the practicality of working remotely, creating new expectations regarding how and where they can do their jobs. We’re seeing employers on both ends of the spectrum with how they are addressing the future of work, and both current and future employees are expressing their new expectations for flexible work arrangements.   


At BDO, we are speaking with clients regularly about how they’re adapting and preparing for the future of work and the tidal wave of global mobility. Many clients have already built internal task forces to address the needs of the organization. The tidal wave of global mobility is already upon us, and businesses must act fast to prepare for the impact, including the tax and people challenges that may result. While the future can be unpredictable, one thing is certain: where and how work is performed will be different. How employers and employees approach it will be critical to the success of the organization.

Have Questions? Contact Us