With remote and flexible work arrangements almost becoming the norm in many markets today, how should companies evolve in their policies and strategies to optimize their increasingly globally distributed workforce?

Today's subject matter expert

Tracey Ma
Tracey Ma
Regional Mobility Leader, Asia Pacific, Mercer

We can all agree that the COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed the way we work. Remote work has brought about more opportunities for employers as their talent pool has expanded to the regional or even global workforce, while employees now have more jobs to choose from. But the fundamentals of a robust mobility program remains the same, pandemic or not.  


Traditionally, work flexibility could be employee-driven, such as self-initiated international remote working (IRW), or employer-driven, like virtual assignments to complement a traditional expatriate assignment if an employee cannot relocate immediately. In recent years, we have seen organizations introducing similar policies in a more structured and consistent manner.


Aligning the mobility program and its related policies with business strategy is critical. Here are some possible barriers HR professionals should take note of and key factors to consider when designing a mobility program/policy:


  1.  Job roles and characteristics – Conducting an initial analysis on the type of jobs available for IRW or virtual assignment is key. Some types of work can be performed remotely while some cannot. However, with the technology and tools available now, more jobs can be done remotely.

  2. Work and technology setup –  IT support, technology like work devices, and even an alternative office in the proposed location should ideally be made available.

  3. Tracking and compliance – HR practitioners need to consider tax and social security obligations based on the assignment durations, potential costs of fulfilling compliance obligations, as well as have the right tools and processes to track and ensure compliance.

  4. Cost and compensation – HR should monitor both the short- and long-term cost associated with the proposed assignment options. Different employee compensation approaches should be considered based on the assignment drivers (i.e. employee-initiated or company-initiated) and assignment categories (i.e. IRW or virtual assignments).

  5. Readiness and acceptance – To evaluate the overall readiness and comfort of both managers and employees on working virtually; if they are unfamiliar with the concept, having processes in place to onboard them is important.

  6. Cultural issues – Cross-cultural collaboration could be more challenging when done virtually. Hence, providing relevant training for both the assignee and their associated team members is recommended.

  7. Value for the organization and employees – Organizations should identify the purpose of introducing a mobility program. Is it for talent retention or talent attraction? How can they evaluate the success of this program? HR professionals, on the other hand, may need to communicate the value of such arrangements to their employees and share with them the benefits.

After considering the above factors, HR practitioners will need to finalize the organization’s talent strategy with the relevant stakeholders, while establishing a sustainable governance framework for the team to follow. They can also start engaging employees virtually (if they have not already done so), and integrate it into the broader work culture.

Related articles

Speak with Mercer consultant