Remote work has, without a doubt, become a fixation of today’s workforce and those who employ them. In the post-pandemic environment, we’re seeing a tug-of-war between some companies that are eager to lure employees back into the office, and their talent who are hesitant to let go of the freedom and flexibility to work from the comfort of home. Soaring gas prices have only intensified this hesitancy – suddenly the sting of that 40-minute rush-hour grind on our sanity and wallets is feeling a little less bearable.
And then there are those companies – particularly those within the energy and mining sectors – struggling with quite the opposite scenario, trying to craft incentives to motivate employees to work or accept assignments in remote locations. And I mean REALLY remote.
There are a number of risks and implications when it comes to working in a remote, or difficult location: poor family and cultural adjustment, challenging living conditions, and misaligned expectations, to name a few. But the need for these employees is critical, especially given our growing dependence upon the sectors that employ them.
So, what are some of the policy trends and best practices for attracting and motivating employees to seize opportunities within these remote locations, and stick with them?
The benefits and tactics used by each client will typically vary depending on the location itself, which dictates the unique needs of the moves in and out. But we have seen most clients use their standard domestic relocation policy, with an addendum for use by the hiring manager of extra elements that can be offered to ensure acceptance and success for the employee and family – whether that’s language training, extra return trips to the home location, or free access to a grandparent-for-hire service (sign me up!).
The location itself and the locational situation will generally dictate the nature of many of these offered benefits, such as if there is a shortage of permanent housing or temporary housing, inadequate schools, harsh conditions requiring specialized personal transportation, lack of basic amenities and services, etc.
The challenge for some organizations managing assignments in remote locations is avoiding the “free for all” approach; with limited structure around benefits in the addendum, some employees will end up receiving more than they practically need, which can drive up costs. It makes good sense from an employee equity perspective as well as a corporate fiscal responsibility perspective to move towards developing more formalized processes for each remote location, particularly if there is a high volume of employees relocating to this region, or if the company intends to have a long-term presence here. But clients who are keen to streamline processes, or are operating within multiple remote locations, will be less inclined to commit to the -sometimes cumbersome- ordeal of developing a new library of policies for each remote region.
Where a multi-location approach is needed, we might suggest adopting a matrix model, which may not be dystopian and gravity-defying, but is arguably just as cool and edgy. In this model, benefits are detailed with an indicator for each of the locations to which those might apply. This creates a centralized and structured approach for the hiring manager to ensure the success of the candidate while still maintaining cost control for the organization. It’s important to emphasize that this is an internal document meant to assist a manager with determining the right set of benefits for a particular employee’s circumstances. We certainly wouldn’t recommend showing the whole list to an employee, lest they go ahead and ask for every single thing on it (I would).
When it comes to the benefits your organization is willing to offer, the possibilities are endless, but a great place to start is looking at exception requests from the past for each location and focusing on those items that are commonly requested. At that point, your matrix comes together naturally, charting the pre-approved exceptions based on location.
Unlike a formal policy document, this is an easier, more agile-to-maintain resource for the company. Plus, it provides a cost-effective approach for mobility managers to utilize within their program, allowing them the flexibility they need to meet the unique needs of each mobile employee, with the added benefit of supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion objectives (we did say it was cool and edgy!).
As the focus of many of our clients within the energy and mining sectors shifts to fostering a Culture of Care, this may also guide the selection of benefits available within the dedicated policies or matrices for remote locations.
Looking for more sector-specific insight? Talk to us!