Virtual Assignments: Critical Questions for Mobility Managers 09.10.2020 | Jennifer Connell

virtual assignments

In part three of our blog series on virtual assignments, we examine this issue from perhaps the most important perspective: the corporate mobility manager.

As global mobility professionals continue to examine the long-term potential of virtual or hybrid assignments for their companies’ mobile employees, it’s important to look at how current assignees forced to work remotely due to the pandemic are faring as an early indicator of their effectiveness.

After the risk tolerance is assessed and exactly how these virtual assignments will be managed is resolved, a bigger conversation needs to take place about whether they will truly meet the needs of the organization while supporting its culture and reputation.

In addition to the compliance issues addressed in Part 2 of this blog series, information revealed in response to the following questions will have an impact on both the business and the employee experience:

Can the employee accomplish work from either location? If so, for how long?

Will the employee’s decision require addition travel? Quarantine rules makes this less appealing and further restrict the employee from business/home return travel.

What is the level of support needed if the family (if applicable) remains in the home location for a period of time?

How critical is the assignment to the business? Can the assignment be delayed?

Can the company adjust payroll capabilities and reporting to accommodate virtual work assignments?

Is there flexibility to the business if external factors delay the employee’s return to assignment, such as immigration or quarantine rules?

Related to the previous question, will any delays have a detrimental impact on the employee’s career?

What are the milestones? In other words, are there specific dates in which decisions must be made? Consider plotting any relevant dates including immigration timeframes, tax thresholds, children’s school start/decision dates, anticipated office opening, housing/lease termination or renewal, and any dates related to specific business goals.

The majority of companies do not have a formal policy for virtual work assignments. The most common mobility-related benefits include travel to the work location, immigration support, tax assistance and expenses in the host location. For the company and employee to make an informed decision about the short- and long-term impact of a virtual assignment, Global Mobility should include the hiring manager, immigration provider, corporate tax and tax provider in the discussion as well as any other stakeholders.

While it’s still early to make large scale predictions, the COVID pandemic’s biggest potential impact on global mobility will be the further integration of talent mobility into an organization’s strategy. Global workforce planning will be intentional and if virtual assignments become an integrated part of a company’s strategy, it is sure to add another layer of complexity.

As companies adjust to the new normal, mobility directors will need to weigh the lessons they learned with their long term objectives to determine if virtual assignments have a place in their mobility plans.

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Written by Jennifer Connell


Jennifer Connell, SCRP, SGMS-T, is Vice President of Weichert’s Advisory Services group. She has over 25 years of experience in the workforce mobility and employee benefits industries and is a recipient of Worldwide ERC’s Distinguished Service Award. She has spoken on workforce mobility topics at industry conferences throughout North America and written for mobility- and HR-themed blogs and magazines worldwide.

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