What motivates a relocation? Is someone moving to something or running from something? Are they chasing the perfect life? Are they moving for a relationship? Are they moving to find work or because they actually found work?
Recently, the Pew Research Center shared that "about a fifth of U.S. adults moved due to COVID-19 or know someone who did." The article explains that millions of Americans have relocated this year due to the outbreak of COVID-19 and that the number includes students moving out of college dorms that quickly closed in March, people who moved away from communities that they perceived as unsafe, and those who were being negatively impacted financially that moved to get out of housing they could no longer afford.
All of these move reasons are examples of running from a place, and the reality is that the vast majority of those moves were not corporate sponsored. Primarily, these moves involved individuals who were motivated to move on their own to minimize risk to both their health and financial well-being.
At the same time that many people were moving due to COVID-19, corporate mobility programs went into duty of care mode. Mobility managers focused on making sure those employees who were in the process of moving received quality guidance and support to consider or re-consider their relocation situations. Many companies placed a large percentage (if not most) of their moves "on hold" until all things could be evaluated. The pandemic has forced global mobility teams to be more agile and focused on assessment, monitoring and responsiveness.
To ensure success moving forward, mobility managers will need to collaborate with talent management, educate and lead business-line managers and recruiters, operate efficiently, and focus on cost control, accurate reporting and compliance. But, how much demand for relocation will there be in the near future? Will we fall back into moving people to jobs or will the movement of jobs to people be emphasized?
Deloitte ponders similarly in their report "Understanding the COVID-19 Impact for Global Mobility":
"It remains to be seen the extent to which the pandemic will impact more broadly on sentiments towards business travel and more specifically towards international assignments. What is clear is that the pandemic is undoubtedly acting as a catalyst for change, with a rapid acceleration of the ‘future of work’ and a need to plan now to be ready for the next normal."
As we continue to play out what Tomas Pueyo describes as "the Hammer and the Dance," mobility programs are challenged to contemplate what the "next normal" actually looks like.
The Forbes article below also raises this question of whether the pandemic will lead to long-term reductions in mobility or instead whether it will prompt increased mobility. While many are concerned that the golden age of globalization may be coming to an end due to nationalist trends that started pre-COVID and have been accelerated by preventative reactions to the virus outbreak, this author shares that many researchers believe that both global and regional migration may actually be boosted by the virus in the long run.
We're in an era where the rhetoric of cooperation is beginning to wane. Hopefully the evidence from the past will hold true, and the movement of people that has so enriched the world over the last century will continue, even as the temptation grows to shut down borders and cut off the engines of growth.