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| 1 minute read

It's like being there...except virtual

The pandemic forced many of us into remote work and drastically reduced travel as countries implemented restrictions and lockdowns. Mobility teams jumped into action to connect and take care of assignees across the globe. At that point, many expatriate assignments had been repatriated early or went to hunker down in a different country to be a little safer. We certainly had no idea what to expect related to the future of global assignments. 

Just last July, we were asking, "Will virtual assignments become the next critical policy in the mobility toolkit?" With travel off limits, many programs got interested in the idea of virtual assignments. The responses from our Remote Relo Tip Tuesday video that discusses virtual assignments and how they differ from traditional expatriate assignments made it obvious that this topic was of interest to corporate mobility programs.

According to HRDirector, 27% of companies have virtual assignees and a further 6% are planning to add them in the near future, which is six times as many companies utilizing or planning to utilize these assignments as there were pre-pandemic. Additionally, of the companies that have already adopted virtual assignments, 71% expect numbers to increase over 2021.

These virtual assignments have some pros and cons and we discussed those here previously. As these are new for many companies, finding the right opportunity and determining the effectiveness or ROI on them is still something that will need to be evaluated in the future. As mentioned, they do come with some things to consider on the employment, immigration and tax compliancy side of things. 

Authorization levels for assignments have decreased noticeably but are beginning to pick back up. A recent survey from Envoy Global found that as travel restrictions ease and vaccines become more widely available, employers expect the need for global assignments to fully rebound in the next year. When considering outbound (non-U.S.) assignments, 92% anticipate demand to at least return to pre-pandemic levels and 68% of those respondents think it will actually increase beyond pre-pandemic levels. Other suggest it may take a couple of years before volumes return.

While physical expatriate assignments will still be relied upon as a workhorse talent management strategy, it will be interesting to see where companies go with virtual assignment usage. Nearly 60% of businesses surveyed by ECA who have or plan to have virtual assignments say they will continue to use them once the effects of the pandemic subside, suggesting their impact will definitely be long-term. Check out more on what ECA has to offer regarding virtual assignments!

It is expected that it could take up to two years for international assignment numbers to return to pre-pandemic levels, and businesses are remaining cautious in the immediate short-term. Travel restrictions and a need to cut back on costs has caused firms to make adjustments for international growth and activity, of which virtual assignments has played a significant part in.


virtual assignments, remote work, work models, hybrid work structure, expatriate, policy, hr director, eca, long-term assignments, short-term assignments, compliancy, risk, envoy global