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The Implications of Work-from-Anywhere on Relocation Benefits

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Work-from-home evolves to work-from-anywhere

While many businesses struggle with a variety of challenges, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant changes in how HR is supporting employees who need to relocate.

Perhaps more importantly, the pandemic has changed how employees view work, leading to an examination of their work-life balance.  Remote work has changed the professional playing field, offering employees more freedom and flexibility of choice in how they wish to work.

2021 saw an unprecedented amount of employee turnover in the workforce. The great resignation, early retirement and labor shortages are recent workforce changes that illustrate a shift in thinking among employees in how they approach work.

In terms of relocation, one of the biggest changes isn’t a new hire the company wants to move for a job, instead it is the employee who, for quality-of-life reasons, decides that they no longer want to live in their current location.

Remote work has allowed employees who are successfully doing their jobs from home to reconsider their living arrangements and pose the question, “If I can work from home, why can’t I work from anywhere?”

There are many factors motivating the desire to relocate, examples include cost-of-living, taxes, proximity to family, climate and recreation. These considerations are now taking precedence over a physical presence in the corporate office.

Corporate views on relocation benefits

More than ever, HR leaders are understanding the value of relocation as a key component in their retention and recruitment goals.

Every year, HRO Today conducts a survey of the “Top Concerns” of HR leaders. In 2021, the top concern was retention. And it should be! Retention has become the top priority for HR departments seeking to stabilize their employee population.

The rate at which non-farm workers voluntarily left their job, also known as the “quit rate,” hit an all-time high in November, 2021. 3% of the workforce, or 4.5M employees, resigned in November. That is up from 4.2M who resigned in October and 4.4M who resigned in September during this same year. When a valued employee makes a request to relocate, for whatever reason, the trend we are witnessing is that the company will approve the request. Losing a productive employee, especially one who has been upskilled, is expensive and can have a significant impact on a business.

In terms of recruitment, the relocation process is a critical part of onboarding. It is often the first impression an employee will receive about their new employer. Five years ago, the trend in the relocation industry was for an employer to simply provide new hires with a “relocation bonus” or a “lump sum.” Now the pendulum is swinging back toward a professionally managed approach to the relocation process. This is due to the fact that candidates are turning down offers because of lackluster relocation support, especially in certain industries, like healthcare.

The challenges of an employee-requested relocation

In the absence of a comprehensive and robust relocation program, HR professionals must employ new approaches to support a work-from-anywhere environment and understand the benefits that can be provided for employees who are moving due to a personal choice and therefore will not be reimbursed by the employer. They must also evaluate any tax and compliance concerns the company may face. In states or countries where an employer does not currently have employees, a decision to allow an employee to relocate and work from a home office may create a tax nexus and subject the corporation to a myriad of new tax consequences, additional regulations and payroll requirements.

From an employee perspective, there is always additional stress inherent in the moving process. Finding reliable resources to support a move is time-consuming. The employee could be vulnerable to fraudulent moving operators with the potential for significant disruptions, increased stress and inflated costs. Not to mention the loss in work productivity and focus, because the employee is mired in managing a move that presents unforeseen obstacles.

Does HR have a “Duty of Care?”

Employees are the best asset of any company. Companies who prioritize a positive employee experience will naturally be well-positioned to attract and retain top talent. Although there are challenges in an employee-requested relocation, it is in the best interest of the company to provide some level of relocation assistance. Failing to provide guidance to the employee can lead to a disaster for both the employee and the company. Soliciting the expertise and skills of a relocation professional takes the burden off HR and ensures
a stress-free moving experience for the employee.

Educating employees and setting realistic expectations

At a minimum, HR and mobility professionals should consult with a relocation provider to review their company’s relocation policy and incorporate solutions that address employee-requested relocations. Many of these solutions are free to the company.

In a truly competitive situation, the company should engage with a relocation management partner and develop a policy outlining the relocation assistance that a prospective candidate and their family will receive should the employee accept an offer and onboard with the company.

Proper planning and education should be top priorities. A guide for a successful and stress-free move can be obtained from any reputable relocation company, free of charge.

Typically, relocation funds are not allocated to provide financial assistance in an employee-requested move. Fortunately, most relocation companies have a suite of discounts, rebates and other benefits that can be provided to help an employee move locally, or across the country, even without reimbursement benefits from the employer.

The Home Sweet Rewards benefit program provided by HomeServices Relocation offers employees access to a one-on-one consultation with a relocation expert and a cash-back rebate on the purchase or sale of a home. Discounts are also available for home-related services. The savings are significant! This program is offered at “no cost” to the employer or employees. Visit the Home Sweet Rewards website to learn more and find answers to the most commonly asked questions.

Gary Conerly, CRP, GMS, HomeServices Relocation’s Director of Client Advisement, discusses how companies can support and implement relocation guidance for employees who are asking, “If I can work from home, why can’t I work from anywhere?” with Meghan M. Biro on the #TalentCulture podcast.