Managing employee relocation during the pandemic: A Guide for HR Professionals

By offering relocation packages to employees, companies can ensure they source the best candidates and thus increase their pool of talent. The relocation process for employees includes various elements, including traveling to the new location, moving into a new property, and having meetings with managers and co-workers in the new location. Of course, there are lots of other details involved. Relocation packages can allow employees to find housing themselves or the accommodation could be found on their behalf. Also, employees’ families need to be taken care of, which could include finding schools for children, and travel options need to be considered.

In normal times, HR Professionals have a thorough understanding of everything there is to know about the relocation packages being provided. But managing employee relocation during the COVID-19 pandemic is a lot more challenging. Dozens of new details must be considered to ensure employee safety and smooth relocation moves. In addition, government guidelines in different countries are changing all the time, so you need to be up-to-date with the latest guidance. To help you navigate the challenges of employee relocation during pandemic times, check out the following insightful and informative guide.

Have a thorough knowledge of new safety procedures to protect employees

Prior to 2020, employee relocation was a low-risk activity. But that has changed since the COVID-19 pandemic. As an HR Professional, you need to ensure that new safety practices are in place for various elements of the relocation process. You also need to be able to provide answers to employees who have concerns about new safety procedures.

When employees relocate, they will come into contact with various services and people throughout the process. So, it is important that you know what new safety procedures have been put in place by employee relocation supplier networks, moving companies, landlords, and so on. You will then have the knowledge to pass on to any employees who have concerns about how safe the relocation process is. Due to new safety procedures, some relocation activities could take longer than usual. Again, you need to know that so you can provide employees with accurate information.

Furthermore, as the rules around what people can and cannot do during the pandemic continually change, it is imperative you are aware of all the latest up-to-date procedures for every service involved with the relocation process. So, you should be able to easily answer questions like:

  • How is a new home for an employee sanitized?
  • Are the household goods movers wearing gloves and face masks?
  • Are movers monitoring the health of their crews for symptoms of COVID-19?
  • What is the moving company’s response plan should someone become ill during the move?
  • Are additional services available to ensure the well-being of the relocating employee and his or her family?
  • Have third-party services completed risk assessments and implemented local government COVID-19 guidelines?

For more guidance on employee relocation, check out this guide.

Provide employees with helpful and up-to-date information

Although you need to be on hand to answer any concerns from employees who are relocating, you also need to take the initiative and keep employees informed with the latest advice, such as detailed travel safety guidelines. You could also consider providing employees who are relocating with care kits that contain items like face masks and hand sanitizer.

It is also vital you provide employees with the latest government guidance concerning traveling during pandemic times. Employees may be delayed in travel at the last minute due to a change in government policy, or they may have to quarantine for a government-set period of time when they arrive at a new state or country. Entry restrictions to countries are continually changing at present, so it is vital that HR departments and employees who are relocating are aware of the latest rules. When rules change, it could also be your responsibility to let other organizations involved in the relocation, such as removal services and landlords, know about those changes. It is a good idea to set up alerts with employees so that you can automatically let them know when any key changes occur.

Provide virtual services

Social distancing is a key part of ensuring COVID-19 does not spread, so virtual contact should replace in-person contact whenever possible. That means employees should be able to contact HR via video chat services. You should also check whether the third-party moving services being used are able to communicate with you or with the employees virtually.

Moving companies are not the only third-party you and employees could be working with. Ensure virtual communication is possible with spousal support services, rental providers, language training providers, and so on. When it is not possible to use virtual methods and two or more people need to meet face-to-face, you need to ensure that both parties wear face masks and follow all government guidelines regarding meeting up and social distancing.

Provide flexibility to relocating employees

With rules changing all of the time and people becoming ill and thus delaying services, nothing is certain right now. Therefore, many employers are providing more flexible options for employees who are relocating. If the company you work for is introducing such flexible options, you need to ensure you have a thorough knowledge of the latest options so you can reliably pass that information on to relocating employees. For example, employees could be given the option to drive to a new location rather than fly or they could be given flexible start dates.

Another option is to give employees flexibility in how they spend their given relocation budgets. For instance, employees may be able to manage their circumstances better if they have lump sums rather than funds allocated to different services. By offering a lump-sum policy, employees are free to spend their relocation funds as they see fit, which, in these times of uncertainty, can be greatly beneficial.

Michael Dunlop is the Chief Operating Officer of Paradigm Digital Ltd and has extensive experience in business consultancy services.

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