Belgian companies expect limited impact on global mobility

PwC Global Mobility Pulse Survey

  • Most Belgian companies are postponing new international moves due to the COVID-19 outbreak
  • 56% believe they'll return to business as usual with the same number of international moves once the crisis is over; just 6% think this crisis will have a fundamental impact on workforce mobility.

10 June 2020 - Around the world, governments have been responding to the rapid spread of Covid-19 by closing borders and restricting travel, impacting international mobility and causing challenges in managing different payroll, tax and social security laws across the globe. Belgian companies have responded by pulling the handbrakes on new assignments and are allowing international assignees to return home. Looking forward, most Belgian companies expect global mobility to return to the same level of international moves, according to the Global Mobility Pulse Survey by PwC. 

In order to find out how the COVID-19 outbreak has changed business priorities, PwC surveyed over 300 business leaders across 37 countries, amongst which 16 in Belgium, about the impact on global mobility.

Global mobility grinded to a halt

The COVID-19 outbreak has almost no effect on employees working for companies abroad, because most of these employees can work from home without any problems (63%). Nevertheless, most Global Mobility leaders in Belgium, like most other companies worldwide, postpone new international assignments (81%). Belgian companies in particular are more open to starting international assignments from home compared to other companies worldwide: 69% of Belgian respondents agreed to start working from home, compared to an average of 42% worldwide.

Almost 69% of Belgian companies are allowing current mobile employees to temporarily return to their home country, in line with what other global companies are undertaking (63%). Just like some initiatives taken by other global companies, Belgian firms are less likely to move to a third country (6%). The outbreak of COVID-19 has also shifted the strategic mobility priorities, with a changed focus on managing day to day operations and employee queries and assessing which projects should continue in the future.

The end of global mobility?

In their immediate response, Belgian companies are now focusing on understanding who their mobile employees are and where they are (56%), understanding who has been impacted by the virus (38%) and working on communications and planning (31%). The implications of regulatory changes are also a top priority for many of them (31%).

Reflecting on how COVID-19 will affect international mobility, most Belgian respondents believe ​ that business will return to normal with the same number of international moves (56%). Already before the Covid-19 crisis hit 66% of Belgian CEOs acknowledged that globalisation has helped improve the ease of moving capital, people, goods and information (PwC CEO survey 2018). 

Commenting on the survey findings, Sandrine Schaumont, Partner, PwC Belgium: “The COVID-19 outbreak has generated considerable uncertainties for workers based abroad and their employers. Expats and employers alike must be mindful not only of the health concerns involved, but of evolving legislations and requirements related to sheltering in place, travel, and visas and work permits. An obstacle that many companies face is that they do not necessarily have technology in place to determine where their employees are located. This crisis is hence prompting the need of having a clear view on where all globally mobile employees are at any given moment in time and for building resilience and agility in a post-pandemic world.”

“With organisations preparing for their exit strategies, they should bear in mind that a new mindset will undoubtedly enter the workplace in the post-Covid 19 world. It is very likely that the ‘new normal’ will include a shift in preferences for both employees as employers. Think about the expectation of a more virtual workplace, with a greater emphasis on flexibility. Moreover, remote working looks set to stimulate more rapid and widespread digital upskilling. People now have had to adopt technologies in order to work effectively because they simply had no other choice. The shift to this new normal will present both advantages as challenges that organisations should start preparing for.”

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