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Second-Wave Pandemic Surges: Impacts on Mobility

As organizations plan for remobilization, additional surges of COVID-19 cases are likely to interfere with company goals and mobility-related activities. How can stakeholders prepare for whatever comes next? Building on lessons already learned will provide greater dexterity and the flexibility that will be needed when facing the unexpected.

As organizations have monitored the pandemic, it’s understandable that stakeholders have been eager to start defining a new level of normality: While business contingency plans were implemented over the past few months, COVID-19 simultaneously created a series of mobility obstacles that multiplied and evolved as rapidly as they appeared. Mobility required a sustained level of attention and agility that has challenged the skill and stamina of professionals in ways never before seen in our industry. As countries began to ease local restrictions, discussions about remobilization began. Some businesses have been focused on repatriations while others are examining long-term talent management plans. Recent lockdowns and renewed mobility restrictions, however, are strong indicators that businesses should be prepared to navigate additional pandemic waves as a part their remobilization strategy.

Pandemic-Related Setbacks and Their Potential Impact on Mobility

As organizations evaluate multiple global locations for remobilization readiness, they will not only need to consider the number of reported COVID-10-related cases, but also take their cues from any changes to restrictions regarding quarantine requirements, social distancing, curfews, mask requirements, and travel. These restrictions can materialize and evolve rapidly, which means stakeholders will need to maintain a flexible and responsive approach to troubleshooting. Mobility teams, in partnership with key stakeholders, should be prepared to implement crisis and disaster management protocols and business contingency plans rapidly.

Setbacks caused by additional pandemic waves could have significant impacts on remobilization and any new deployment initiatives, including necessary relocation or assignment timeline revisions, a halt or modification of relocation services, increased relocation/mobility budgets and costs, the need for urgent travel arrangements, and/or the need for support regarding additional services related to immigration, living expenses, temporary housing, etc. Organizations may also see an increase in exception requests.

Employee safety and wellbeing should always be a top consideration when making any decisions or changes to an existing crisis/disaster management plan.

Lessons Learned Can Be Applied

If organizations take the time to review their COVID-19 response effectiveness now, decision makers will have a significant opportunity to benefit from lessons learned from the experience. By evaluating what has worked well and identifying areas for improvement, stakeholders can be better prepared for additional pandemic surges, associated challenges, and any unrelated crises and disasters in the future.

Asking the right questions is key to a thorough assessment, including:

  • Was complete employee demographic data readily available to enable the response strategy?
  • Did the response strategy have financial impacts that could have been avoided or minimized?
  • Were employees provided with the right kind, scope, and level of support to minimize impact and challenges?
  • Did existing (or modified) mobility and organizational policies help or hinder the response strategy?
  • What are employee and stakeholder perspectives regarding the value of the support provided to them?

Answers to questions such as these can assist a thorough evaluation of the company’s past pandemic response and drive more impactful and efficient plans for any current and future waves of the pandemic. For a complete list of exploratory questions and more information on preparedness during future pandemic-related challenges, please see our white paper, COVID-19 - Mobilization Considerations: Setbacks and Second Waves.

Looking Ahead

COVID-19 has been a challenge and will continue to be a significant consideration for mobility teams in the future, in varying degrees depending on location, timing, and overall employee and business scenarios. Some setbacks may disrupt workforce deployment temporarily, while others could have a longer-term impact on organizational ability to meet strategic and talent priorities. In all cases, relocation impacts and actions will be location specific and fluidity should be expected. It would be wise to anticipate multiple waves of the pandemic and to expect that pandemic management counter-initiatives will need to be repeated a number of times until the global landscape is stabilized. This may seem like an overwhelming task but, armed with previous, company-specific knowledge that has been gained – and support from your mobility provider – organizations can better prepare to apply effective response strategies and improve upon their crisis and disaster management plans for the future.

For more helpful information, please see SIRVA’s Playbook for Mobility Management During Crises and Disasters, our 2020 COVID-19 Guide and Checklist for Remobilization, and our white paper, COVID-19 - Mobilization Considerations: Setbacks and Second Waves.

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