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Strategy Considerations for Managing a Mobile Workforce

As the pandemic winds down, companies must structure their workplace to accommodate remote employees.

Strategy Considerations for Managing a Mobile Workforce

This article is sponsored by Insperity. This story originally appeared in the Fall 2021 print edition of the Middle Market Growth Future of Work Special Report. Read the full report in the archive.

The COVID pandemic required leaders to rethink and realign their remote work policies. The logical next step in remote working is worker mobility where proximity to the office has proven not to be needed. Headlines are heralding that remote working employees are moving out of crowded cities to more spacious suburban homes. While studies conflict on just how much movement from big cities to suburban locales is happening, the phenomena is real. As the pandemic’s effects wind down, companies must structure their workplace framework: in-office, continued remote or some hybrid; and how they will treat employees who desire to move away from their assigned locations.

Begin with a Clear Worker Mobility Policy

Worker Mobility policies must balance the needs of the business with the desires of employees for a higher quality of life. Company policies must address all similarly situated employees equitably to avoid unfair labor practices.

Will employees be asked to return to the office? Will the company continue remote work options permanently and support employees relocating their households away from the office? A Worker Mobility policy of this nature should consider, among others:

  • Time zones and the cost of travel – As the workforce moves to their desired cities/states, time zones may complicate meeting coordination. Even infrequent in-person meetings represent additional travel expenses, especially from extremely remote towns.
  • Quality of internet connections – Most rural area internet access is not equal to urban speeds. Will the additional costs for premium connections be borne by the company? Some states require employers to pay for reasonable and necessary business expenses.
  • Company tax status – Companies will need to consider additional state tax consequences when remote employees move to new states.
  • State employment laws – having employees work in a state where a company did not previously have employees will subject companies to new state employment laws that may be more employee friendly. Additionally, if employees move into a state where the company is not registered to do business, the company may need to register to do business in a particular state or satisfy any applicable business licensing requirements, as well as obtain new state unemployment tax accounts.
  • Long-term office space obligations – Mobile worker policies rest on the decisions around the use or disposition of existing or planned space.
  • Equitable salary treatment – Geographic salary variances generally offset cost of living differentials in high-cost markets. Salary considerations for employees moving from high to lower cost-of-living states include remaining unchanged, immediate adjustments or reductions over future pay raise cycles.
  • Equity – Should there be an equalizing consideration for non-moving workers?

Communicate the Policy, the Advantages and Risks of Moving

Your Worker Mobility policy explanation should clearly address the reasons for requiring a return to the office or, if applicable, the remote officing options and constraints. The implications and potential risks of choosing mobility should be made clear. For example, the office environment offers employee camaraderie, awareness of opportunities, access to leadership, and creative collaboration. Moving away creates separation from key career influencers and the potential of missing out on opportunities.

Master Mobile Management

Managers must be trained in remote management skills and delegation practices based upon accountability to clearly established objectives. Manage the manageable, reward success. Focusing on achievement rather than policing hours worked is key. Companies will need to explore new ways to replicate face-to-face collaboration and proximity-generated innovation.

Unleashing employee satisfaction and building loyalty generates discretionary effort. If mobility does that for your company, embrace it and build a remote management competency!

Sarah Grimstead is a regional vice president of sales at Insperity.