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Working abroad during the COVID-19 pandemic

Feb 04, 2021 by Monica Garcia

The Coronavirus-pandemic has led to many changes within the business operations of companies all around the world. Due to the restrictions, many companies have worked in a remote setting in the last months. Employees have set up their home office, and hiring and onboarding processes have been online. Although many companies have slowly started to return to the office adopting a hybrid model, the third wave has led to an increase in remote working once more. The resulting measures have become a new lifestyle to us, which we will most probably have to maintain until most people are vaccinated or an effective treatment is discovered. 

In this article, we want to share how companies are currently managing this situation and how this will probably evolve in the future. Furthermore, we will show you the current statistics and measures of some European countries, in which our main customers are located.

Woman in videocall during covid-19 pandemic

How are companies currently managing their recruitment, onboarding, and relocation processes?

Recruitment and hiring process

Most of our customers have adapted their recruitment processes as a result of the Corona-pandemic. For example, at the start of the pandemic, we saw recruitment take a back seat, as expected. Companies froze their recruitment due to the uncertainty of the situation: short or long-term mobility restrictions, potential economic consequences in the future… However, people’s drive for improving their careers and exploring the world has never gone away. Our candidates are still actively exploring opportunities, and we have had many questions about how the recruitment process of today’s pandemic reality is.

It’s almost a year later now, and we have seen companies picking up their recruitment processes again. Employers have realized that this situation of not knowing when we will be going back to “normal” is forcing them to adapt their recruitment processes. Therefore, traditional recruitment has shifted to virtual recruitment. This way, the process keeps moving while recruiters and candidates stay safe.

Currently, the initial round of interviews, such as CV and phone screenings stays the same. However, face-to-face interviews are now online. HR teams are required to implement new technologies to facilitate this digital-first reality. Interesting to see is that many of these technologies and platforms have been available for years, but the use has increased tremendously in the last year. For example, Workwide Group’s customer Webhelp adapted and digitized their recruitment process so that every step could be online. On another note, companies are focused more than ever on social recruitment (use of social media, especially Linkedin and Instagram) to connect with potential new employees.

In the recent Jobvite research report, “How Recruiters are Adapting to a World of Remote Recruiting” some key findings can be found that confirm the information above:

  • 84% of talent acquisition teams are adapting their processes to work remotely.
  • 46% of respondents are doing more social posting to advertise jobs to recruit new talent, including LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram.
  • 80% of respondents are using video in the interview process.
  • 73% of respondents are using video and online meetings to facilitate the interview and onboarding process.
  • 55% of respondents are making more phone calls than before.

This new way of online recruiting can be beneficial to both candidates and companies since the online processes have speeded up the traditional recruitment process.  

man working abroad during covid-19 pandemic

Onboarding process

Besides the recruitment and hiring processes, the traditional onboarding process has also transitioned into virtual. Onboarding new employees virtually is a brand new concept for most companies, and most of them are still trying to figure out how to do this right. It requires more structure and planning than traditional onboarding. For example, Transcom carries out the onboarding process for new employees completely safe by offering it online, and they even deliver the working stations of their new employees at home.

Despite this new digital method, it is still critical for companies to communicate their culture, mission, and vision to help new employees identify where they fit within the organization and establish their purpose. If you find the online onboarding process a challenge as a new employee, Workwide Group has created a specific article for you to check in different languages.

Remote working

Taking an in-depth look at our customers’ open positions, many companies still have employees working from home, with some committing to remote work through 2021 or the foreseeable future. This approach also applies to new hires, who are still required to relocate to the new country. However, companies offer them the option (imposed or not by the governments) to work remotely from their new home. Fujitsu or Sitel give this opportunity until the pandemic slows down and they can reopen their offices. Others (like Babymarkt) offer the possibility to work from the home country until the mobility restrictions are relaxed.

How is remote working going to develop in the (near) future?

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the number of employees working from home in the EU (situated at a 9% rate in 2019). However, in what way remote working is going to evolve in the future depends on several factors. Indeed, the mentality towards this way of working has changed during the past few months. Regardless of a long learning curve, many employees have realized that they can work from home and use the technology on their own. On the other side, leaders and managers have gained a lot of trust, experiencing that working remotely can be as successful as working at the workplace, despite the challenges and the lack of experience with this new approach. For example, one study of 1,000 SME owners and decision-makers in 19 cities across the United Kingdom reports that nearly one in three (29%) SMEs plan to increase flexible working post-pandemic (Smith, 2020).

Concluding, during the next COVID-19 periods, workers, employers, and governments will indeed have to adapt to a new hybrid working model, with a combination of remote working and the possibility to go to the office, keeping in mind the regulations/normative regarding hygiene and social distancing. As said, when it comes to most of Workwide Group’s customers, the relocation of new hires is still a must. This way, these hires will experience their working and living abroad adventure while the company works on ensuring a safe working environment.

man with face-mask

Relocation

As most of the jobs found on Workwide Group’s sites still require the candidates to relocate to a new country, Lingocruit and our customers guarantee that the necessary precautions are taken to ensure a safe relocation. Namely, some companies have strengthened their assistance in this process, following the indications from the public health agencies. For instance, a negative COVID-19 test result upon arrival or a quarantine might be required for new employees when moving to the new country. None of our customers would put the health of our candidates and their new hires at risk.

Most companies have changed their approach when it comes to relocating new hires from abroad due to COVID-19. According to the PWC Global Mobility - Pulse survey, half of the participating companies have even improved their relocation packages, even though they allow their hires to start working from home. These relocation packages include, in addition to flight tickets or temporary accommodation, extended medical coverage, and compliance support. 

Additional insights that companies shared in this survey regarding the relocation of their new hires are: 

  • “ The ability to work flexibly or from an alternative location is in place for "stranded " employees due to border closures.”
  • “We are reviewing whether people can start their assignment from their home country and remote working arrangements on a case by case basis. These will be temporary solutions only. “
  • “We are working virtually, but only until the borders and curfews are lifted.”
  • “Where assignees asked to work elsewhere, we have not covered the cost, just supported the request.”
  • “We have replaced the gym membership benefit with a cash allowance while gyms are not accessible.”

As seen, companies that need international talent require the relocation of new employees, with the only difference of a more flexible approach, allowing temporary remote working solutions to ensure that everybody is working in a safe environment. In summary, these companies stated that their relocation programs adapted to pandemic times have an increased focus on the wellbeing of the employees and the cost-effectiveness of their businesses

What will relocation processes look like in the (near) future?

The participating companies also shared their predictions about the impact of the pandemic on the relocation processes: 

  • “We expect the same number of employees will work internationally, just maybe in a different fashion.”
  • “Business travel will go down, but long term assignments will go up” 
  • “The decrease in mobility will be temporary. It will likely grow again in a year to a year and a half.”
  • “I think this will change how we view where work is performed, which may mean a reduction in some of the movement types and an increase in others.” 

When we look at our customers and their ongoing need for multilingual talent, we are convinced that relocation and talent mobility will always exist, albeit with a digital focus. We also believe that our candidates’ enthusiasm and wanderlust to move abroad and start their working and living abroad experience will never disappear. Despite the third-wave Covid-19 outbreak, we have never stopped receiving applications from candidates all over Europe, and we expect the situation to stay like this in the upcoming months.

New behaviors and norms

As said, a hybrid working model has become the new normal for now, and it is also expected after the pandemic. It’s clear, then, that new behaviors and attitudes are reshaping the workplace at this time. Indeed, employees are more conscious than ever about their workspace, clean surfaces, and social distance with their colleagues, as personal safety is a constant concern. Therefore, employers must take a flexible approach regarding workspaces arrangements to ensure the best and safest work experience and create more resilience for their business in the future, especially now that some vaccines are being authorized and recommended by the EU to prevent COVID-19.

covid-19 and working abroad

Entry restrictions, isolation measures, and heightened admission in EU countries during COVID-19

The restrictions imposed to fight against the pandemic have made international mobility quite a challenge. As Workwide Group wants to help candidates to be as prepared as possible for their future relocation process, we want to highlightkey aspects to take into consideration before moving to a new country: 

  • You may need to show a negative Covid-19 test result upon arrival : Proof of a negative coronavirus test result on arrival in many countries in Europe is becoming increasingly widespread. However, this may only apply when coming from specific hotspot regions within another country. Please check the safety protocols for arriving foreign nationals that your country of destination is taking to contain the spread of COVID-19. You may need to take this test in your home country or the airport of destination. 
  • You may feel isolated or stay in quarantine at the beginning of your adventure: Everyday life changed a lot and it is probably going to take a while before everything gets back to normal. This also means that life as an expat is going to be different. For example, nowadays it’s harder to make new friends, because of social distancing regulations. Also, there is a possibility that your friends and family may not be able to visit you anytime soon due to the travel restrictions.
  • The shipment of your belongings might take longer: Another point to keep in mind is that you need to be patient if you’re shipping your belongings from one country to another during this period. Namely, shipping companies currently have reduced air freight capacity and soaring prices because of airline cancellations and restrictions. Therefore we advise you to travel with the absolute necessities in your suitcase and get the rest shipped at a later date when restrictions have eased further.
  • Local restrictions may vary - do you know what they are? It’s essential to find out the local restrictions of the country you are about to be relocated. This way, you avoid getting into trouble with the local police or getting a fine. These rules may vary significantly between countries, so make sure you are updated. Some questions that are good to think about are:
  1. Do you need to do a coronavirus test and stay in quarantine afterward until you receive the results?
  2. Are there any local mobility restrictions?
  3. Do you need to wear a mask indoors/outdoors?
  4. What are the social distancing guidelines?

Please visit https://reopen.europa.eu/en, a web page created by the European Union where it is possible to check daily updated information regarding mobility restrictions within the EU!. 

Stay safe working abroad

We consider it relevant to keep you updated about how working abroad during pandemic times is. This way, you will always know what to expect. We would also like to recommend you to keep checking our job list as we will keep uploading inspiring international job possibilities. 

Do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about the Coronavirus and your international career. We are here to help you and guide you with your search for your dream job abroad! Please send us a message with any questions you might have.