Q&A: boost your business by breaking down borders

From workations to permanent relocations, demand for cross-border mobility among employees is on the rise


Being able to live and work abroad is no longer just an opportunity reserved for senior managers. Demand for cross-border mobility among employees at all levels is on the up, with workations emerging as a particularly popular option.

Hanna Marie Asmussen, co-founder and chief executive officer of global mobility platform provider Localyze, explains the details behind these trends and how employers can benefit.

What trends are you seeing in the global mobility market?

When the industry first started off about 20 years ago, it was mainly about large companies sending senior managers abroad to perform specific tasks, such as opening an office or facility in a new market. But the processes behind moving talent across the world are often complex. So, it can be hard to stay on top of the admin unless you move employees frequently.

Corporate mobility agencies offered executives a bespoke VIP relocation service, with each being assigned their own dedicated case worker. But as a result, it was expensive – in the region of £50,000-£100,000 per person.

Over the last five to 10 years though, the global war for talent, particularly in the tech and engineering sectors, has brought about change in the global mobility market. Now, employees of all ages and seniority levels are relocating abroad, both with and without their families. As a result, agencies have added lower cost services to their portfolios to cater to different levels of seniority. 

In the last few years since the Covid pandemic, the situation has become more complex, with employee expectations shifting once again and demanding even more flexibility. For example, a recent survey by international payments app Zing revealed that a quarter of UK Millennial and Gen Z employees hope to work abroad one day. 

The challenge here is that employers can’t relocate everyone, particularly at a time when many are experiencing cost pressures. Therefore, over the last six months or so, we’ve seen a significant increase in demand for temporary transfers, special assignments, and workations - where employees continue to work, but from destinations in which they’d normally holiday. 

In fact, according to a 2023 study by the WYSE Travel Confederation, the global number of ‘digital nomads’ is set to reach 40 million this year, rising to an estimated 60 million by 2030. This refers to people who earn a living by working online in a location of their choosing, suggesting the lifestyle is becoming significantly more mainstream. 

Just under half (49%) of these digital nomads are employed full-time. And their three favourite destinations are anywhere in the US and Spain, followed by Bangkok in Thailand.

Why are workations, in particular, becoming more popular?

There’s been a tendency in some European countries, such as Germany and the UK, to push the return-to-office mandate quite hard. But offering employees workations is a good compromise between that and remote working. 

It’s just another way of providing people with more flexibility. This helps to make employers more competitive in the war for talent, especially in tech. 

Cost pressures also remain a concern. That’s why many companies are turning away from relocation agencies and looking for software to help them become more efficient. We have an advantage here in that we’re the only provider to offer an all-in-one platform, with both relocation and workation services under one roof.

This enables HR professionals to take a more holistic, strategic approach to global mobility. It also means they can manage all kinds of globally mobile employees and associated compliance risks in one place. 

A further advantage of using a software platform is that, unlike agencies, they provide HR professionals with full visibility as to what’s going on. This includes enabling them to keep track of all their global mobility cases in one place. It also means they have immediate access to employee feedback should anything go wrong. All in all, this saves time, reduces compliance risks, and helps cut error rates.

What other benefits does global mobility bring?

There’s an established link between happy employees and performance. For example, 2023 research by WPI Economics shows that employees who are happy at work are nearly three times as likely to rate their performance as ‘very productive’. 

Another advantage is that global mobility gives employers access to a much wider talent pool, whether we’re talking about the US, Europe or beyond. This is particularly important if you’re based in a non-English-speaking country but are looking to hire hard-to-find specialist skills, such as AI. 

Furthermore, as the world continues to globalise, even start-ups are becoming increasingly international in their outlook from the get-go. This means they are looking for global talent to help them achieve their aims.

What common challenges do employers face when embracing global mobility?

One of the biggest challenges is regulatory compliance. Imagine, for example, that an employee working on a revenue-generating contract takes a workation in Spain. Even if there is no office in the country, the government may behave, for tax purposes, as if a permanent legal entity exists. This means you, as their employer, may be obliged to pay corporation tax.

The point here is that each country has its own legislative nuances. So, it can take a lot of time and resources to keep on top of them all. But this is where experienced partners, such as Localyze, come in. 

Not only do we offer an all-in-one global mobility platform. We also have a team of immigration and relocation experts to support and guide both you and your talent through all of the challenges you’ll face. If you need additional help in certain areas, such as finding accommodation, we coordinate trusted, local partners to assist there too. 

Given the fast-paced, often disconcerting pace of geopolitical change around the world, it doesn’t look like global mobility issues will become less complex anytime soon. But one thing is certain and that is the desire to live and work abroad won’t be going away any time soon either. And we’ll be there to help, every step of the way.

For more information visit www.localyze.com