Home Away From Home

Certain components of Global Mobility expanded during the pandemic. Corporate housing has seen unprecedented growth during the last eighteen months, and there is no sign of stopping. Corporate apartments, whose original purpose was for business employees with work that took them out of town frequently, have come to provide shelter for a variety of renters.

Corporate apartments offer short-term, flexible lease length options, and this is their biggest draw. Business travelers, employees, government contractors, students, digital nomads, and now vacationers are attracted to short term housing. These turnkey units are fully furnished, often luxurious, and rented under a single payment with utilities included.

It’s still important to do due diligence while searching for corporate housing. Here are some pros and cons to note:

Pros:

  • Flexibility: Many corporate apartments offer month-to-month leases or shorter leasing terms.
  • Cost-effective: Corporate apartments may rent for higher rates than traditional apartments, however they are fully furnished and less expensive than a hotel.
  • Move-in Ready: No need to move your furniture or unpack your boxes. No utility companies to deal with – just stock the refrigerator.

Cons:

  • High-Priced Rent: Fully furnished corporate apartments have typically higher rental prices than traditional rental units.
  • Short Term Lease Options: Short term leases work well unless you need to extend the lease and the apartment has already been leased to the next person.
  • Renting Sight-Unseen: Corporate housing is often not available to tour before you move in. While there may be photos, these apartments are usually rented sight unseen.

Corporate housing companies can be a great resource. There are many companies that can support your corporate housing needs and often handle more than just temporary housing. National Corporate Housing is a great resource for housing in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, or APAC, and is also a destination service provider. Primestone Partners recently assisted with a group move out of Russia to corporate apartments in U.A.E.  Blu Corporate Housing has compiled a list of the Top 15 Best Corporate Housing Companies in 2022 as an additional resource.

As a local example, Ray Madronio, CEO of  California Corporate Housing noted that, “Demand for temp housing continues to be strong in Silicon Valley. Companies are finding that some in-person work at the office is critical to productivity and efficiency.”

From Furnished Quarters“The double demand for corporate housing is exceeding pre-pandemic levels. This sharp uptick in requests is helpful in the recovery of our urban areas, many of which were hit the hardest throughout the pandemic. At Furnished Quarters, we have always believed in the staying power of iconic metropolitan areas and pride ourselves on consistently maintaining a unique variety of inventory within our core markets of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and California.

With that said, the increase in demand for our products has resulted in extremely limited availability, and we expect this trend to continue through the third quarter of 2022.  In response, we have been taking significant steps to mitigate the effects of these market conditions to ensure we can continue to serve our client base including: proactively acquiring new inventory by leveraging our strong relationships with the leading real estate owner-operators and expanding our offerings in New Jersey, Westchester, and Connecticut to provide our NYC-focused clients with attractive alternatives.”

Whether you’re relocating one employee or a group of employees, temporary corporate apartments are great for renters looking for reliable, affordable, short-term accommodation. Best of all, employees can stay more affordably, have access to more amenities, and enjoy a home away from home for a brief period.

*Image courtesy of California Corporate Housing

Don’t Tax Yourself on this Topic

Tapping At Xylophones… Tibia After X-ray… Tackling Autocratic Xenophobes…

The subject of TAX can lead us to all sorts of acrobatic mental avoidance — these absurd acronyms, for example.

But a general understanding of taxes is essential to living and working abroad. Or at least knowing where to go with your basic – and not so basic – questions. There are several considerations, some that involve your employer and some that will be your own responsibility.  Here are a few:

Income tax may be part of your assignment compensation discussions so that you and your employer understand your liability in both home and host locations. Be prepared to talk about issues like tax equalization, what counts as income, and deadlines in relevant jurisdictions.

-Payments into Social Security programs may need to continue even when the worker resides outside of their home country. Consult a tax expert for clarity, depending on your home and host locations.

Business travelers and remote workers can inadvertently trigger tax liability for themselves and their employers by overstaying a prescribed number of days in another location, be it a new country or even another state or province. Given the swift adoption of virtual work during the COVID-19 pandemic, regulations are evolving in this area, and it is best to consult a tax professional. Your employer may also utilize tracking tools that help everyone stay compliant.

Purchases large and small, from everyday shopping to buying a home, may be subject to unfamiliar taxes. Consider real estate taxes on property and mortgage payment deductions, as well as what may be due on any rental income from the home you left. Make note of the sales tax in your host location, which may be called Value-Added-Tax (VAT) or Goods and Services Tax (GST). Find out whether marked prices include the tax, which is 25% or higher in countries like Denmark, Croatia, and Hungary. Some countries provide VAT refund schemes for foreign buyers.

With careful planning and frank discussions with a tax expert, you can worry less about this aspect of your work travels and ensure that your employer stays compliant.

 

Written by Ellen Harris, GMS, Product Manager, Content Group

Who Doesn’t Need a Move Planner?

Whether we call it “chunking,” “kitchen sinking,” “microproductivity” or something else entirely, the evidence is clear: Breaking down an overwhelming project into manageable tasks can be an excellent way to reduce stress while still ensuring everything gets done.

Living Abroad’s International Move Planner is designed to do exactly that. The International Move Planner identifies all critical tasks of an international move, and spreads reminders out across an assignee’s schedule — providing detailed information every step of the way. This makes the tasks, and therefore the move, much easier to complete.

Registering for the International Move Planner is easy, and assignees quickly get a master list of move-related topics, prepopulated with tasks that are based on their destination . It’s also easy to customize the Move Planner with four simple options that further tailor it to their particular concerns.

Assignees can rearrange and reprioritize their International Move Planner tasks and can even add their own tasks! Here are three example tasks they should consider adding:

Task: “Arrange your additional healthcare consultations.”

Category: Health

Suggested priority: 4

While the International Move Planner will remind an assignee to arrange medical checkups, it’s very important to consider additional individual needs of family members. They may also need to schedule appointments with specialists, therapists, or other types of support services in preparation for the assignment. And even if there are excellent dentists in their destination country, they might consider including dental checkups — there will be plenty of things to keep them busy after their arrival!

Task: “Identify your specialty and preferred personal care items.”

Category: Goods

Suggested priority: 3

While cosmetics, toothpaste, and other commonplace personal care products may be readily available in a destination country, preferred brands or formulations can be much more challenging to find, expensive, or both. If so, assignees should consider how to address this. They may want to take a supply with them. If they do, they should check customs regulations to be sure the items on their “must-have” list will be allowed into the country. Local pharmacies and supermarkets may have websites where they can check product availability and pricing.

Task: “Address your technology and Internet-related changes and needs.”

Category: General

Suggested priority: 4

Before departure, assignees should identify all the online services to which they subscribe, and determine whether they’ll need to transfer, cancel, update, or make other changes. While this certainly includes cable, Internet, and mobile telephone providers, it can also mean media streaming, cloud storage, password and security services, e-media, and mobile phone application subscriptions. If they plan to bring smartwatches, gaming consoles or other Internet-reliant devices with them, it’ll be important to make sure those devices are compatible with services available in the destination country.

Assignees who integrate these and other personalized tasks into their International Move Planner can shift their focus onto completing all tasks in a thorough, manageable way — making all the other changes and challenges of an international move that much easier.

 

Written by Erin Fitzgerald, GMS, Content Manager

What a Wonderful World it Would Be

When we talk about sustainability in the corporate world, we focus on a holistic approach. Everything is considered, from manufacturing to logistics to customer service. Going green results in many benefits, including cost savings.

Some companies switch to energy-efficient lighting, or use solar and wind energy, and update to energy-efficient equipment that reduces monthly utility bills. Reducing energy consumption is not only good for business but also for the environment. Sustainable actions reduce the carbon footprint, improve water and air quality, and increase the use of renewable energy sources.

Within the global mobility industry, it’s easy to understand the large carbon footprint that results from a relocation abroad or even across the country. It’s encouraging to see so many corporations taking an active stand toward sustainability. On a recent The View from the Top show, Enno Ommen and Bjoern Minz from Bayer discussed initiatives in their policy that center around sustainability.

Bayer currently has an expatriate population of around 600 expats. Acknowledging that this is quite a large carbon footprint, they started working with their assignees before the relocation on ways to be more sustainable. These included donating or discarding household goods, virtual look-see trips, bicycle allowances, rewards for using green utility companies, and cash allowances instead of using air freight.

Accenture imbues everything they do with sustainability. Julie Sweet, Chair & CEO states, “Today’s rapid acceleration to digital presents us with a breakthrough opportunity to create a more sustainable future.” Accenture has a program called “Green on Assignment,” offering suggestions for assignees on sustainability no matter where they live.

The most important action is to start now and take that first small step. Companies that have sustainability programs are making a difference and this trickles down to their employees. As individuals, we can all contribute by doing small things like planting a tree, recycling, using a green utility supplier, and avoiding pesticides on our lawns. These all make a difference. Keeping in mind that sustainability is a concern throughout the world, Living Abroad has started adding destination-based information to our reports.

Most importantly, sustainability is about being thoughtful to others. We have a moral obligation to each other, to future generations, and to the planet. Our present choices have long-term impact. How can we leave the world a better place for generations to come?

Size Yourself Up

Whether their reasons are sustainability, affordability, or just the thrill of the hunt, clothing shoppers around the world are adding more gently used and vintage items to their closets. If you’re thinking about taking the leap, it’s important to keep some things in mind.

Recently I read a novel set in 1950’s Sydney, The Women in Black. Descriptions of the titular women included dress sizes that had me stymied and looking for answers online. Knowing that sizing systems vary around the world, I was also reminded that standards have evolved within my lifetime, and maybe within yours.

In Australia, an “extra slim, small woman” would wear a size XSSW in the 1950’s, then a 10 when sizes were converted to numbers more than a decade later, and likely an 8 or a 6 today. Designers and manufacturers realized that appealing to women’s vanity with smaller sizes was good for sales. They made changes accordingly, adjusting numbers downward.

These days, people are repurposing and reselling clothes, with the help of local shops and online platforms like Depop, Poshmark, The RealReal, and thredUP. Vintage looks are popular, as is the eco-friendly choice of buying something used.

Anyone relocating or just traveling abroad might keep their eyes open for unique finds. Knowing your size by various international standards can help you decipher labels.

While European sizing is based on actual measurements, in many other places women’s clothing labels bear numbers ranging from 0 or 2 or 3, increasing in even or odd increments. While numerical systems are used overwhelmingly around the world, you will also encounter Small/Medium/Large/XL sizing, typically for garments that are less fitted.

Men’s clothing is much more likely to be measurement-specific, but children’s clothing can be labeled by age, metric measurement, or some other method. Shoes sizes present their own challenge, with numbers that only occasionally correspond to an actual foot measurement.

The bottom line is that, while conversion charts are useful, taking measurements will always give you the best chance at a good fit. If the item you’re shopping for is online rather than in person, often there are ways to contact the seller to clarify any missing information.

In the interest of sustainability, people are more willing to reuse, repurpose, and recycle, even for clothing. Buying something locally in your host country, and then selling it on or making it into something else, reduces your shipping load. Knowing you’re minimizing waste can make your find even more attractive.

Written by Ellen Harris, GMS, Product Manager, Content Group

Five Interesting Facts About Ramadan

April 2, 2022 was an ordinary day for many. But for 1.8 billion Muslims around the world, it was Ramadan 1, 1442.

Here are five facts to know about Ramadan, the most holy month of the Islamic calendar:

  1. Ramadan is a month of fasting, abstinence, and contemplation.

Between dawn and dusk during Ramadan, Muslims commonly refrain from all eating and drinking, including water. Prayer, reading from the Quran, and acts of charity are also common Ramadan activities.

  1. Ramadan is determined with precision.

As with every Islamic month, Ramadan begins with the appearance of the hilal, the crescent moon which follows the new moon. In some predominately Islam countries, this must be observed with eyesight and certified by a court.

  1. For users of other calendars, Islamic months may seem to “move.”

The Islamic calendar and the Gregorian calendar both have 12 months. But because the lunar cycle is approximately 29.5 days long, months on the Islamic calendar “move” backward about ten days each year when compared to the Gregorian calendar. Ramadan was observed from approximately April 12 to May 12 in 2021, and from approximately April 23 to May 23 in 2020.

  1. Observance of Ramadan can greatly affect daily life for visitors to predominantly Islamic destinations.

Government offices, banks, and stores may have shorter business hours during Ramadan. They may also shift some business hours to after dusk. Because most residents fast during the day, many restaurants also alter their business hours, or may even close entirely during the day. If you are not Muslim and plan to travel to an Islamic destination during this time, it’s also important to familiarize yourself with local customs and any provisions for foreigners, such as daytime meals at hotels.

  1. The end of Ramadan also marks the beginning of an important holiday.

Eid al-Fitr, which begins the day after Ramadan ends, is a celebration. While traditions vary from place to place, new clothing, family gifts, and sumptuous feasts are common. Islamic countries often observe Eid al-Fitr as a national holiday. In some, Eid lasts multiple days. This year, observation of Eid al-Fitr will begin the evening of May 1 in most countries.

 

Written by Erin Fitzgerald, GMS, Content Manager

This Girl is On Fire

This Girl is On Fire

With Women’s History month concluding, it’s important to note that many global changes have affected women specifically over the past several years. The ongoing pandemic, economic challenges, and the current crisis in the Ukraine have influenced everyone, and some would argue that women have borne the brunt. Signs indicate that mental health challenges and burnout will continue to affect women. Woman have added responsibilities at home and work, often doing more for their companies, but not getting recognized for it.

What can we focus on to collectively support women?

Creating flexible work policies and allowing autonomy over the way work gets done will help to reduce burnout and slow the rate of women leaving the workforce. According to a study done from Lean In and McKinsey, women are more burned out than a year ago, and significantly more so than men.

Gender parity in leadership positions hasn’t been achieved yet. Individual organizations need to reexamine causes behind the numbers. Is it due to individual choice? Are candidates less assertive than they could be? Are there institutional or systemic barriers, like discrimination? Creating an inclusive environment will help support women.

Mental health support needs to be a priority. The pandemic increased symptoms of anxiety and depression. It’s important to destigmatize it and make it okay and easy for people to ask for help. Well-being and mental health go hand in hand with productivity and performance. Companies that are providing support in these areas will create change for the better.

Now is a good time to offer mentorship programs. Mentoring promotes women’s success and economic self-sufficiency. Mentors are not only a source of support, but provide inspiration when times are tough. They have walked the path before. Think about becoming a mentor to someone in your organization. Good allies and co-conspirators make space for everyone to be their full, authentic selves.

Childcare continues to be a major concern for those with young children. Not only is it expensive, but childcare workers are quitting in droves and providers are closing their doors. Parents must find childcare somewhere else, which isn’t always easy. Because of this, in some instances women are having to leave the workforce.  This crisis needs to be addressed.

Moving into 2022, women need to be supported in many ways to stay engaged in the workforce or to reenter it. Organizations gain strength from the female perspective. Not just diversity of color or gender, but diversity of thought, diversity of belief, socioeconomic diversity, religious diversity all help with problem solving and benefit the organization, which benefits the world.

Some women are rising to the moment as stronger leaders and taking on the extra work that is required in these times. Women are doing more to support their teams and advance diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Yet this critical work is going unrecognized and unrewarded by most companies.

If this work isn’t prioritized, companies jeopardize losing the very leaders they need right now to help navigate the pandemic and build inclusive workplaces. Women have changed their world. Their world is the family, workplace, and people they interact with daily. These insights can change the world. Women are creating a future that is more just, more equitable, and more flexible, but they must be recognized and rewarded for this crucial work.

 

Written by Cathy Heyne, GMS-T, President

Keep Yourself Informed

When Global Mobility was in its infancy, corporate travelers abroad often relied on foreign newspapers in their host countries. Searching for publications in their language – sometimes a day old or more – was the best way to keep up with world news in a lot of places.

How media has evolved! To access current news now, you need look no further than the small device in the palm of your hand. Less official sources also fill in the blanks for media consumers, with YouTube channels and one-off posts, as well as aggregators who combine journalism with games, recipes, trends, celebrity stories, and other content.

When changeable situations make current, reliable news a necessity, assignees and travelers need to know where to turn. Here are a few sources:

– Traditional global news outlets like News Corp, Daily Mail and Trust, or New York Times deliver coverage on a broad range of subject matter, whether in print, digital, televised, or streaming.

– Regional news sources focus on topics pertinent to a certain population and are useful for staying abreast of local happenings.

– Tech companies like Alphabet/Google, Meta/Facebook and Apple now represent a large presence in the news space. With a social media foundation, these organizations open the field to unlimited views – which often means that consumers become their own curators and sometimes leads censoring governments to block them.

– Radio is popular in peaceful times and powerful in crisis. Over-air broadcasts, digital and streaming services inform, entertain, and provoke thought with an enormous variety of content. BBC World Service and Voice of America (VOA) reach audiences around the world and serve populations under stress in wartime.

While not a media source, your home country’s embassy or consulate in the host location is a key source of information and advice. Register your presence upon arrival so that your contact information can be used to reach you with alerts.

Also, take full advantage of your Living Abroad International Relocation Center (IRC) subscription to support those affected by events in Ukraine and Russia. Companies are moving people out of both countries and Ukraine-based personnel, especially, need information on the spot. This includes details about evacuation countries like Poland, Romania, Lithuania, Germany, Italy, and any number of final target destinations farther afield.

Even with enormous humanitarian efforts and aid rendered to those in need, the volatile situation can cause frequent changes to cross-border processes and required documentation. Always consult your immigration expert for the best advice and swiftest possible results.

Staying informed can keep you safe and make you more effective, wherever you happen to be.

 

Written by Ellen Harris, GMS, Product Manager, Content Group