Resilience in Relocation: Return to Work, Incentives, and ROI

2021 kicked off with a flurry of new questions. When are offices going to open? How are we going to manage rapid reopening? Where will I be expected to work?

The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine is underway, and with it, the promise of an end to the pandemic at some point in the not-too-distant future. Yet many variables persist with supply and distribution that will directly impact where and how people work. For now, as much as employers may be anxious to be proactive, it may be difficult to start early because people want to continue to work remotely and avoid relocating during COVID.

Fast forward to September of this year: anyone who wanted the vaccine should have received it, the case count has drastically reduced, and the country has opened up…hopefully. Everyone eagerly rushes to a return to normal only to find – massive gridlock. For the employee who’s waited for this moment to relocate, they will find overbooked flights, sold out accommodations, a sprint for real estate, and logistical nightmares. Months of pent-up demand will have driven the price of everything sky-high. Suddenly, the relo package offered months ago doesn’t seem nearly as generous, and the house you thought you could afford is half the size or in a more distant suburb.

So, what can employees and employers do to beat the rush? Incentives are one solution. While cost containment will most certainly be a top priority for most corporations, offering a relocation incentive now may offer a greater degree of certainty than dealing with the market-driven unknowns that lie ahead – and avoid the worst-case scenario of a valued employee declining their job offer down the line. If safety and duty of care come first in the process, an incentive for an early relocation might be a win-win for both the employee and the company. The employee you want, in the community they want, at a cost you can manage.

The use of incentives to encourage employees to relocate has been steadily growing for several years. And since the pandemic, many states and municipalities have seized the opportunity to lure remote workers, with the promise of cash, lifestyle, and cost-of-living.


Like a diver coming up from the depths, our return to normal needs to be slow, measured, and with as full a consideration of the consequences of going too quickly. We offer the following factors for consideration as you look ahead to a fuller, more robust 2021.

Protect your bottom line

  • Demand-driven expenses will be massive for real estate, rentals, and travel. Avoid paying the premiums for delayed decisions and bidding wars. Offer incentives for people to move early, or to continue to work from home until the worst is over.

Continue with hybrid model, or create one

  • It may be tempting to try to bring everyone back to the office, but remain flexible and limit disruptions for employees, especially coming out of such stressful times. Some companies will adopt a hybrid model, allowing some employees to continue working from home while others return to the office or utilizing incentives to motivate employees to initiate the relocation prior to a formal return to work announcement. These are smart compromises that may be in everyone’s best interests for the foreseeable future.

Diversify and expand your supplier network

  • Now may not be the time for single-source contracts. Get to understand what constraints your suppliers may be facing. Movers, realtors, destination service providers, rental agencies, insurance brokers, travel agents, and others – will be under pressure to withstand increased demand. You may need to have contingency networks in place.

Relo package rethink

  • Is lump sum really the best approach right now or would a more managed relo program protect both you and your transferee when the time comes to move? How you adjust your program may depend on your industry, location, and the type of employee you are relocating.

Time is money

  • There will be tremendous strain on your HR and mobility functions to accommodate a return-to-work resurgence. Hiring, relocating, onboarding, and training are high-pressure, high-stakes functions. Consider which of these can be outsourced to get your team over the hump, and begin lining up vendors now.


RCI has years of experience working with clients across multiple sectors, helping them identify solutions, build programs, and manage complex relocation programs – always putting the transferee experience first. If you have any questions or if we can offer any helpful insight, please reach out to Sue Harrington at


Relocation Coordinates International (RCI) delivers customized, cost-effective relocation solutions in the global marketplace that exceed client expectations. We offer a full suite of corporate mobility services, as well as pre-decision, destination, and departure services for domestic and international relocations.


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Our custom, full-service program offerings, coupled with years of industry knowledge and experience, makes Relocation Coordinates International (RCI) an ideal resource.

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