As the COVID-19 pandemic hit earlier this year, mobility leaders for global companies had to adjust their strategies and plans to meet new restrictions that completely upended household goods shipping – along with the rest of the business world. Not only did mobility service providers need to figure out how to ship household goods across closed borders, they also had to grapple with the challenge of moving an assignee’s belongings while cities and states were mandating stay-at-home orders.
Agility for an Evolving Landscape
Here are three ways the moving services industry has already adapted new practices that could remain in place long after COVID-19:
- Increased health and safety measures. Crews and assignees are more focused and deliberate with move logistics. There’s more communication before, during and after the move to ensure each party is abiding by local regulations and health and safety best practices – and to provide peace of mind to the transferee and family. For instance, moving crews are wearing protective equipment during a pack and load or delivery, including masks and gloves. Families are informed of those safety protocols before a crew ever enters their homes, easing fears and anxiety. The crews are also smaller, to abide by social distancing rules.Families can help too. At their residence, assignees need to designate a dedicated space for the crew to wash and sanitize properly, to prevent the potential spread of the virus. All these steps lead to safer, quality moves, based on caution and proper planning.
- Virtual connections. Technology has enabled movers to connect with assignees with less face-to-face interaction. What used to be an on-site consultation to inventory all the home goods to be shipped is now a virtual survey. And, rather than the assignee remaining at home to coordinate with moving crews during the pack and load or delivery, the two parties connect via video chats, like FaceTime or WhatsApp, to determine which items need to be moved or where certain items should be placed in the new home. Given the efficiencies of these virtual services, expect some of them, like the survey, to become standard practice for the moving services industry even after restrictions are relaxed.
- Heightened privacy. The increased reliance on technology creates more privacy issues to navigate. For example, moving crews may need the password to connect to assignees’ WiFi networks, allowing them to use video chats to conduct the pack and load or delivery. Assignees are advised to create a guest password for the moving crews to access. Additionally, moving service professionals will have assignees’ sensitive information, including photos and videos of assignees’ homes. Service providers will need to create and clearly explain to assignees the protocol for securely storing and eventually destroying that information immediately upon completion of the move to reassure and instill confidence in assignees.
Thoughtful Preparation and Planning for a Better Experience
As many countries move into their next phase of reopening and recovery, the pace of relocations is likely to resume. However, there are still plenty of health and safety challenges to consider to ensure a smoother experience. Here are three topics corporate mobility professionals should address:
- Immediate housing needs. First, determine if your assignee has a deadline to leave their current housing situation (e.g. their lease is up and someone else is moving in). In those situations, your relocation management company needs to find a temporary living situation for your assignee and his/her family and somewhere to store household goods, if necessary, while housing in the host country is worked out. If assignees have more flexibility in their current housing situation (e.g. they can extend their lease month to month), your relocation management company has more time to get moving services in place.
- Liability. Since moving crews conceivably could spread the virus or be infected by the assignee, discussing liability is an important advance precaution. Some companies or assignees may want to ensure moving crew members don’t have COVID-19 before entering the house and supplier partners may also seek reassurance the assignee and family haven’t shown symptoms. However, who’s responsibility is that to determine? Do moving companies or individuals have access to enough tests? If a crew or family member tests negative on the first day, does that ensure he or she will be disease-free through the entire move? Companies should have policies on issues like these and include them in move plans before any work is conducted.
- Advance preparation. Global companies will need to work with their Relocation Management Company (RMC) and assignees to create move plans for each relocation. Think of it like a script for the move, enabling everyone to know their role. While you can start with a standardized plan, it’ll need to be customized for each move. Move plans delineate responsibilities for each involved service provider, communicate health and safety procedures (e.g. who cleans up after the crew is done) and provide a checklist of what needs to be in place to execute the move. Assignees are responsible for doing their part to get ready for moving crews to enter their house, by sorting belongings to make the job quicker and more efficient, wiping down all surfaces, designating clean facilities crews can use, and setting up communication methods to connect with moving crews while social distancing. All this advanced work means that rush moves are far more of a challenge. Corporate mobility professionals need to account for the additional time it will take to plan and execute a move.
While the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, RMCs and service providers are building on what they have learned from the last few months to create smoother moves for assignees in the months to come. For help in creating safe move plans for your employees, reach out to Graebel for support.
About the Authors:
Dale Collins is President of Global Transportation Services, driving leading-edge ideas that are inspired by clients. With over 35 years of experience in the mobility industry and working in six different countries, Dale brings a wealth of expertise to adjusting mobility and relocation strategies to meet clients’ individual needs.
Ana Kadell, Director of Account Management, joined Graebel in 2005. Ana has worked successfully with many major accounts throughout her career at Graebel. Originally from Romania, Ana is fluent in English, Spanish and Romanian and is conversational in French and Italian. She is trained in FIDI EiM training essentials, Graebel International Moving Specialist (IMS) and quality management and holds the Global Mobility Specialist (GMS®) designation from the Worldwide ERC®.