To retain highly-valued employees, many companies give employees the option to work from home, leave work early to attend their kids’ choir performance or, if they so choose, practically live at the office filled with gourmet meals, a gym and massages. But it doesn’t stop there: when employees want to move to a new city, companies are accommodating employees by providing a slew of relocation options or even the possibility to open a new office. It’s all in the name of avoiding the loss of a top-performing employee to another company.
While relocating employees can be expensive for companies, it can be well worth it to retain the best employees. Every year $9.3 billion is spent in the U.S. on corporate relocation, according to Worldwide ERC.
Let’s take a look at three ways that companies cater to employees’ desires to work from different geographic locations.
Whether an employee wants to move to be near his hometown, to be in the same city as his significant other or to explore new territory, companies often are eager to keep top-notch talent, even if that means keeping them in a new city. While 37 percent of relocations are new hires, 64 percent are current employees, according to Worldwide ERC.
Tech companies and consulting firms often have the flexibility to let employees switch offices since they have many offices and clients spread across the country. Bain & Company, the global consulting firm with offices in 32 countries, has a global mobility program that allows and even encourages employees to transfer between offices. When employees experience a new city and lifestyle, the exposure to cultural diversity advances them in their career development immensely, Eliza Scherrer, U.S. global mobility strategy leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers, told Forbes. "[Encouraging location transfers] will help a company build loyalty. It will help you retain your people and it will grow them into better leaders tomorrow," she says. "All of that brings value to an organization."
Darci Darnell, partner who has worked in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and London Bain offices, has been able to expand her horizons and learn how to deal with multiple cultures. "The opportunity to call up the chief talent officer and say, 'I'm interested in doing something different' and for him to say to you, 'That's amazing. Take out your map,'" Darnell says in a Bain video. "[That's] an extraordinary moment in your career, a moment when the world is your oyster."
Opening New Offices
Similarly, San Francisco-based PR firm LaunchSquad allows employees to relocate to its New York, Boston and Detroit offices. All four of these offices were in fact started by a go-getter employee who wanted to live in a new city. The clients and additional employees grew from there, according to LaunchSquad. But not just any employee can open a new office. The employee must exhibit independence and leadership and have the skills necessary to be an office leader.
For example, one of LaunchSquad’s top employees, who had been with the company for a long time and had become an office leader, decided to move to Detroit, and the company wanted to retain her, according to LaunchSquad. Thus the Detroit office was borne.
"If we have loyal employees who are far enough along in their development and can work independently, we let them work from where they need to," says Meghan Cavanaugh, vice president of talent at LaunchSquad.
Enabling employees to transfer to other offices or even open new offices with the right expertise and leadership qualities has benefited LaunchSquad in keeping their employees happy and in recruiting high-quality talent. Many new hires in their San Francisco office are transplants and eventually want to go back to the East Coast. During the interview process, candidates are often told that after a couple of years with the company, they could relocate to the New York or Boston office if they want. On the flip side, employees who grew up in the Bay Area have the option to experience life on the East Coast by working from a different office for several years.
When employees relocate to a different office or open a new office for long-term expansion, they often generate new ideas and innovate because of their change in environment. The same benefit can be generated for employees who aren’t looking to relocate by sending them on a work-cation — that is, a vacation where employees work together from a new locale.
Take Dimagi, a mobile app development company with projects in more than 25 countries. To escape the extreme winter in the Boston offices, employees decided the ideal solution was to work from another country for several weeks. And so the Away Month program was born. Fourteen Boston-based employees were invited to the first Away Month in 2012 in Sao Paolo.
"The employees were driving this, and I wanted to support them," Jonathan Jackson, Dimagi’s CEO, told Inc. "From a business-development perspective, getting a better understanding of South America and scouting potential partners there made sense. But I wanted people to know that this wasn't just a way to party down in Brazil. They needed to be able to communicate with the team at home, and remote clients as well."
Employees who worked from Brazil said that they felt a deeper personal connection with their colleagues after the trip and developed energy and new innovations that wouldn’t have happened in Boston. After the great bonding experience, Dimagi hosted a second Away Month this year in Guatemala. One notable difference was that the company had grown to 80 employees, and the number of employees who traveled to Guatemala was three times the number that traveled to Brazil. The work-cation was just as successful as the first one. Employees generated new ideas and got a better understanding of their international markets.
"Away Month is an opportunity to promote a lot of ad hoc work discussions outside of the office and between different groups, more so than we do when we’re at home," Jackson said.
Whether employees are relocating permanently or for a month, switching environments causes employees to think outside the box and engage with colleagues in a new context.