At the EuRA 2022 International Relocation Congress in Seville, the overarching sentiments seemed to be joy and relief. Joy to finally be together as a community again after three years of COVID postponements and cancellations and relief that delegates had survived the pandemic and crossed the Rubicon into a new relocation and workplace reality. At the same time, many were bruised by the past few years, and they shared stories of business and personal challenges. Relocation activity was suspended, jobs were lost, and businesses were shuttered or destabilized.
Many service provider delegates told inspiring tales of how they quickly extricated expatriates from flats and leases and repatriated them as swiftly and safely as possible. Many went above and beyond the call of duty and their contractual responsibilities to ensure their clients’ employees were out of harm’s way. Yet, like so many businesses, particularly small businesses, they faced a steep decline in activity and juggled keeping their companies afloat. Many, including EuRA staff, took significant pay cuts and jettisoned office space to align expenses with revenue.
Looking to the Future
While delegates did not hesitate to share these stories, they were more animated by the “reset and revive” focus of the Congress. Conference host Frances Edmonds encouraged this focus, referencing her book, Repotting Your Life. Using a gardening analogy, she described a four-step process to help revitalize your life and rediscover your passions.
It quickly became clear that the EuRA 2022 delegates are seeing the same dramatic changes to working style and even the place of work in society that we have seen in the Americas. How will remote work and work from anywhere affect global mobility? Will assignees still be keen to uproot their families to distant assignments for years at a time? The consensus was that while traditional, multi-year assignments will always have their place, both assignees and companies will be interested in alternatives that are less disruptive, cost less and provide more flexibility for each side. Younger employees with fewer possessions and attachments are more attracted to the global nomad experience than ever, but the associated compliance burden continues to be a puzzle to be solved.
Several sessions focused on how businesses can adapt and thrive in the new world: increasing employee involvement in decision making, considering strategic mergers or acquisitions, improving supply chain relationships and building a more environmentally sustainable operation. The notion of “radical change” was intriguing: how can organizations generate value beyond profit—as clients and employees increasingly expect.
Overcoming Obstacles: Surviving and Thriving
Keynote speaker Ben Smith embodied the “Reset, Revive, Thrive” theme. Bullied in school for being gay, Smith refocused his career and life on anti-bullying advocacy. A onetime committed non-athlete and heavy smoker, he completed 401 marathons in 401 days in the U.K.—more than 10,000 miles or the distance from London to Sydney—raising more than £300k for two anti-bullying charities, Stonewall and Kidscape. His 401 Challenge encourages people to #findyourhappy in life and work.
The “Survive” part of the program focused on the war in Ukraine, which remained top of mind for the delegates despite the generally upbeat mood. The war has had profound effects on many of the attendees, personally, professionally, or both. A Ukrainian DSP joined via Zoom and movingly described her struggle to keep her family safe and save her business. Several DSPs in Russia were shellshocked by the turn of events. They told of an Orwellian regime in Russia where even mentioning the war can get you five years in prison. After making a herculean effort to get expatriates out of Russia, they realized they had no business left to save and now face a very personal reset.
At the conclusion, EuRA 2022 host Edmonds mentioned that over the course of the program, we had experienced just about every emotion imaginable: excitement, joy, concern, empathy and ultimately, hope. The record 700+ delegates left with a great deal to think about and apply to their own lives and businesses. Some undoubtedly will be inspired to repot their lives, careers, or both.