In 2016 I asked my employer if I could relocate from London to Frankfurt on a temporary basis. My request was declined as it was thought that I should be in the London office. I was grateful that it was at least considered, but I was itching to move abroad, so I relocated to Frankfurt to start working for a new employer.
The pandemic has led to a shift in mentality towards work location and daily business. People are resigning at an increasingly high rate, and work-life balance is becoming a pivotal ‘stay or leave factor’ for employees. Although saying that, I am personally convinced that it’s the work-life balance conversations that are increasing, rather than the actual desire for better work-life balance.
As someone who lives abroad, work-life balance is more than just leaving the office at 5pm or being able to work from home in the country that I am employed. Since the pandemic, work-life balance is now having the option to work from abroad – or for me, work from what I call ‘home-home.’
I was recently interviewing for the next step in my career. For the first time, I asked potential employers about work location flexibility. To what extent has the hybrid work model been implemented, and to what extent would I be able to work from ‘home-home’ in London, as well as the city I relocated to, Frankfurt?
Seeing that I chose to move to Frankfurt, some may wonder why being able to work from ‘home-home’ is of such importance. Funnily enough, the new option to spend longer periods of time working from London throughout the pandemic has improved my quality of life abroad in Frankfurt. It eases the well-known struggle for people who live abroad of dividing annual leave between actual holidays or going ‘home-home’ and rushing from A to B to see as many people as possible during a short period of time.
For me, the pandemic has altered the concept of living abroad. When I relocated from London to Frankfurt in 2016, there was an overwhelming feeling of really leaving London. One pandemic later (please, just one!) and I now feel a greater balance between my life in two homes: I choose to live in Frankfurt, but still spend a few weeks at a time working in London throughout the year.
As ‘normal’ life emerges from hibernation, I see the challenges that employers face as they attempt to revive the company spirit that evaporated whilst we worked from our homes. I understand the importance of networking with colleagues over a coffee in the kitchen just as much as work location flexibility.
How do we find that sweet spot of implementing a successful hybrid work model that meets both employer and employee needs, especially those living abroad? Looking back at 2016, I would say my request was almost abnormal. But now that the definition of work-life balance has somewhat changed and the conversations have become increasingly frequent, to what extent will work location flexibility be implemented in order to retain staff?