Category Archives: Executive Coaching
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We have lived in a world dominated by political, economic, and environmental uncertainty for many years. However, the past three years have been exceptional and challenging for most of us. The global health crisis caused by Covid-19 has brought the entire planet to its knees. The pandemic impacted all aspects of life and radically changed the way we work. The world of Global Mobility will never be the same. We are beyond Global Mobility and ride into a new way of working.

Considering the impact caused by the pandemic, it does not take a fortune teller to foresee that Global Mobility Managers will have to deal with the blow of the crisis in the years to come. If you thought that one global crisis was enough, you were up for a shock in February of this year when Russia invaded Ukraine. 

Geopolitical tension, including in and around China, seems more pervasive than ever. Insecurity around energy, food supplies, inflation, and other dystopian scenarios cause many anxieties and mental health issues. The Global Mobility Manager of 2022 is a crisis manager. All “crisis” cycles show that Global Mobility Managers continue to be incredibly resilient and are constantly coming up with immediate and creative solutions to face issues that arise overnight. 

Imagine the difficulty of suddenly repatriating an Expat (or an Expat family) who was temporarily on holiday in a third country and remains stuck there without any other assistance. You might have to find a quick solution for someone who was about to go on assignment but had to postpone their departure. Their household goods are on their way to the host location. You book a serviced apartment for them in the home country.

Teams in war zones continue to work or relocate to a haven, refugees integrate into the workforce, and business travelers overstretch their stays in locations and create a tax liability.

Having handled many crises in the past, guarding the life of Expat families has become our daily bread. We continue to bring the human touch back into Global Mobility. As I already mentioned in my book in 2019, it is more important for all of us to keep our sanity. It’s more important than ever to put on our oxygen masks and work on our inner strength. 

Let’s continue to build up our support gang and raise the next generation of Global Mobility Managers through an excellent education with the Global Mobility Master Course at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam. I also favor a mentor system where experienced Global Mobility Jedis foster and guide a Padawan. (Yes, I draw much inspiration from movies, books, and music.) 

When you need guidance, we all have our favorite book, and I turned to my religion for advice and found a fantastic guideline for the winter to come.

1) I am the EXPAT, your client: You shall not have strange people before me.

 

Our Expat population is changing. Nowadays, an ever more diverse population is embarking on international assignments. Expats vary in cultural background, family situation, age, gender, etc. It is impossible to address these various groups’ needs in a one-size-fits-all policy. A more diverse workforce equals a variety of individual assignees’ expectations, resulting in a proposition that might be desirable for one employee while not appealing for another. The Expat is our main client. We need to take care of their interests before we consider other parties in the process. In case of doubt, focus on people over processes (see also: Agile Manifesto).

In the AIRINC Mobility Outlook Survey 2021, 65% of respondents expect that the demand for flexibility from the business will increase. Meanwhile, 52% of the companies surveyed expect that adding more flexibility to policies is the best response to this demand, followed by 28% who think using a wider variety of policy types is the better solution. According to the Mercer 2019 Flexible Mobility Policies Survey, the most popular policy elements for which the participants introduced flexibility are family-related: housing, spousal support, child education, and home leave tickets are all items that can help improve the Expat Experience while on assignment.

2) You shall not take the name of the POLICY, your bible in vain.

 

There are reasons for quoting the policy, the law, or other regulatory insights. However, this should not be your go-to-wording for anything that “is not possible.” With the crisis, we all accepted that the duty of care belongs to our role. Policies should foster the well-being of employees. 

Flexible policies have prepared some companies to deal more efficiently with urgent repatriations and unforeseen mobility scenarios. Other companies adopting flexible policies have found them inapplicable and inappropriate in the context of urgency. In my view, we will be moving away from policies altogether and designing individual packages for the Expat that fits like a bespoke, handmade business suit.

We mentioned last year that immigration gets more complex, and it could be that the host country’s legislation has not kept up with modern family constructs, for example. Communication about what is possible and how we can support it is critical here. Communicate openly about longer lead times and backlogs at authorities (for example, post-BREXIT, the UK immigration process currently takes much longer than we were used to.).

 3) Remember to keep holy the DIGITAL DETOX DAY

 

Keep a “digital detox day” because your work never ends. We have constantly worked across time zones, holiday schedules, and daily demands. For your sanity and energy maintenance, it is essential to get away from all media for 24 hours at least. I practice DDD but observed with my coaching clients that the pandemic has blurred the lines between work and personal time. 

Many organizations have focused on digitization which means moving to more digital formats. While digitalization means strategically shifting to digital processes and activities. Often the term digitalization is used for both interchangeably.

One of the biggest challenges is incorporating technology into the business to add value to the company and its employees. One positive example of digitalization is reporting assignees through an intuitive HR system and tracking assignees through security apps such as the International SOS Assistance App.

Your level of digital engagement depends on how “digitally mature” your global mobility program is. You might be just ‘exploring digital,’ using robotics to carry out simple and repetitive tasks, while others might be already ‘becoming digital’ with a formal digital strategy. 

You are already experiencing success where automation performs tasks humans generally handle, such as periodic emails or copying and pasting information from public or private sources. 

Adopting and introducing those techniques into existing processes will focus on diminishing costs, increasing productivity by improving operational efficiency, and retaining talent. 

Some of the latest HR systems like Success Factors or Workday, offer essential workflow functions for international assignments. Still, they cannot yet run the entire end-to-end process with all the external vendors involved. Data needs to shift from the HR System to the vendor platform, but an integrated solution, which I call “the Holy Grail,” has yet to be invented (it exists mainly in my fantasy brain). As I filled another Excel sheet with numbers and birth dates, I kept reminding myself that this was how I started in the field in 1999. Before that, we used to calculate on paper.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) technology is another exciting use of AI in the field. We speed up transactional processes in mobility functions. Equally important is that automation can also reveal itself as crucial in reducing hierarchical thinking. If you want to read more about this topic, this article on our blog might interest you. 

Core office technologies such as telephone, word processing platforms, and email have evolved to expand connected and collaborative working possibilities. Expats can now access the latest information, join video conferences, and share and work on the same documents or workspace at their convenience, from a device and location of their choice. It is an excellent aid tool for managing assignee package creation. It makes it possible for our teams to communicate closely with our Expats worldwide. 

As for Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR and VR, respectively), they can transform the onboarding experience into the organization or allow them to meet and collaborate with colleagues in other countries. Additionally, you can virtually recreate cities to immerse oneself in the new environment before deciding to move there. Many serviced apartments use VR to show their apartments.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is already helping organizations go beyond traditional ways of managing the global workforce by using intelligent devices to predict, detect, and prevent risks in moving people around the globe. With the massive increase in the data volume available to organizations, the emergence of advanced AI-based algorithms, and the growing availability of data scientists, systems become increasingly self-managing and potentially self-defending against risks.  

Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) deals with more natural ways humans and computers can work together in the future. Watch this space as it could again help us in Global Mobility and reduce our stress levels. For example, instead of sitting at a desk for 12 hours, we could work by walking outside and taking the Expat Family with us on a virtual tour of the city. Or we can use voice commands to fill out a form instead of retyping the data. 

 4) Honor the Expat’s Host and Home Manager (and Sponsors)

 

We have structured Global Mobility drivers and assignment types and integrated Global Mobility with the Talent function. We still need to bring back the Human Touch, and we especially need to align the home and host line manager’s interest in the Expat’s goals and performance criteria. 

We also need to remember to nominate a sponsor so that the Expat has a home they can return to and a guardian angel who watches out for their interests in the home company. You will have fewer headaches if you initially reduce the assignment length to a maximum of two years. It’s always easier to extend an assignment that works well than to “early repatriate” someone for whatever reasons.

Since the 1990s, assignment types have evolved from only having long-term or short-term assignments. In the 2000s, new kinds of assignments emerged, such as the rotator, the international transfer, the globalist, and the commuter. Then, the 2010s saw the rise of business travelers, international new hires, and domestic relocations. In the present decade, we will see the assignment types evolve and diversify further with new possibilities like virtual roles, contingent workers, remote workers, and other future mobility options we have not thought about yet. 

Depending on your situation, you might want to consider your primary use cases and create suitable assignment types around them. For example, we started the “Cross-Border Project Worker” type as someone who is employed in one location, lives in a second location, and might commute twice a week to a third location. European legislation now adopts the “Teleworker” as an assignment type. Be creative so you have a handle on managing or accepting our other reality of dealing with every case on a customized basis.

 5) You shall not fire any EXPAT. 

 

Have you solved the dilemma of succession planning and repatriation in your company yet? If so, I’d be interested in exchanging with you as it still seems that we are utilizing 1999 methods in recruiting and global resourcing. We should have understood that firing an Expat is never a good idea. It shows that we did not do our job well in the selection or assignment. Maybe we forgot to nominate a sponsor in the home company, or we assigned the Expats without a clear Global Mobility driver. We should make it our priority to retain our Expats in the organization.

 6) You shall not solicit from your VENDORS. 

 

As I mentioned in the Global Mobility Workbook, we need to collaborate better with all our vendors to enhance the Expat Experience (XX) further. One ground rule is that you cannot poach staff from your vendors. I would also suggest you build long-term relationships with everyone involved in the process.

You are one team at the end of the day, and the Expat and their family will feel it if you work together like a well-oiled machine instead of blaming each other when there is a break in the process. I would encourage you to search for the cracks in the “Process Porcelain” because most of the time, you can solve an issue best if you look at the process in every detail, handover, and sub-step.

 7) You shall not reduce BENEFITS. 

 

Now that companies diversify their compensation approaches, you need to dig deeper into base pay, benefits, and short-term and long-term incentives to have a more comprehensive financial understanding of the implications of an international move. It’s time to broaden your reward skills and ensure you understand compensation models, host-based compensation, and inflation rates by country. As a basic principle, try to maintain equity in the compensation approach. Balance out a lower salary than the host market by providing an additional market allowance or a benefit such as corporate housing.

 8) You shall not bear false witness against your EXPAT. 

 

Building a trusted relationship with your Expat and their Spouse will be a crucial success factor for any international assignment. Try to communicate openly and honestly and be transparent about your limitations. Let them know how you justify exceptions, how you make package decisions, how you can offer specific benefits, and under what circumstances. Show them your “box of chocolates” and give them one to taste. 

We think it is too short-sighted to discuss employee experience only in the context of our work and want you to focus on the Expat Experience (XX) specifically.

 9) You shall not Neglect the EXPAT SPOUSE.

 

The lack of Expat Spouse career opportunities is still among the top five reasons assignments fail (AIRINC Mobility Outlook Survey 2021). I have written extensively about why that is and given you ideas on how you can support the Expat Spouse. Over the last ten years, I have seen no significant improvement in how we integrate and support the Expat Spouse. Only a few companies offer Expat Partner Career Support. Let’s also agree that we want to see an improvement on that front. 

 10) You shall not move your EXPAT’s goods.

 

The climate and energy crisis will force us to rethink Global Mobility altogether. Expats want to work from anywhere in the world, and at the same time, moving furniture from Hong Kong to Singapore to New York or flying home every week might not be the best and most sustainable solution for the future. If you are serious about reducing the carbon footprint, you will need to incentivize environmentally friendly solutions in favor of the “classical approach.” For example, you could pay for storage rather than moving household goods. You could support rental furniture instead of giving an allowance for buying new furniture. You could pay for train travel instead of flights within a certain distance.

We will need to give up our resistance to “work from anywhere (WFA),” meaning that employees can also work in a third country of choice (not the home country or the location benefiting from the task performed). This possibility enables Expats to become digital nomads as they are no longer bound to a specific location. Implementing a more significant number of Virtual Assignments also means acknowledging and accepting that working arrangements are changing fast in response to technology, generational changes, and sudden business disruptions. 

Of course, there are limits to this as well. The most obvious is that not all jobs are remote, which is also one of the reasons why virtual Mobility will not replace traditional Mobility. Tax and compliance issues can pose a risk too. The company having no existing operations and not wishing to have a permanent establishment in the location where the employee would like to be based can be another possible barrier to Virtual Assignments. Some organizations are also concerned that Virtual Assignments could hinder company culture and teamwork, with the risk of the employee feeling like a perpetual outsider. The final point worth considering is that cost saving is not necessarily automatic. Sometimes, the assignee wants to live in a high-cost country where sending them will cost the company much more (Mercer, 2021b). 

It is now easier to see how virtual Mobility’s popularity closely relates to increasing a more dispersed international workforce. As companies upgrade their technology and become more agile, they could decide to assign projects and tasks to mobile people rather than moving defined jobs as such. In other words, instead of trying to fit assignees into predefined boxes, the aim is to manage a diverse workforce more fluidly and coordinatedly (Mercer, 2021d). 

Moving jobs to people instead of moving people to jobs will not substitute the traditional way of thinking about Global Mobility. Still, it is one more tool companies can use in their global operations. We live in an era where recruitment should be location-independent. 

As organizations gradually embrace best practices to manage a distributed international workforce, it will be essential for Global Mobility teams to adapt to a new way of thinking and learn to implement Virtual Assignments successfully. Also, the Global Employment Company adage will have a rebirth like the latest 80ies fashion.

As every year, I wish you great success in all your endeavors. You know you can always contact me via LinkedIn or good old bottle post or show me your love by reading my weekly brain dump (The Global People Club Sandwich). If you wish to bulk order “The Global Mobility Workbook,” please contact our team here.

Kind regards
Angie Weinberger

 

PS: The Global Mobility Master Course takes applications right now! You can sign up yourself and your team members to the Global Mobility Master Course at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam. There is an early bird bonus for everyone who registers before 1 October 2022. I look forward to seeing you in one of the first lectures.

 

References and further Reading

AIRINC. (2021). Mobility Outlook Survey 2021. Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://www.air-inc.com/library/2021-mobility-outlook-survey/ 

Baker McKenzie. (2019). ‘The Global Employer: Focus on Global Immigration and Mobility.’ Baker McKenzie. Retrieved May 27, 2020, from https://www.bakermckenzie.com/en-/media/files/insight/publications/2019/12/the-global-employer-focus-on-immigration-and-mobility_041219.pdf

Beck, P., Eisenhut, P. and Thomas, L. (2018). „Fokus Arbeitsmarkt: Fit für die Zukunft?”. Stiftung Zukunft.li. Retrieved 28 May, 2020, from https://www.stiftungzukunft.li/publikationen/fokus-arbeitsmart-fit-fuer-die-zukunft 

Bertolino, M. (2020). ‘How Covid-19 Is Disrupting Immigration Policies and Worker Mobility: A Tracker’. Ernst and Young. Retrieved May 28, 2020, from https://www.ey.com/en_gl/tax/how-covid-19-is-disrupting-immigration-policies-and-worker-mobility-a-tracker

Crown. (2021). Five Standout Talent Mobility Trends for 2021. Retrieved 18 August 2021, from  https://www.crownworldmobility.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/5-standout-talent-mobility-trends-for-2021_digital-CWM.pdf

Deloitte. (2019). ’Global Workforce Insight 2019.’ Deloitte. Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/ch/Documents/tax/deloitte-ch-Back-to-the-future-global-workforce.pdf

Deloitte. (2020). ‘2020 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends Survey. Deloitte.’ Deloitte. Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/insights/us/articles/us43244_human-capital-trends-2020/us43244_human-capital-trends-2020/di_hc-trends-2020.pdf 

Dictionary.cambridge.org. (2021). multi-skilling. Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/multi-skilling

FIDI. (2019). ‘2020 Vision: A Focus on Next Year’s Trends.’ FIDI Global Alliance. Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://www.fidi.org/blog/2020-vision-focus-next-years-trends 

Hauri, D., Eisenhut, P., and Lorenz T. (2016). „Knacknuss Wachstum und Zuwanderung: Hintergründe und Zusammenhänge.” Stiftung Zukunft.li. Retrieved 28 May, 2020, from Knacknuss Wachstum und Zuwanderung

Hershbein, B. and Khan, L. B. (2018). ‘Do Recessions Accelerate Routine-Biased Technological Change? Evidence from Vacancy Postings.’ American Economic Review. Vol. 108, no. 7, pp. 1737-72. Retrieved May 27, 2020, from https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/aer.20161570

KPMG. (2020). Global Assignment Policies and Practices Survey. Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://assets.kpmg/content/dam/kpmg/xx/pdf/2020/10/gapp-2020-survey-web.pdf

KPMG. (2021). Global Mobility Forecast: Trends in Risk, Talent and Digital. Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://assets.kpmg/content/dam/kpmg/xx/pdf/2021/02/global-mobility-forecast-trends-in-risk-talent-and-digital.pdf 

Mercer’s 2022 Flexible Mobility Policies Survey 

Mercer, (2019). ‘Flexible Mobility Policies Survey.’ Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://mobilityexchange.mercer.com/solutions/data-solutions/policies-and-practices-surveys/flexible-mobility-policies-survey

Mercer. (2017). Worldwide Survey of International Assignment Policies and Practices. Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://www.imercer.com/products/WorldwideIAPP

Mercer. (2021a). Global mobility policy flexibility in practice. Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://mobilityexchange.mercer.com/Insights/article/Global-mobility-policy-flexibility-in-practice 

Mercer. (2021b).The rise of virtual assignments. (2021). Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://mobilityexchange.mercer.com/insights/article/the-rise-of-virtual-assignments 

Mercer. (2021c). Upskilling the Mobility Function. (2021). Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://mobilityexchange.mercer.com/Insights/article/Upskilling-the-Mobility-Function 

Mercer. (2021d). Talent mobility: looking ahead. Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://mobilityexchange.mercer.com/Insights/article/Talent-mobility-looking-ahead

PWC. (2016). Women of the World: Aligning Gender Diversity and International Mobility in Financial Services. Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/industries/financial-services/assets/women-of-the-world.pdf 

Robb, A., Frewin, K. and Jagger, P. (2017a). ‘Global Workforce Trends: The Impact of the Digital Age on Global Mobility.’ Deloitte. https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/uk/Documents/tax/deloitte-uk-global-mobility-trends-latest.PDF 

Robb, A., Frewin, K. and Jagger, P. (2017b). ‘Global Workforce : Digital Innovation in Mobility.’ Deloitte. https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/fi/Documents/tax/deloitte-uk-digital-innovation-in-mobility.pd 

Vialto https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6943208654061850624/ 

Weinberger, A. (2019). The Global Mobility Workbook (Third Edition). 978-3-9524284.

Working from anywhere: A differentiator in the war for talent? (2022). Mercer Mobility. Retrieved September 15, 2022, from https://mobilityexchange.mercer.com/insights/article/working-from-anywhere-a-differentiator-in-the-war-for-talent 

2021 buzzwords and what they tell us about mobility. (n.d.). Mercer Mobility. Retrieved September 15, 2022, from https://mobilityexchange.mercer.com/insights/article/2021-buzzwords-and-what-they-tell-us-about-mobility 

EPIC BLOG POSTS

https://globalpeopletransitions.com/our-eight-commandments-global-mobility-trends-2021/

https://globalpeopletransitions.com/why-we-need-to-push-for-more-minority-and-female-expats-in-global-mobility/

https://globalpeopletransitions.com/the-rise-of-women-in-global-mobility-seven-obstacles-and-six-solutions/ 

https://globalpeopletransitions.com/eight-major-barriers-to-expat-spouse-employment-2/

https://globalpeopletransitions.com/bringing-the-human-touch-back-in-the-impending-age-of-ai-and-digitization/ 

https://globalpeopletransitions.com/getting-projects-completed/ 

https://globalpeopletransitions.com/why-we-need-to-push-for-more-minority-and-female-expats-in-global-mobility/ 


How many times do you open your inbox and find over a hundred unread emails? And how often do you “clean your inbox” just to find it overflowing with emails again the day after? One of the reasons why I get stressed around emails is that I spend a whole day in a workshop and I cannot check my emails because it would distract my mind too much. Then I check my emails after the workshop, when I am already exhausted and know that I have a lot of tasks and queries to handle. When I worked in the corporate world I would often have a day full of meetings and calls and come back to my desk at 5 or 6 PM and “started to work productively”. Or, you probably know this: it’s Friday, 4.30 PM,  you are just about to start your weekend and then you see this one email and it keeps you at your desk for another hour. Your partner in the meantime is waiting for you to help with the groceries or wants you to be home early so that you can greet your friends that are coming by for dinner. There are different reasons why our body shows stress reactions and I thought it would help to break this phenomenon down to help you deal with it.

If you experience high levels of stress when you find too many unread emails in your inbox, you should know that you’re not alone. In fact, the phenomenon is so widespread that it became known as inbox anxiety

Inbox Anxiety Came with Emails

When emails were invented in the 1970s, nobody had a clue of how radically they were going to change the way we work. In time, they have become such an ubiquitous tool that, depending on your seniority, there’s a chance that you haven’t even experienced work without emails. I personally remember the days when we did not have emails at work yet and I went through several tech upgrades since then (desktop, laptop, blackberry, smartphone). Despite more than 25 years of experience with the technology I still don’t know exactly what to do when I get certain emails. One ground rule I established early in my career was: when I am angry I don’t send a response. I wait until I feel calm again. In fact, when I then go through the same email with a fresher approach, I sometimes even notice a certain positivity that I had overlooked earlier. 

You might be surprised that our generation still relies so much on email but inbox anxiety doesn’t only refer to email now.

I have several other professional inboxes to manage as well (Facebook, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, XING, four email accounts, professional messages on FB pages, Instagram and Twitter direct messages). Sometimes, I feel like I should change my job description to “emailer”. 

With the Corona-crisis and the need to work from home, most of us probably worked even more with emails and messages than usual and despite the general reply-to-all rule in some organizations this is still not done so you are falling off a thread and then you have to follow up or update your colleagues in a different way.

In our team at GPT, we introduced Slack during the crisis. We had already failed at it in 2016 largely due to my inability to focus on too many channels so now I’m making a more concerted effort to use Slack instead of WhatsApp. I don’t really use it to replace emails but I notice it helps me write less follow up emails and also I can ask the Slack bot to remind me instead of asking our intern. 

I’m trying to find out where MY own inbox anxiety stems from and I hope to share this with you so you find ways to overcome this as well.

  • Switching Off and FOMO

One issue that creates inbox anxiety for me is the need to switch off completely for short and extended periods of time. Last year, I took the liberty not to be available for four weeks over the summer. Some of my email accounts were not checked while I was offline. That created stress when coming back. Same happened when I was out sick for three weeks with COVID19 this year.

There is enough research to show that you should completely switch off from work for at least two consecutive weeks each year. However, in most of your jobs it is still expected that you are available during vacation and weekends, especially during launches, emergencies, crisis and personnel related decisions.

As a matter of fact, according to a YouGov survey 60% of people check their work inboxes also during holidays. We don’t do it necessarily because we want to, but because we feel some sort of obligation to do it. The same research found that 80% of the respondents would actually prefer to “switch off completely”.

  • Being Responsive versus Productive

Another issue is that I would like to be responsive. It’s one of my trademarks. And there are certain limitations between being responsive and being productive. However, in order to be able to do “deep work” and to focus on quality time online with my clients I sometimes have to wait with a response until my work day is over or until I get a break. This might be only an issue when you are a small company and nobody else can cover for you. Most companies now don’t expect a response on weekends and responding within 24 hours still seems to be acceptable.

  • Underlying Relationship and Trust Issues

The third theme I notice has to do with email anxiety when you receive emails from certain persons. I assume that there is an underlying relationship or trust issue with this person. Maybe this person has treated you unfairly in the past or they have turned around something you wrote in an unacceptable way. Maybe they belittle you in their emails with their manager in cc or they criticize you publicly. A good manager would give their feedback in more appropriate ways than emails but we know that there are a number of mediocre managers out there as well.

What is Inbox Anxiety and Where Does it Come from? 

According to Ron Friedman, author and psychologist, the reason why we feel overwhelmed when we find a lot of emails in our inbox is that each message is a new demand of our time and it triggers one more decision to make. This leaves most of us with less energy for the work that matters. Another reason that could make you anxious might be the lack of clear expectations and etiquette especially in the intercultural context you live in as an expat. 

Also not having anybody to delegate emails to and feeling responsible for client service even when it’s not in your direct area of control could considerably make your stress level rise. In fact, studies have shown that checking email frequently leads to higher levels of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress. 

We feel stressed also because we don’t feel productive. As we are constantly interrupted by a “PLING” our cognitive performance is reduced resulting in an attention deficit. According to research done on the negative effects of email on productivity, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the taks after we’ve been interrupted. Now, think of how many times they interrupt you at work and make an average calculation. It’s scary.

There is one more issue related to inbox anxiety and this is known as “email apnea.” In fact, 80% of people tend to hold their breath unnaturally when going through their emails causing a change in  their normal breathing patterns. Holding your breath can contribute to stress-related diseases because it throws off the body’s balance of oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitric oxide.

Seven Tips to Help you Take Back Control

Here are seven tips that will help you take back control of your inbox, time and productivity.

1 – Clarify the Purpose of Your Conversations

Make sure you know the communication policy and etiquette of the company where you work. This will also make clearer why and how you’re using emails and not other tools. 

2 – Build Better Relationships to the Senders and Receivers

If you don’t know the other person well, try to reciprocate their tone. You don’t want to come across as too friendly or too formal if the relationship is just at the beginning. When I communicate in German I struggle because the connotations between how you address a person are quite different depending on the cultural context. In English you can easily be far too informal and hurt somebody’s feelings. As a general rule, avoid emotions and emotional topics.

When you aren’t familiar with the sender, another good alternative is picking up the phone. If you are a Millenial calling someone you don’t know might not be your preference, but I still think it’s the best way to establish first contact with someone. 

3 – Stop Escalations and Solve the Real Issue

I love to watch escalation bingo on email only when I’m not in the firing line and cc-ed but not cause of anger. I personally read too many emails that are escalated to the appropriate management level too late. We are then often reading a lot of blame-storms and cover-your-back when the real underlying relationship issue is not addressed. I’m pretty good at NOT responding and I’m often slow when it’s heated or emotional. The reason is that I often need a break from the emotions that are triggered. 

I can leave emails drafted for days only to discard them. It’s a skill I learned. Sometimes I might come across rude or negligent…It even happens that I forget an email. However, it’s often not that important or the person can find another route to talk to me. If the person knows me, they will reach out by phone, text message or just resend. 

4 – Stop Flagging, Sorting, Deleting and Trust Your Inner Priority Manager

I hear people are still flagging, filing in folders, reading and answering emails all the time although I notice that response time has become from 1 minute to 1 week to ghosting. Frankly speaking, I sometimes don’t respond to an email because I don’t feel that I have anything to say. In some cultural contexts this is a perfectly acceptable behavior, however, in some others this could come across as rude. 

5 – Limit the Times You Check Inboxes and Respond

Role model the change you would like to see in this world. If you don’t want to be bothered by emails after 7 pm, either you are powerful enough not to respond anymore or you also stop sending emails after “normal office hours”.

6 – Apply a Filter, Deactivate Notifications and Practice Writing Better Headers for Receivers

Have a policy for all your media who you accept and what kind of messages you will respond to. Instead of responding to every tweet I have now connected Twitter to Slack. I can check first if I want to respond or if it is a random tag.

I get a lot of system notifications, newsletters and promotions that I just scan but usually I only need to read the header or key words to know if it’s worth going deeper.

7 –  Track How Much Time You Spend Emailing, Messaging and with Whom

Try using RescueTime to track how much time you spend emailing. By doing this, you can realistically plan how you can gradually reduce the time you spend emailing. You might try to reduce by 5 to 10 percent weekly the time you spend on your inbox. One way to do this is to practice writing shorter emails. 

 

If you notice that you are so busy because you spend an hour sending cat videos to friends and family you might want to change that. And you might not know right away what you want to change and how. I recommend you call me for a 15-minute chat. Maybe I can give you guidance on how to reduce your inbox anxiety.

 

Kind regards

Angie

 

Resources

https://globalpeopletransitions.com/?s=My+favourite+Productivity+Hacks+%E2%80%93+Seven+Tips+to+claim+back+your+Diary 

https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/in-practice/201805/3-types-email-anxiety-and-solutions

https://www.businessinsider.fr/us/heres-why-email-makes-us-so-stressed-out-2015-2

https://happiful.com/how-to-deal-with-inbox-anxiety/

https://www.theladders.com/career-advice/the-6-rules-of-email-how-to-eliminate-email-anxiety-and-take-control-of-your-inbox

https://www.businessinsider.fr/us/email-apnea-how-email-change-breathing-2012-12

https://www.rescuetime.com/

https://blog.trello.com/work-life-boundaries-as-a-remote-worker 

References

Mark, G., Gudit, D. and Klocke, U. (2008). The cost of interrupted work: more speed and less stress. Conference Paper, DOI: 10.1145/1357054.1357072, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/221518077_The_cost_of_interrupted_work_More_speed_and_stress

Mark, G., Voida, S. & Cardello, A. (2012). A pace not dictated by electrons: An empirical study of work without email. Conference Paper, https://sites.oxy.edu/clint/physio/article/APaceNotDictatedbyElectronsAnEmpiricalStudyofWorkWithoutEmail.pdf

Waldersee, V. (2018). The majority of employees check work emails while on holiday. YouGov, https://yougov.co.uk/topics/economy/articles-reports/2018/08/15/majority-employees-check-work-emails-while-holiday


We thought we should pull together the main reasons according to our experience that hinder Expat Spouse employment  in the host country. This is a non-scientific analysis based on opinions and experience. There are a number of studies (Permits Foundation, 2012; Silberbauer, 2015) dedicated to the topic though. Main Global Mobility providers research how family impacts expat failure. In my view this is not enough. We should investigate how we can bring down the barriers to Expat Spouse employment. Why is it so difficult for Expat Spouses to find work in the host country? Here is a short analysis of the issues.

Work Permit Restrictions

Finding a job is not as straightforward for many of my clients as it is in their home countries. Even if most top host locations allow Expat Spouses to work on the partner’s dependent work permit (NetExpat & EY, 2018), other countries present significant restrictions to Expat Spouse employment. In fact, while some of them do not issue work permits to any Expat Spouses at all, others may present subtleties linked to marital status or they might not recognize same sex-marriages.

Lack of Host Language Skills

Even though the expat might work for a global company, most jobs in the host country will require host language skills. Unless you move from the UK to the USA, you often will not have the language skills required to work in the host country. It’s important that you don’t underestimate this aspect and that you start learning the local language as soon as possible, ideally before relocating. The good news is that almost two thirds of employers already provide this as the main form of assistance (Permits Foundation, 2012). If there is a business need, companies generally pay for a 60 hour-course.

Additionally, in countries where expats are numero there are specific job search engines that filter for English speaking roles. If you are looking to find employment in the Swiss job market, you can look up www.englishforum.ch.

Lack of Recognition of University Degrees in Regulated Fields

While within the EU we can assume that university degrees will be recognized due to the common job market, a Brazilian doctor cannot work in a hospital in Switzerland. We call this a “regulated profession”.

In the best case scenario, you will need to go through a considerable amount of bureaucracy to get your degree converted, and this may cost you a good amount of money. In the worst case scenario, however, if you want to keep practicing your profession, you will have to get complementary certificates in the host country.

Lack of Transferable Knowledge

While within the EU we can assume that university degrees will be recognized due to the common job market, a Brazilian doctor cannot work in a hospital in Switzerland. We call this a “regulated profession”.

In the best case scenario, you will need to go through a considerable amount of bureaucracy to get your degree converted, and this may cost you a good amount of money. In the worst case scenario, however, if you want to keep practicing your profession, you will have to get complementary certificates in the host country.

Lack of Professional Networks

Another issue is the lack of a professional network, which gives access to the untapped and informal labor market in the host country. Often you can only join professional associations when you are in a corporate role or when you have graduated in the country.

Building your professional network in your host country will require time and trust. You will have to start from scratch and dedicate a considerable amount of time to this activity if you want to see good results. You will also need to understand that matters of trust and relationships are culturally different, so it’s important that you act in a culturally appropriate manner when attempting to expand your professional network.

Lack of Support in the Global Mobility Policy

Only very forward thinking global mobility and global recruiting policies address the need for support for “trailing” dual career partner. While ten years ago dual-career issues on international assignments were solved by sticking to a classical Western nuclear “family” models, we now want to adhere to the needs of dual careers, patchwork families, Eastern “family” models, same-sex partners and unmarried de-facto relationships.

Visionary Global Mobility policies address various support models ranging from providing a lump sum to spousal career coaching. As an intercultural career advisor, I also work with clients who decide to start a global, transferable business so that they can follow their life partner to other locations and become location-independent. Thanks to technology I can support clients in NYC as well as in Mumbai. We also support candidates to improve their personal branding in the host market, learn to network effectively, improve their interview skills and online presentations. But it’s crucial that Global Mobility Leaders  update their policies and promote spouse support services rather than pay lump sums.

Intercultural Bias of Our Recruiters

Our recruiters often do not understand intercultural differences. Recruiters often don’t understand resumes from another country and outsourcing of talent specialists into HR shared service centers has not improved the chances of “foreign” candidates in the recruitment process.

Most selection methods and assessments are culturally biased. For example, in Switzerland, psychometric testing and other assessments of candidates are used to assess candidates next to interviews. Riedel (2015) shows examples where highly skilled candidates from China fell through the assessment roster in a German company because of their indirect communication style.

Companies should provide training on Inclusion and Diversity in the attempt to eliminate unconscious biases and ensure all worthy candidates are being considered for global mobility. This practice is not yet spread. According to KPMG, 39% of employees surveyed aren’t aware of inclusive leadership training within their organizations.

Unconscious Bias of Sending Home Sponsors

PwC issued a study in 2016 on female expatriation where it appears very obvious that a lot more women would be interested in an international assignment than the ones that are actually sent. As a matter of fact, some types of assignments (like short-term, very short-term, and fly-in and out commuter assignments) are notably more popular among women than among men.

If women make up 20% only (PwC, 2016) of the internationally mobile population across all sectors, it’s probably due to the unconscious bias of the sending home sponsors who assume a female manager is not mobile even though she might have mentioned it several times. I speak from experience.

If you want to guarantee that the selection of women and other underrepresented groups is fair and objective, you need to measure the relative inclusiveness of mobility assignments and ensure policies on equal access are working. If you find out they are not working, intervene as soon as possible.

Lack of Research to Measure Impact of Dual-Career Programs

In 2012, ETH Zurich conducted extensive research with several European universities on barriers to dual careers within the EU and EFTA countries. For most companies (NetExpat & EY, 2018; Atlas World Group, 2019) the presence of dual-career couples negatively affects the decision to relocate. There’s more: the spouse’s unwillingness to move because of his or her career is the first reason for turning down relocation. After all, it’s 2020, and the increasing number of households relying on two salaries should not surprise us. While in the past, small firms were relatively less affected by spouse/partner’s employment than medium and big firms, in more recent times, the impact has been similar across company size. 

There is evidently still a lot to do in order to integrate the needs of dual-career couples  in the expatriation process. If you want to keep pace with reality and stand out with a far-reaching Global Mobility policy, please keep this issue top priority. 

On the receiving end, I can report that more and more expat spouses are male. There is hope.

If you want to see how all this works in practice and would like to receive a proposal from us, please drop a line to Angie Weinberger (angela@globalpeopletransitions.com). I am happy to support you!

Further Readings: 

https://www.sirva.com/learning-center/blog/2019/12/20/supporting-accompanying-spouses-partners-during-relocation

Why Building Professional Relationships is Harder for You

The Modern Professional’s Guide to Avoiding Career Stagnation

My favourite Productivity Hacks – Seven Tips to claim back your Diary

Global Recruiting – Helping Global Talents succeed in Switzerland

Offline and Online Presence is the Way Forward for Modern Professionals

References:

Atlas World Group. (2019). 52nd Annual Atlas Corporate Relocation Survey. https://www.atlasvanlines.com/AtlasVanLines/media/Corporate-Relo-Survey/PDFs/2019survey.pdf

KPMG. (2018). Inclusion and Diversity: How Global Mobility can help move the Needle. KPMG International. https://assets.kpmg//content/dam/kpmg/xx/pdf/2018/06/global-mobility-inclusion-and-diversity-how-gms-can-help-move-the-needle-FINAL.pd

NetExpat & EY. (2018). Relocating Partner Survey Report. https://www.ey.com/Publication/vwLUAssets/ey-2018-relocating-partner-survey-final-report/$File/ey-2018-relocating-partner-survey-final-report.pdf

Permits Foundation. (2012). International Mobility and Dual-Career Survey of International Employers. https://www.permitsfoundation.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Permits+Global+Survey+2012nw.pdf 

PwC. (2016). Women of the world: Aligning gender diversity and international mobility in financial services. PwC. https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/industries/financial-services/assets/women-of-the-world.pdf

Riedel, Tim (2015): “Internationale Personalauswahl”, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Gottingen.

Silberbauer, K. (2015). Benefits of dual-career support for expat spouses, International Journal of Business and Management, vol 3, no. 2. DOI: 10.20472/BM.2015.3.2.005

Weinberger, A. (2019). “The Global Mobility Workbook”, Global People Transitions, Zurich.

Weinberger, A. (2016). “The Global Career Workbook”, Global People Transitions, Zurich.

aggressionWhen your colleague Paul tells you he has get home at 6 pm to see his children he throws in that your boss asked for a report she needs to have on her desk at 7 AM tomorrow. You cringe and call your partner to tell him you will need another 30 minutes to finalize the report. Your stomach feels hot and red. You are angry. Your colleague manages to get away. Why does he not have a deliverable here? Why is this team effort on your shoulders now? You think you could test if the boss was serious about 7 AM but you know you won’t get away with it.

Another messed up night. Your partner will be angry too now. You strip out of your suit as soon as you get home. On nights like this after leaving the battle ground you just want to have a glass of wine and a bath. Your partner rattles with the car keys. It is his gym night. Dinner needs to be cooked, the kids want a story and your inner household monster tells you to clean up the wardrobe. At 10 pm when your partner gets home you just want to go to bed. You almost had a bottle of wine by now.

The next morning, you protect your feelings through professionalism. You meditate and go for a run to keep up a smile. You wear a mask. You put on your business persona together with your pin-striped business suit and when you ask your boss if the report was ok, she just shrugs

“I had other priorities this morning. Team meeting at 10. Will you book a room for us?”.

“Isn’t that Paul’s task?”

“Yes, but he got caught up at kindergarden and will only get here at 9.45 AM. Be a good colleague and get us some pretzels too.”

You smile your best smile and help out again. While men seem to handle office politics better, I often notice that women prefer to stay out of roles where they have to deal with conflicts all the time. If you are in a leadership role – no matter if you are male or female – you won’t stay out of the firing lines. Doing favors might be easy, but verbal and written attacks will be part of your day.

You might feel you are giving more than you should, you might even feel that some of your colleagues advance faster than you, make more money and aren’t even better at what they do than you are. The good news is: You don’t have to accept aggressive behavior at the workplace.

Five methods to reduce aggressive behavior at the workplace

1) Reduce Your Aggressive Tonality

You could be seen as aggressive by others. If you solve conflicts on your managerial level by escalating issues to the next level, this could be seen as conflict avoiding and aggressive. Maybe your intention is to highlight a flaw in the process or that the team is understaffed. Still, the effect could be different than what you intend.

You might underestimate your native language and cultural assumptions too. If you are for example a native Russian speaker you could come across as unfriendly and aggressive in English without intending it. Or if you are a native French speaker you might come across as long-winded and complicated in English. It is good to ask a native-speaker friend how they see you and what you could improve in your communication style.

2) Stop Giving Unsolicited Feedback

You might also be seen as passive aggressive as you feel the need to correct others and give them unsolicited feedback. I had a colleague who would do that. I know now, that he was just trying to help me to become more assertive but at the time it drove me crazy. The basic rule is that you only give feedback and tips if your colleagues explicitly ask you for it. If you are the boss you probably need to give advice but be sure that you tell your subordinate that. Otherwise they will feel scolded and like back in high school. Since I started a business it happened to me more than once that listeners in an audience wanted to help me “sell” my services better or gave me feedback on word plays they would not understand. I understand the intention but I would have remembered them in a different light if they had just asked me about my intentions before babbling their ideas out.

3) Become a Listener

With the current average attention span of 90 seconds your colleagues will love you if you manage to listen to them for a full length of a three minute story without interrupting. If you practice to be authentic and a compassionate listener you will be seen as a source of inspiration and wisdom. Try to understand where your colleague or manager stands at the moment, which issues they have to solve and maybe also what they are going through in their personal lives.

4) Communicate your Needs

In business conversations it is helpful to speak about your needs and expectations in the I-form. “I need quite space to be able to think…” instead of “Could you shut up please?”. Or “I expect you keep the deadline for your deliverables as you promised to help me on this report.” instead of “Once again, you have not delivered what you said you would in time.”

5) Improve your business relationships

As I mentioned several times in the “Seven Principles for Intercultural Effectiveness” improving your business relationships   is the key to success in this globalized world. Work on every single relationship that is important to you and become a giver. You will be rewarded with success and long-term friendships across the globe.

Even if we have become used to it in our hierarchical work cultures we can all work towards a more appreciative communication culture. I recommend you learn about Marshall B. Rosenberg’s concept of non-violent communication and read Adam M. Grant’s book “Give and Take” too. Let me know if these five methods worked for you and what you have experienced.

Back to School in a great car

August so far has been more of a summer than the “Summer of ‘69”. Random song references are my thing now, and that makes sense because the #RockMeRetreat was never about “Rock’n’Roll Music” or “Jailhouse Rock.” “We will rock you!” so that no stone will be left unturned once you start on this journey of self-discovery with your Coach “Angie.”

Still, my dear, fall is here. We can still have a glass of “Summer Wine,” but the days are as short as the “Itzy Bitzy Teeny Weeny Honolulu Strand Bikini.” 

Rose petals sprinkled over my neglected Zen Garden, sunflower fields turned brown, and you have started to turn on the lights in the morning again. When you get home from work, you don’t want to sit outside anymore as it is dark, but you might vaguely remember this feeling you had as a kid when you were playing hide and seek at this time of the year, and it was just a notch better because it got dark at dinner time.

Apples are ripe for harvest, and the smell of onion pie and early wine hangs in the air. How do you remember the early fall, back when we were in high school? I remember a particular moment going down the stairs from our horrible grey concrete school building of the 70s, thinking, “This is great! I love being back at school!” I swung my newly acquired pepita jacket across my shoulders and closing my leather school bag with a sense of accomplishment. 

Do you miss those times where you felt like the world was in order and that you had all the opportunities ahead of you? You know when you feel like a “Rockstar” sipping champagne in a limo, with your Bono hat on, driving through “New York” with a bass drum pounding similar to the headache you will have the following day? 

Is this the life you want to have, without limits, without regrets, and certainly without the need to have a “boss” tell you what to do, as you know best how to do your job, how to build your contribution to the world and how to achieve your goals in work and life?

If you want to get to this focused and productive life level, you can start with building weekly practices and adding them to our RockMeApp. Last week I already spoke about seven easy-to-implement steps to help your body adjust to a new culture or new environment. This week, I would like to dive even deeper with these seven deadly rituals for focus and productivity

1 – Start Your Week with Monday Wishes

Starting your Week with Monday Wishes is a powerful way to start your week. Use your Have-Done-Diary (journal) to write down your wishes for the week without limiting yourself. Even if you end up re-writing your to-do list, just brain dump everything you wish for the week. The list should include fun stuff like “a bunch of flowers,” too.

2- Craft Your New Morning Ritual

I believe we should all have a morning ritual, and you can design yours around your needs, lifestyle, family, and pets. For example, you can think about, which order you ideally go through your morning to have a happy and productive day ahead. Pro tip: Don’t check your mobile phone during this time of the day.

3 – Finish with Friday Reflection

If your workweek closes on Thursday or Friday, use the last hour of your day to clean up your desk, sort paper or emails, write a task list for the week ahead, and then go through our four reflection questions on the RockMeApp. Here’s a helpful virtue of separating the workweek from the weekend. I’ve talked about taking 90 minutes on Saturday to finalize open tasks instead of working late with a few of you. Test this; for me, it works well.

4 – Plan a Digital Detox Day 

Taking a real break from Social Media, especially those funny videos on Facebook, isn’t easy unless you have a plan on where you can hide your phone for 24 hours. You might be a parent and need to be reachable for your children. Using my uncle’s strategy to have an elementary mobile phone to remain reachable over the weekend for essential clients and family can pay off. Alternatively, you can try to apply willpower (just kidding). Turn on the “Radio GaGa” and listen to unexpected songs, hear the news without images and enjoy that wonderful feeling.

5 – Weekly Practices You Can Do Anywhere

Weekly practices are a vital element of our programs. They help with sanity maintenance and make you a happier person to be around (as opposed to your inner Mr. Hyde, who is also a corporate zombie.) If you are struggling to define what practices are helpful to you or haven’t even started, I encourage you to define weekly goals that you can achieve no matter where you are. Examples could be daily walking targets and relaxation exercises or keeping your space clean of clutter

6 – Consider my Productivity Hacks 

If you feel you have maxed out your productivity already, please test this: If you can implement one of these seven productivity hacks (1- Have-Done Diary, 2 – Pomodoro Method, 3 – Eisenhower Matrix, 4 – Pareto-Principle, 5 – Peace Island, 6 – Repetition Checklists, 7 – Outsourcing Housework) and you notice any changes you might still have potential to improve, and there’s always space to learn and get better at tools. Also, to let you in on a secret, I used to waste a lot of time with mundane tasks such as looking for the correct passwords or making sure I had the right document version. A year ago, I often needed to follow up on team tasks and could not always rely on them. We now use password managers, a few master spreadsheets, and SLACK for team communication. I cannot say that this has increased our productivity. Still, my stress level is lower as now everything is well organized and accessible from anywhere and all team members.

7 – Revisit Your Weekly Planner

When you started working with the weekly planner (we usually hand this out at the end of all programs), you might have noticed an increase in productivity right away. Now, with a bit more practice, you might see that you could make optimizations or that you could change your meal or exercise plan for the fall. I recommend that you keep the general structure and only optimize what doesn’t work well yet.

How about you practice one virtue for eight weeks and let me know what happened? I would love to hear from you. If you wish to further work on your purpose, performance, and productivity, I recommend joining our RockMeRetreat from 18 to 25 November 2021 in Grisons, Switzerland. Sign up here to be invited, and we’ll set up a call to discuss this further. 

On Thursday, 23 September 2021, we finalize our preparatory workshops with “Packaging Moves – Getting More out of Your Global Mobility Deal.” Respond with “I want to be a Rockstar.” or nominate a song for our playlist.

Angie

Further Reading

https://teachings.eckharttolle.com/path-to-liberation-resisting-and-demanding-nothing/

https://globalpeopletransitions.com/tech-sabbatical-10-ways-getting-offline-helped-me-to-live-la-dolce-vita/

https://www.greenhomediy.co/love-your-home/

5 Things Highly Productive People Do Every Sunday That Most Others Don’t

https://intermountainhealthcare.org/blogs/topics/live-well/2018/07/5-powerful-health-benefits-of-journaling/

https://positivepsychology.com/benefits-of-journaling/

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/benefits-of-journaling-_b_6648884

https://www.thespruce.com/decluttering-your-entire-home-2648002