tips and tricks

Relocation packages: Does it have to be all or nothing?

You’ve found a great candidate. Should you offer them a relocation package?

The situation: Your company is located outside of a major metropolis and operates in a specialized industry, so filling some of your senior positions is challenging. But you’ve finally found a candidate who’s both perfect for the role and also seems interested – but they live across the country, and have a spouse, two children and a dog.

Do you offer them a full relocation package, which could run into the tens – or even hundreds – of thousands of dollars?

Tempting relocation packages involve a lot of moving parts

Relocation ‘packages’, especially for senior employees, aren’t just about offering the candidate $10,000 to defray their moving expenses. Relocation packages at the executive level can involve a lot of items, most of them costly:

  • Will the candidate need moving assistance (financial and/or logistical)?
  • Will they need employment for their spouse?
  • Will they need to sell their current home? What are real estate values like in their current area vs the area you’re asking them to move to? Will they be giving up equity in their former location if they spend 5 years at your company?
  • Do they need childcare?
  • Will they need specialized schooling or resources for their children?
  • Is there extended family to be considered?
  • Will they need a car or two (a family moving from Manhattan to the suburbs may not even have a single car, but if they have kids, they’re going to need 2 in their new home)?
  • How much downtime will they need to wrap up their current commitments in order to be able to hit the ground running in their new role?

Increasingly, studies are showing that relocated employees do better (and put more money on the bottom line for their companies) when they’re given support for all the factors that affect their lives, including their personal lives. And it’s true that long-term relocations work best when spouses and children are appropriately supported in the new location.

But that can mean a big commitment from the company doing the hiring, because a lot of things can go wrong:

  • The candidate experiences too much culture shock, gets homesick and disengages from the job
  • The candidate turns out to be a dud and has to be terminated
  • The candidate is poached by a competitor in their new city
  • The candidate does well, but his/her family doesn’t integrate well into the new location and pushes the candidate to leave

Mitigate your risk: Try temporary relocation first

What we’re seeing many companies do these days, especially when relocating a senior resource from a large city to a suburban area, is to try a 3-12-month temporary relocation first. How does it work?

The company and the candidate enter into an agreement that outlines the long-term goal of full relocation (with whatever associated supports for costs and family they negotiate as part of the arrangement) but provides for an initial temporary relocation that allows both parties to figure out just how the new employer-employee relationship will work.

Typically the new hire is set up in a corporate housing (commonly known as ‘executive suites’ or ‘executive housing’), which may be a small pied-a-terre or a full-sized family home in the new location. Sometimes the spouse (and children, if there are any) come to stay in this housing; other times the spouse stays in the home location and there is an agreement whereby weekend travel expenses are covered.

In some cases, the employer and new hire decide quickly that the new job should be permanent, so after a couple of months, the relocation becomes permanent. In other cases, the temporary relocation continues for an extended period. In both cases, the total financial and resource cost – and the risk –  is substantially lower than it would be if the company had undertaken a complete relocation at the outset.

(Want to learn more about how executive suites and furnished accommodation works? Get in touch.)

5 insider tips that'll help you get a fantastic new apartment

What the pros look for when assessing a new rental home

Tips from the insiders for finding a great apartment

It’s funny: Most of us, when we transition into adulthood – or at least sometime during our 20s – seem to get all kinds of advice about things like how to buy a new car, how to get our careers started, even what to look for in a potential life partner.

But we get a lot less advice about how to choose the right rental apartment, even though a person’s home is, in many ways, every bit as important as their career or their car – and definitely has the potential to make day-to-day life almost as unhappy as choosing the wrong life partner.

In a city like Toronto, where high real estate costs mean more and more of us are choosing to live in rental condos well into our 30s and 40s, choosing the right unit becomes even more important. We all want to find an apartment that will allow us to settle in and feel at home, even if it’s ‘only’ a rental.

5 secrets the pros use to find great places

You know what it’s like when you’re hunting for a condo to rent: You do some research online, look at a lot of pictures, and then line up a bunch of viewings one afternoon. They all look pretty good – but how can you tell which will let you feel like you’re ‘home’, and which have issues that’ll drive you crazy once you’ve been living there a month or two?

Here’s how the pros separate the good suites from the great ones.

  1. Research the landlord.  Most experienced tenants will tell you that in the long run, a condo that’s handled by a property management firm tends to be a better option: Good property management companies tend to have specific responsibilities and are invested in maintaining high standards, they are fully compliant with relevant legislation, and in many cases they’re well-known in the condo building. Renting directly from the owner doesn’t have to be problematic – but it’s worth Googling your potential landlord’s name before you sign a lease agreement.
  2. Look under all the sinks. The cupboards under the kitchen and bathroom sinks tend to be places where plumbing damage or bug infestations will be most evident. Taking a couple of minutes to quickly open the cabinets can help ensure you don’t end up with a unit which has bugs, water damage, or mold problems that could cause problems once you’ve moved in.
  3. Are the floor tiles straight and plumb? Good contractors often say that builders who can’t lay tile in a straight line probably don’t know how to install a toilet or wire a socket. Sloppy floor tiles in the kitchen, hall or bathroom can be an indication of cheap or shoddy construction that otherwise isn’t evident.
  4. Make a call on your cellphone – and walk around the whole unit while you talk.  There is nothing more frustrating than moving into a unit, only to find that you have a mobile phone dead zone in the living room or bedroom. A quick phone call to check reception can rule this out.
  5. Ask to speak with the current tenant. The current tenant is your best source of ‘real’ information about what it’s like to live in your unit on a day-to-day basis: Are the neighbours helpful? Are the walls soundproof? Are the common areas well-maintained and safe? Are the utility bills reasonable? These are the kinds of little things that can make a huge difference to your quality of life. (If you’re not able to speak to the current tenant, consider approaching another resident in the lobby, either during your viewing or on another occasion. You might be surprised to find just how helpful an existing tenant is willing to be.)

Of course, you should combine these ‘insider’ tips with our previous advice on how to make apartment hunting in Toronto easier.

Good luck – and don’t hesitate to contact us if you’d like to learn more about renting condos in Toronto and the GTA!

 

 

6 Business Trip Sleep Tips

How to get a better sleep on business trips

Traveling is glamorous. Being exhausted isn’t.

Traveling for business starts out feeling kind of glamorous – until you have to fly across 3 time zones in 2 days and can’t remember whether it’s 7am or 7pm. When you fly between time zones, your internal clock gets out of sync with your day-night cycle, and sleep patterns get disturbed. Which means that just when you need to be most productive, you’re not at your best. Studies show that even one night’s lost sleep can have an impact on productivity, and there’s even a demonstrated link between sleep deprivation and the kind of rudeness that can impact your career.

So how can you ensure you’re less tired on your next trip?

Try these tips:

1. Plan ahead. Anything you can do to avoid last-minute travel stress (packing ahead of time, finishing presentations before you leave, printing your boarding pass online before you get to the airport, getting some exercise) will ensure your body isn’t using extra resources managing stress hormones – and that will help you conserve energy and ultimately sleep better when you get the opportunity.

2. Drink water – not alcohol and coffee. Dehydration can make you feel more tired and out of sorts. Drinking water will help you combat the drying effects of recycled airplane air, while alcohol and caffeine, which are diuretics, will make it worse.

3. Clear your head. If you’re prone to sinus trouble or allergies, flying and staying in unfamiliar climates can make it worse, which can lead to poor sleep. Speak to your doctor about the best ways to keep your sinuses clear when you’re travelling. (Many pharmacists recommend you use a saline irrigation system to help keep sinuses clear and prevent dryness.)

4. Light therapy. The more daylight you can get during the day while you’re working (either in the office or in your hotel room, or by taking a walk at lunch), the better your circadian rhythms will respond, which will help cue your body to sleep soundly when it gets dark.

5. Ask about ‘quiet rooms’. There’s nothing worse than having only 6 hours in which to sleep and losing 3 of those because the people down the hall are partying like it’s 1999. Some hotels offer designated quiet areas or floors – ask for these when booking. You might also consider alternate accommodations, like executive suites, which are less likely to have rowdy neighbours.

6. Eat right and exercise. It can be tempting to go out for drinks and a big fancy dinner with colleagues after you’ve finished your meetings, but you’ll feel better – and sleep better – if you eat healthily before 8pm and take a walk around the block before settling down for the night.

Think beyond the hotel room

Our clients say that one of the reasons they choose furnished suites rather than regular hotel rooms when they’re traveling is because they can establish more of a sense of ‘home’. Corporate housing allows them to cook their own meals (no weird restaurant food to keep them up at night), provides a proper bedroom, is often quieter than a bustling hotel, and often has even better amenities (like fitness centers or media rooms) than hotels. Just something to consider!

 

What does a successful (temporary) relocation assignment really look like?

Relocation tips from Today Living Group

It happened again last week: We got a call from the VP Talent in the New York office of a global company, and she was in a bit of a panic. “We recruited this super-specialized manager for a huge project we’re running in Toronto for the next 4 months. He’s only been in Toronto for a week but he’s already talking about quitting the project because the transition has been a disaster. He found some place to stay on Airbnb which turned out to be totally unsuitable, his wife and young child can’t visit him, and it’s taking him 45 minutes to get to the office every day. Can you help?”

Temporary relocations – typically 2-8 months – can often seem like no big deal to employers. After all, the assignee doesn’t have to sell his/her house, is usually given time to go home on weekends or bring his/her family to visit on a regular basis, and, from the employer’s perspective, is being given a great opportunity to build their career and make new connections.

All of that is true, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not stressful. Temporary assignees often feel the pressure to work long days, they’re in unfamiliar surroundings with new colleagues, they’re separated from family and friends, their gym, their favourite lunch spot – the things that make daily life familiar and comforting.

And of course when relocated employees start to get overwhelmed, they are at greater risk of burnout. Which means that suddenly your top-performing A-lister can’t do what they’re great at, and that means that not only is the temporary project in jeopardy, but you’re at risk of actually losing your employee altogether, when they decide that maybe they’d rather work for a company that didn’t want to send them on temporary assignments that make them miserable.

How can you create a temporary relocation program that works better?

No, we’re not HR experts. But we’ve been working with temporarily relocated employees and their employers for 20 years now, and we’ve learned a few things along the way. Here’s what we know about how temporary assignments can be more successful- for everyone:

Think about it from your employee’s point of view

Employers often think that employees should jump at the chance of a temporary relocation, because it seems exciting, career-building, and sometimes even lucrative. But for an employee who’s recently had a baby, who’s getting their MBA at nights and on weekends, or is leading a team in their home office, the thought of spending 3+ months in another city may not seem so appealing. Being sensitive to these considerations – and approaching the employee accordingly – will set a more positive tone for everything that follows.

Make sure everyone knows what’s involved (including expenses)

Temporary assignments work best when everyone – the employee, his/her manager, the HR department, and the office where the employee will be working – knows exactly what’s expected, in advance. Will the assignee be working four 10-hour days per week in order to have 3-day weekends to go home? Will there be a per diem for food/expenses? Is it payable on a regular basis, and does the employee have to submit receipts? Is there a firm end date, or is it tied to the completion of a given project? Will the company be paying to bring family to stay, and if so, how often? Or will the company pay for accommodations that will allow the employee to bring family with him/her?

Taking the guesswork out of this makes life less stressful for your employee, and allows better cost/deliverable management for the organization.

Don’t force – or let – your employee go rogue

Companies who don’t have large HR or relocation departments often leave it up to the employee to find housing, transportation and other services in their new city. This is both time-consuming and stressful, and – as we saw with our New York client – can end in disaster for everyone. Assigning an internal resource to find appropriate housing, transportation and support, and ensuring they dot every I and cross every T, will deliver a better ROI in the end.

Have an onboarding strategy

In our experience, temporary relocations often go off the rails right at the beginning, when a relocated employee arrives in a new city, sometimes late at night or on a weekend, to find that the expected arrangements are not in place and s/he has no one to call to help straighten it out. The employee then arrives for his/her first day or work already stressed out, tired and annoyed – which isn’t good for anyone. Ensuring that someone is on the ground to meet and assist the relocated employee upon arrival can make a huge difference in how the project moves forward.

Engage some expert help

Unless your company is a large multinational that often relocates employees around the world, chances are you don’t have a dedicated relocation department or a global mobility specialist on staff. For higher-volume and/or longer-term relocations, you may want to consider engaging a third-party relocation company like Weichert or BGRS. For short-term or smaller volumes, you can talk to your corporate housing provider – like, say, Today Living Group – you may be surprised at just how much assistance we can provide.

Temporary relocations can be great for employees and businesses

And a little advance planning can deliver both a great experience and a great ROI.

 

Executive suites and corporate housing: How to choose the right place even before you arrive

Today Living Group relocation tips

It’s a great opportunity – but you have to stay in another city for 3 months

You’ve just been seconded to head office to help spearhead a big project. It’s going to transform your career, but there’s one hitch: You have to move across country for 3 months so you can be on-site with the rest of the team. Getting an apartment isn’t an option (and why would you move all your stuff for just 3 months?) and staying in a cramped hotel room for the next 12 weeks seems like a recipe for cabin fever.

Corporate housing – also known as ‘executive suites’ or ‘furnished accommodation’ – is probably your best bet. But how do you choose the right one, especially if you have to do it online and won’t be able to check out any suites in person before you arrive in town?

 

6 tips for finding the perfect short-term home:

  1. Ask around. Referrals are one of the best ways to find a great place to stay, because people who’ve been through the process can give you more detailed, relevant information (“I know you love eating out – this place is within walking distance to all kinds of great restaurants…”) – and will be honest if a particular place didn’t deliver a good experience.
  2. Talk to your HR or accounting department. Chances are, they’ve arranged short-term accommodations for other employees in the past, and they can steer you in the right direction.
  3. What features are most important to you? Do you like to be able to walk to work, shopping and entertainment, or do you need parking? Are you passionate about working out and would appreciate a fitness center in the building? Do you need a large area to set up a home office? The more you know about what you’re looking for, the easier it’ll be to make a shortlist of possibilities.
  4. Spend some quality time with Google (and Google Maps). Give yourself some time to Google ‘furnished apartments’ or ‘corporate housing’ in the neighbourhood you’d most like to live. The more you know about what’s on the market, the better equipped you’ll be to make a decision you can live with for 2 months.
  5. Make sure you see all the photos – and a floor plan. Photographs – especially small ones online – can be deceiving. What looks like a huge, light-filled living room in one photo angle can turn out to be a poky, privacy-free closet when seen in person. (Plus, the more photos a company provides, the more likely it is they haven’t got anything to hide about their properties.)
  6. Talk to a real person. It can be tempting, when you’re busy and just want to get things done, to book a suite online without talking to anyone. That’s fine for a night or two in hotel – where it doesn’t matter that much if the room turns out to be terrible – but it’s more dangerous when choosing a place to stay for an extended period. Even a 10-minute phone call will give you a good idea of what you can expect in terms of reliability and service when you’re actually in your new, temporary, home.

BONUS TIP: When you do make your arrangements, don’t forget to get all the details in writing.

Getting to know a whole new city in a sort of risk-free way – after all, you’ve got a job and the company is probably picking up some or all of the cost of wherever you stay – can be a great adventure. It’s even better when you have a nice place to come home to at the end of the day.

 

Short-term relocation made easier

lobby

Our tips for making your short-term relocation more successful (and as headache-free as possible)

Technology and the internet may have reduced the amount of short-term business travel for the average person, but the increased use of project teams – people who are brought in to an organization for several weeks or a few months – means that some of us find ourselves away from home for extended periods. We can provide you with a great place to stay for a few weeks or months, of course, but life at home still goes on.

1. Ensure your files are in order before you leave

Losing your wallet any time is annoying and time-consuming, but losing it when you’re away from home can be a big problem, especially if you don’t have access to things like credit card numbers, bank statements, or other documentation you need. If you’re going to be away for an extended period, prepare a file which includes things like passport numbers, bank account details, and credit card statements, and either bring it with you or give it to a close friend or family member who will be able to get the information to you quickly. That way, if your valuables are lost or stolen, you’ll have easy access to the documents you need to cancel credit cards or get replacement cards. (Storing the information in your smartphone can be risky – it may be hacked or stolen along with your wallet.)

2. Make sure someone has access to your home

If you’re going to be away for a couple of weeks or more, you should make sure that a friend, neighbour or local family member has a key to your home. You may need access to your files in case of an emergency, or you may need someone to check on the electricity or plumbing if a freak weather event has caused problems in your neighbourhood. And of course it’s always a good idea to have someone bringing in your mail, watering your plants, and turning lights on and off to give the impression that someone is in residence.

3. Know what you’ll need in case of a medical emergency

Before you leave, take some time to familiarize yourself with your organization’s benefit plan or any other medical-related information you’ll need in case of an emergency when you’re away from home. Do you need travel insurance? Do you have any existing medical conditions that may be relevant? Ensure the people you’re working with – a supervisor or someone in the HR department – knows what to do if something happens to you and you need to see a doctor or go to a hospital.

4. Leave the house in good order – and some food in the cupboards – for your return

You’re finally returning home after a few weeks away. It’s almost midnight, you’re tired and hungry – and you open the door only to find piles of laundry stacked up and nothing but outdated sour cream in the fridge. Making the effort to tidy the house, discard perishables from the fridge, and leave yourself some tinned or frozen food before you leave can make the difference between “my trip wasn’t so bad” and “ugh, I hate being away so long for work”. (Best solution? Ask the person from #2, above, to stock your fridge with some milk and bread before you get back.)

HR PROFESSIONALS: How to make relocation go more smoothly

Relocation is hardly ever ‘routine’. Here’s how you can support employees.

HR professionals can help relocation go better

As the working world continues to become more global, employee mobility and employee relocation is increasingly common.

But for the employees (and their families) involved, relocation is hardly ever ‘routine’. Here’s how HR professionals can support employees – and the business – allowing them to relocate smoothly, seamlessly, and hit the ground running in their new location.

Have a plan: For relocation in general, and the employee specifically

For organizations which don’t relocate employees on a regular basis, it can be tempting to conduct relocations on a sort of ad hoc basis. But this can leave the employee with a lot of questions, uncertainty, and with a lot of extra work at a time when they need to be extra-focused on their job. And it can lead to significantly increased relocation costs for the organization for movers, accommodation and loss of productivity.

Organizations which take the time to create Relocation Roadmaps almost always save time, money and headache. These roadmaps should include:

  • A comprehensive list of the expenses and responsibilities of the relocation – and who is responsible for each element
  • Details about their new work environment: Vacation days, sick days, trips home, etc.
  • Timelines
  • Key contact information for the employee (both within the organization and in their new city)
  • Key information on the employee and his/her family
  • Healthcare information (what the employee should do if s/he becomes sick or is injured in his/her new home, etc.)

Establish a single point of contact – who has the power to act

One of the most common problems we see in relocated employees is that when they have a question, or something goes wrong, they don’t know who to contact to get it resolved. Establishing a single point of contact for each employee who relocates (and making them available outside of regular hours during key parts of the move) can make a huge difference to their peace of mind – and save money by avoiding costly workarounds.

Build trusted partnerships in key cities

For organizations who regularly relocate employees or send them on long-term temp assignments, building relationships with key suppliers, such as movers, IT companies and furnished accommodation providers in the cities they relocate to most often can mean that relocations are handled precisely to the organization’s requirements, often within a single phone call.

Understand the non-work factors affecting the employee

Whether you’re sending an employee to work in a branch office for 3 months, or relocating them for a 3-year stint, they’re not working in a vacuum: They may be leaving family or bringing family with them; learning a new language or taking courses; caring for a sick relative – there are any number of factors that can be complicated by their move. (And 60% of spouses are reluctant to relocate. http://gmsmobility.com/corporate-relocation/knowledge-base/family-matters-trailing-spouse-career-assistance/ ]  The more you know about their life as a whole, the better you can support them, whether that’s by helping them find schools for their kids or ensuring their contract allows them adequate visits home. This support can seem time-consuming, but will deliver a better productivity ROI in the long run.

Make their landing smooth and seamless

There’s nothing worse than landing in a new city, feeling a little anxious about starting a new job in a whole new place, only to find that your luggage hasn’t arrived or your apartment isn’t ready or you don’t have internet access.

HR professionals can make a big difference, by:

  • Using the relocation plan to ensure details aren’t missed
  • Partnering with accommodation providers who can act like ‘concierges’ in the employee’s new city
  • Ensuring employees have someone on the ground in their new home to contact for help with day-to-day challenges

We know that while the idea of relocation sounds exciting, the reality can be stressful – but it doesn’t have to be. A little advance planning and the right partner can increase the ‘exciting’ while minimizing the ‘stressful’.