Seeking longer home comforts

In today’s uncertain world, overseas working assignments may be stretched further than anticipated. HRM explores how this has repercussions in terms of extended-stay accommodation for employees

Global mobility assignments are facing a Catch-22 situation.

According to KPMG’s recent report, “International Assignment Policies and Practices Survey 2014”, while genuine effort has been made to reduce the costs derived from global mobility programmes, the majority of firms surveyed said their assignee figures were on the rise and that they anticipated this trend would continue for the foreseeable future.

The report adds that “while the logical approach would seem to be to cut costs by reducing the numbers of assignees, global economic expansion requires globally mobile employees”.

This inference is also corroborated by the Cartus 2014 Trends in Global Relocation: Global Mobility Policy and Practices survey.

It found that while most of the respondents signalled their mobile activity had been “status quo” for the past two years, 50% of them anticipated their mobility volume would rise overall during the upcoming two-year period.

With an expected increase in international assignments, coupled with the uncertain and unpredictable nature of mobility assignments, workers are increasingly finding themselves staying for longer periods of time while on their respective international assignments.

Hence, a rising number of organisations are arranging for extended-stay accommodation for these overseas-based staff.

Business vs accommodation

According to Richard Tan, Vice President, Pan Pacific and ParkRoyal Serviced Suites, extended stay options continue to be in demand due to the centralisation of company business in certain cities, especially in Singapore.

Furthermore, he says globalisation has helped to increase mobility across countries.

“However, the duration of stay has shortened, due to quick and easy availability of private housing for immediate lease as permanent housing options,” explains Tan.

His view is complemented by Patrick Fiat, General Manager of 8 on Claymore Serviced Residences.

Fiat says the demand for extended-stay accommodation has been growing steadily, especially in the Southeast Asia region, where rapid developments and projects are taking place.

Nevertheless, Adia Loh, Area Director of Sales, Park Avenue Hotels & Suites, believes that overall, there is a weaker corporate demand for long stays due. She cites global economic uncertainty and stringent control in issuing of working visas by the Singaporean Government as the reasons behind this.

Her sentiment was also echoed in the Cartus 2014 Trends in Global Relocation: Global Mobility Policy and Practices survey, which revealed that the assignment type anticipated to make the biggest jump were developmental assignments (54%).

These are usually short-term with the main aim being to heighten the experience of an employee and to provide a career-development opportunity.

The next type of assignment deemed to be in hot demand were short-term assignments (52%).

Costs and benefits

The KPMG International Assignment Policies and Practices Survey 2014 highlighted that over the past 12 months, 18% of respondent organisations had or were planning to reduce their housing budgets.

In fact, the Cartus survey found that cost control was listed by 75% of respondents as their chief global mobility challenge in terms of future impact on their company (see: boxout).

Tan says firms usually possess a certain budget for different employee management levels; these budgets may vary from a single expat to an entire family move.

“The cost of the extended stay accommodation is usually provided by the HR team and accommodation arrangements will be made with regards to the needs of the assignee,” says Tan.

He adds that most often, companies select a trusted hospitality provider they have used before.

He says the synergy between Pan Pacific properties is one that provides companies with additional choices.

“Another consideration is often the close proximity to the office, and our property, being in a central location, provides a greater opportunity for companies to place their employees with us,” says Tan.

For Loh, cost consideration has always been one of the key factors for decision making, particularly where it doesn’t compromise product quality.

Her counterpart Fiat explains that from an HR perspective, extended-stay accommodation can offer more personalised services for employees as service associates have greater opportunities to develop relationships with guests and attend to ther individual preferences.

“This will, in turn, provide peace of mind for HR as their employees can enjoy maximum comfort and personal attention for their extended stay,” explains Fiat.

“Extended-stay accommodation also helps the company reduce overall costs over the long run.”

Nevertheless, he says that firms that are sending their workers on overseas assignments generally take many other factors into consideration when choosing an extended-stay accommodation for their staff.

“These include employees’ ease of transport, daily conveniences, and preferences, which may in turn affect performances,” says Fiat.

According to the Cartus report, global mobility is quickly being viewed as crucial to other company strategies.

Thirty-one per cent of respondents claimed there was a close link between the global mobility function and their companies’ other HR and talent functions (up 10 percentage points from 2012).

In addition, 38% of respondents cited that their global mobility programmes were crucially important to attaining short-term business objectives (up 13 percentage points from 2012) while 63% said global mobility was critically vital to strategic global expansion (up 12 percentage points from 2012).

Extended-stay options

For employees who actually find themselves staying longer on their overseas assignments, a buffet of extended-stay accommodation options is available.

Over at Pan Pacific Serviced Suites Beach Road, there is a 24-hour personal assistant service offered for the convenience of residents, says Tan.

“Our personal assistants help guests to ensure they are well settled in and provide a network for local insights when settling into a new country,” explains Tan.

“For example, we help individuals and families settle into their new city by connecting them with the latest entertainment hotspots (for individuals) and linking parents up with education networks (for families with children).

Tan adds their personal assistants go one step further to provide services such as unpacking and grocery shopping.

“As we aim to create a home away from home for our residents, we provide an extensive range of wellness facilities, such as a fully-equipped kitchenette, fitness centre, ionised water pool, massage chairs and a residents lounge,” elaborates Tan.

Pan Pacific Serviced Suites Beach Road will normally value-add with additional services and inclusions such as laundry credit.

Tan says that crucially the property minimises complications by ensuring guests can continue residing in their current suite without any inconvenience of moving.

Fiat says 8 on Claymore Serviced Residences’ central location and surrounding facilities cater to the various needs of individuals who stay there.

Its location is near the Central Business District (CBD) of Singapore which allows business guests to commute easily to and fro.

In addition, supermarkets, schools, embassies and medical centres are just steps away from the doorstep for guests who are traveling with families, says Fiat.

The serviced residences also provide conveniences such as daily breakfast, 24-hour maintenance services and daily housekeeping services.

Fiat adds other perks include wireless and wired access on multiple devices, unlimited utilities, free local calls and a welcome gourmet hamper to help guests settle in comfortably.

8 on Claymore Serviced Residences also comprise of different room types to suit different groups of clients.

It has 46 studio units for single travellers and couples, as well as two-bedroom and three-bedroom residences for families.

Moreover, families that are travelling with children can keep the little ones entertained at the outdoor children’s playground and pool.

Over at Park Avenue Hotels and Suites, Loh explains that there is a collection of two serviced apartment properties and two hotels offering a choice of more than 700 rooms.

“For our hotel in Changi central and Rochester, we also provide one-and two-bedroom suites with cooking facilities, washing machine and dryer,” says Loh.

“Our guests can also enjoy the luxury of hotel service during their stay.”

The hotels offer one and two-bedroom suites as more spacious options to cater to extended stay requirements, as well as Superior and Deluxe Rooms.

The serviced apartments come as large as the four-bedroom option.

Flexibility is key

It is all well and good planning for contingencies, but when the need for extended-stay accommodation arises, Tan says it is important to illustrate flexibility.

“Yes, delayed assignments or unexpected continuation of a project happens occasionally and as a serviced apartment, we have to be flexible to ensure that our residents are able to extend their stay with us,” he explains.

Hence, he adds that maintaining a close relationship with bookers and residents is key to ensuring suitable arrangements for extensions and departures.

Fiat also says 8 on Claymore has come across situations when projects that their clients were handling were extended due to unforeseen situations.

“We will speak to the guests to find out more about their needs for their extended stay, such as a larger unit if their families are flying in,” says Fiat.

Furthermore, special requests for cleaning schedules, childcare services and transportation can also be discussed.

“Being centrally located, our guests will find they have most facilities and services within reach,” he adds.

Tan says Pan Pacific Serviced Suites Beach Road looks at the needs of their residents and customises packages accordingly.

“We try our best to tailor our services and offerings to suit the requirements of our guests.”

For example, some guests may have certain furniture requirements or may require a tailored package with daily laundry included and where possible, Tan claims they will definitely try to cater to their needs.

“This is how Pan Pacific Serviced Suites Beach Road constantly stays ahead of the game and ensures that our customers return each time,” he adds.

Slashing the cash?

According to the Cartus 2014 Trends in Global Relocation: Global Mobility Policy and Practices survey, cost control was identified by 75% of respondents (percentage ranked four or five on a 5-point scale) as the main global mobility obstacle in terms of future consequences for their company. The other two factors making the top three were:

  • Overall compliance (at 62% and up 12 percentage points) and
  • Immigration concerns (at 57% and up 13 percentage points over 2012)

 

Expensive for expats in Singapore

There is no running away from the fact that Singapore is a costly place for expats. According to the 2014 Cost of Living Survey by Mercer, Singapore was ranked as the fourth most expensive city for international workers.

New York was used as the base city, and all cities were compared against it, with currency movements assessed against the US dollar. The survey featured 211 cities across five continents and analysed the comparative cost of more than 200 items in each location.

The top 10 most expensive cities for expats for 2014 are:

  • Luanda (Angola)
  • N’Djamena (Chad)
  • Hong Kong
  • Singapore
  • Zurich (Switzerland)
  • Geneva (Switzerland)
  • Tokyo (Japan)
  • Bern (Switzerland)
  • Moscow (Russia)
  • Shanghai (China)

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