There is an old joke that the initials IBM (which actually signifies International Business Machines) stand for “I’ve Been Moved”—a reference to the company’s former practice of asking up-and-coming executives to move frequently. The relocation of employees by large U.S. corporations is not as prevalent today as it was in the past, and as remote work enjoys a resurgence, it may be less so in the future. In general, Americans move less now than in the past. But there are plenty of careers that still move workers around for various reasons. Most companies support the employees it asks to move for work, but some expect the employee and their family to shoulder the burden.
The U.S. government and military sponsor moves for their employees regularly, with military families relocating every two or three years on average. A relocation in military-speak is called a PCS (permanent change of station), and members of the armed service who get PCS orders also receive support and allowances to ease the move process. The support includes:
- Destination information, including moving costs, housing costs and availability, childcare, and spousal employment options.
- Financial management counseling, home buying and selling assistance, shipment and storage of household goods and vehicles, pet relocation, and stress management services
- Settling in services, including cultural adaptation where appropriate, spousal sponsorship, and community orientation
Similarly, the U.S. Department of State posts its Foreign Service workers and their families worldwide. State offers support to enable those workers and families to live comfortably while continually moving from one country to another at the government’s behest, often while maintaining a permanent home somewhere in the U.S.
Almost 20% of interstate moves are related to work, either for a new job or a current employer transfer. The higher level the position, the more likely the company will provide some assistance to the moving worker. The level and type of assistance varies considerably but may include the following:
- Packing and unpacking. The moving company packs the employee’s household goods, then unpacks them at the destination. This service saves time and stress for the relocating worker and their family.
- High-quality moving company and full value replacement coverage for your household goods. Some companies require employees to select from specific moving vendors, while others allow the worker to choose, subject to a cost limit. Others may require the employee to choose the lowest bid from several offered.
- Home sale assistance or lease termination. Some companies reimburse employees for the costs of selling and buying a home. If a company frequently asks its workers to move, they may take on this responsibility and manage it on behalf of the employee. Renters may request reimbursement for the cost of breaking a lease and entering into a new one.
- House hunting visit. The company may offer this as a selling point for the potential employee and their family. The house-hunting trip or trips might include the cost of air travel, lodging, meals, and possibly childcare.
- Temporary housing. New hires or transferees may need to live in an extended stay hotel or apartment for a short period while finding permanent housing, depending on the move’s timing.
- Transportation could be reimbursement for driving, airfare, or both, depending on the circumstances. If the new hire or transferee is flying, the relocation package would typically include the cost of moving a vehicle to the new location.
- Miscellaneous expenses. These can include small costs like changing driver’s license and auto registration, utility hook-ups, package forwarding, and even memberships for new fitness centers and other local amenities.
Often, these moving assistance packages have reimbursement limits, and someone in the company human resources department administers the program, keeping track of the details, rules, vendor invoices, and payments. Sometimes, companies find it is easier to provide a lump-sum amount of money that the new hire or transferring employee can use as they see fit, instead. If the employee wants to be thrifty with their move, they can pocket the difference. If they prefer to have all services covered, they may have to pay the difference. They get to have control over the process, and that is valuable. It gives the discretion and the decision-making ability to the person who is being affected by it. One person might prefer to use more of the allowance on higher-quality temporary housing. In contrast, for another person spending more on extra house-hunting trips to get a spouse or child excited about the move is a priority.
Besides the legendary IBM, some industries and careers are known to require frequent moves as a way up the ladder. Ministers seem to be continually moving to a new home to tend a new flock of parishioners. For many, the church comes with housing attached, which simplifies the move somewhat. Retail and hospitality management often offer advancement to those willing to move to get it, as openings up the ladder may come in places around the corporate map. If you work for a large chain restaurant or retail organization, you may need to hopscotch through several locations to reach your management goals.
In more office-based corporations, moving for promotions and jobs is decreasing. Companies that move their headquarters or build new corporate locations find that most applicants come from the local area. The applicants who are willing to relocate are younger and more likely to be male than the applicant pool overall, which has implications for the organization’s diversity goals if they try to fill critical roles with applicants from outside the metro area.
With many tech and other companies allowing and encouraging remote working arrangements, relocation may be an obsolete concept in some industries. Still, in manufacturing and other hands-on environments, virtual work is not possible.
For people with the freedom to live and work anywhere or who are lured by the financial incentives offered, several locations are hoping to attract new residents to their area:
- Maine. Seeking to increase the number of college graduates in the state, Maine offers a state income tax deduction for anyone with a Bachelor’s Degree or higher-paying off a student loan.
- Full-time remote workers can seek reimbursement of up to $10,000 in moving expenses if they move to Vermont (numbers are limited.)
- Tulsa, Oklahoma. Like Vermont, Tulsa is seeking remote workers to the city. In addition to the relocation expense reimbursement, Tulsa is offering a housing stipend.
- North Platte, Nebraska. This incentive is a cooperative effort with local employers, so it doesn’t apply to remote workers. The North Platte economic development group will match signing bonuses offered by local employers to new hires, with some stipulations.
- The northernmost state has several grants and tax incentives to attract new and permanent residents, including the Permanent Dividend Fund, which gives a set amount to all full-time residents each year.
- Newton, Iowa. This town has a generous housing incentive, offering $10,000 cash to new homebuyers and builders, plus a welcome package. It must be a high-end home, though, as the motivation is only available for housing construction worth over $160,000, while the median home in Newton is currently valued at $105,000.