Managing the Unexpected Impacts of Extended Temporary Housing During COVID-19

Published: Thursday, May 28, 2020
John O'Connell

As COVID-19 has paused relocations around the world, some companies have been required to provide their employees with extended temporary housing accommodations. The reasons behind the need for extended temporary housing differ, but the impacts are generally the same for organizations which are tasked with managing the resulting challenges. Below, we explore some of the causes behind the current need for extended temporary housing during the COVID-19 pandemic – and we offer some suggestions for managing the resulting unexpected impacts.  

Reasons Behind the Need for Extended Temporary Housing

The reasons employees have been forced into extended temporary living situations are numerous. We explore a few common scenarios below:

  1. Interrupted Relocations – Many employees were in the middle of their relocations when the pandemic began, leaving them in a state of limbo. Some employees never left their origin locations but their household goods, sent ahead of them, are now inaccessible in storage containers – in many cases, in faraway ports that are inaccessible. Other employees have found themselves in interim locations, neither able to return to their origin locations nor to move on to their destination locations. Still others had completed their relocations but were asked to evacuate from “hot zones” and return to their origin locations where they had no home waiting for them.
  2. Mandated Quarantines – Whether returning to their origin locations or continuing to their work-related destinations as areas reopen, many employees have encountered a required two-week or extended quarantine period before returning to or securing their long-term/permanent homes.
  3. Housing Issues – Individuals who own homes have seen that COVID-19 has impacted housing markets everywhere.This has resulted in some employees facing delays in selling their homes while others have run into hurdles or roadblocks regarding their closings in destination locations. When employees or family members – or the sellers of homes and their family members – are diagnosed with the virus, they are physically unable to vacate their current homes and/or transition into new ones.Individuals who plan to rent in the new location have also been impacted by a variety of circumstances, such as government restrictions regarding in-person delivery of rental assistance and/or trends towards virtual assistance in the interest of health and safety.In addition, in some countries, moving services have simply been paused altogether.
  4. Shipment and Port Impacts – Ports and other shipment hubs have experienced temporary closures and/or staffing shortages worldwide, leaving containers of household goods in extended holding patterns, with their owners unable to retrieve them. Storage and drayage fees can mount in these situations.
  5. Immigration Issues – In some cases, employees have been locked down during the period in which their visa and/or work permits have been due to expire. In other cases, visa and permit extensions have been delayed as the municipalities that manage these permits are understaffed or closed during this period.

Despite initial client concerns that there might be a shortage in the availability of temporary housing units, SIRVA has not experienced a lack of inventory. There are, however, a number of challenges that have arisen for companies as a result of the above scenarios. These include items such as unexpected increases in temporary housing costs and greater administrative responsibilities and safety concerns. SIRVA has identified four action steps that companies should consider when addressing these challenges. 

  1. Review, Prioritize, Plan, and Forecast – Because regional responses to COVID-19 continue to change – and will continue to do so over an undetermined period of time – it’s important to stay informed regarding any factors that will impact a company’s relocating employees during re-mobilization; this includes geographically-specific trends regarding immigration, how destination service providers will be delivering service, changes in the real estate market, etc. Stakeholders should also clearly define what the company’s goals for remobilization will be.This will allow them to consider any plans to move employees out of temporary housing and to evaluate these plans against organizational goals in order to ensure optimal timing.For example, if company stakeholders determine that there’s an urgent need to move 20 people during the next quarter to several destination locations, but another 11 employees can be moved later, this would allow more time for research and prioritization of the more urgent moves.

    There will be a “new normal” in mobility as providers and partners resume workloads – and conditions, limitations, and requirements will vary greatly from one destination to another. Since mobility milestones are interdependent, stakeholders will benefit from working closely with their mobility partners, as the partners can help them anticipate and adapt to evolving conditions. Experienced mobility partners have a direct relationship with suppliers and in-country specialists. Together, they can help to provide a smoother remobilization experience and help companies to minimize costs associated with uncertainty, missed milestones, course corrections, and inefficiencies.

  2. Utilize Your Mobility Partner’s Corporate Housing/Self-Managed Properties – Some mobility providers own and/or manage facilities that provide companies with cost-saving temporary housing options. At SIRVA, for example, in addition to offering high-quality housing at competitive prices, our Corporate Housing professionals and network of premier partners in each region stay up to date on the spectrum of housing availability – and the statuses among our clients’ assignee populations. This allows us to find creative solutions to housing needs in even the most challenging of circumstances. Working closely with mobility partners can help company stakeholders find more affordable choices to their temporary housing needs.

  3. Ensure Proper Sanitization Methods – For the safety and well-being of employees, company decision makers should always vet properties thoroughly, including understanding the steps management companies are utilizing for cleaning and sanitizing between tenants/guests.Again, the mobility partner can and should play an important role by communicating key compliance requirements to housing and helping assess their compliance.

  4. Consider Offsetting Temporary Housing Costs by Modifying Other Program Components – The costs associated with extended temporary housing have taken many employers by surprise during the pandemic. While the need for extended housing arrangements has often become necessary, it’s important to remember that there are other modifications that can be made to a company’s relocation program to offset these previously unexpected costs. We encourage company stakeholders to contact their mobility partners for guidance and suggestions.

As companies address the unprecedented housing needs of their employees during the COVID-19 pandemic, mobility partners can be a reliable source of support and innovative solutions – both in terms of sourcing temporary housing properties and managing the transition into more permanent accommodations.

For more information on how SIRVA can be of assistance with temporary housing and its associated challenges, contact us at


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