Global Mobility Management in the Low-Touch Economy

The low-touch economy. It’s the new term coined by an Antwerp-based group called The Board of Innovation to describe the new normal we are finding ourselves in. To put it simply, tech is in, and touch is out. 

Any service that requires personal meetings or visits from human beings will have to reinvent themselves, or continue to suffer massive losses of revenues. In the meantime, any sector that leverages technology to reach out and keep their customers may not only thrive, but actually emerge as long-time winners.

The most obvious example is the restaurant business. Prior to the pandemic, its success was banked on groups of people bonding or doing business meetings over a meal. Restaurants celebrated the sense of community that such gatherings created. 

They became the go-to places for celebrations, brainstorming sessions, and power lunches (or dinners). But their very nature made them a possible contact point for the coronavirus. The unknowingly infected could pass it on because they dined with each other on close range. The virus could drop on a spoon or a buffet table. Worse, studies found out that a centralized air-conditioning unit could spread it all over the room.

Restaurants had to shut down because of imposed quarantines. However, even after a lockdown is lifted, it is doubtful that restaurants could expect a normal flow of customers who would be afraid of any kind of proximate contact with each other. The restaurants that bounced back were the ones who converted their services to food delivery; they made use of apps to connect their customers to their crew and the delivery riders.

Aside from reducing all those client-related dinners, what’s a global mobility manager to expect from this low-touch economy? How can they advise their assignees to behave in this new normal?


Be prepared to arrive at the airport several hours before your boarding, says WTOP News. That’s because there will be long lines of passengers streaming every entry point all the way to the gate. The usual security checks will be compounded by temperature checks — and if your temperature checks higher than the acceptable standard, they might have to ask you to wait for a while before letting you in. Social distancing will also place passengers at least a meter away from each other.

Tickets will be costly because flights will be rare. Many airlines had been grounded by national or city-wide quarantines, and some had even filed for bankruptcy. It will take time for them to get back on their feet. Meanwhile, the airlines that did manage to stay afloat will have to justify their cost by placing a premium on each passenger seat.

Remote meetings

All get-togethers, from departmental pow-wows, board meetings, to business networking conferences held in hotels, will now gravitate online. This is the new normal until people and government alike can feel safe and secure in being in close physical contact. 

As the global mobility manager, your first priority is to make sure that you check in with your teams regularly on the virtual channel. The compliance with deliverables according to standards of excellence shouldn’t slip, despite the tremendous challenges that everyone is facing.

But another thing that you have to watch out for is the morale of your assignees. As Alaska Business warns, the pandemic and all the pressure it brings will make them more anxious than usual. They will be scared about their job security and will be worried about their families, especially those who are living overseas. When they log online to chat, they will be carrying a lot of emotional baggage and unspoken fears.  

Don’t let the virtual platform and its distance make you feel that business is usual. It’s not. Use these webinars and online meets to strengthen the emotional and relational connection among your team. Allow some time for small talk which will replace the water-cooler chit chats they had been used to. Conduct polls, breakout sessions, and virtual mini-parties to encourage and keep them engaged. The software companies in San Francisco had been doing this successfully, even before the coming of coronavirus.

Medical care

Telemedicine  just may also become the new normal when it comes to health and medical care. Its advocates say that it is one way to manage and control the virus and spread its infection. You do all your medical consultations online. You and your assignee speak or chat with the doctor handling your case. Prescriptions can then be emailed. Medicines can be bought through pharmaceutical websites and delivered to your home and office. If further tests are needed, then the physician can arrange for a physical visit to the nearby clinic.

Telemedicine actually reduces your exposure to the virus because you do not have to leave any more just to get proper medical care. Unless absolutely necessary, it also prevents you from visiting a hospital or medical care, where actual coronavirus patients are being taken care of.