What can Global Mobility Professionals Learn from the Qatar Crisis?


The recent Qatar diplomatic crisis once again brought to the forefront of many in the global mobility sector’s minds, just how fragile the balance of easy and open movement is. Although the extreme and sudden demands on the Arabic peninsular nation from many of its closest neighbours have been curbed somewhat since the start of June, much of the disruption in the region lingers. You may not have been directly affected by this action, but if similar crises pop up in other areas, you may find yourself, and your clients, in a bit of trouble. 

Business Disruption

At the most basic level, one should consider how such strains on international relations will affect the day-to-day running of the business. Will the sudden introductions of sanction and restrictions slow or break supply chains? Is your current client base going to be seeing large downturns in business which give a knock-on effect for you? Will these changes reduce the number of staff required in such a location? Some of these questions may be outside the scope of an HR professional but should be considered none the less.  

Each of these issues and more could impact the requirement and need for global mobility. When company profits reduce in a region, the need for relocations into the area is likely to diminish significantly. Relocations are expensive, and in hard times, a luxury that cannot be afforded. 

This is all bad news if you happen to be working with clients within a nation targeted by sanctions, however, what about if you are working with those in a country nearby? Unlikely as it may sound at first, you may find that business in these neighbouring countries scramble to get a slice of the pie while another country is on their knees. In these cases, a significant uptick in relocations may be required, as core talent is called in to capitalise on the situation as soon as possible. 

Travel Disruption

At the beginning of the Qatar Crisis, it only took 36 hours for Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt to close their airspace to Qatari aircraft. This was followed quickly by all flights to Qatar from the four nations being banned, and the necessary licences for Qatar Airways to operate in these countries being revoked, forcing all representatives to leave the respective countries and return home. 

This situation resulted in severe travel disruption for many and led to Qatar only being able to have flights enter and exit the country via a narrow piece of Bahraini airspace to the North West. 

Consider how similar situations may disrupt your clients' relocation, especially in countries with few friendly neighbours. Sudden travel restrictions such of these could have far reaching consequences for you clients, even if it is that they are only going through the area on their way to another destination. In many cases, extra travel stops may be required, causing a significant increase in costs. 

Visa Disruption

In situations of sudden and mass revoking of Visas, the fallout will undoubtedly be a nightmare for many, as rapid travel arrangements (in severely restricted circumstances, as seen above) are made to respect changes in the law. In the case of the Qatar Crisis, all Qatari citizens in the four aggravating countries were given just 14 days to leave. 

The cancellation of short-term and even long-term visas in situations such as these can have a large effect on not only the assignee’s well-being but also, the company. Here, standard operating procedures for emergency or rapid repatriation are going to be key, because the last thing you want to be doing is scrambling for a solution when time is of the essence. 

Prepare and think about these situations and possible work arounds now, and if the situation ever arises, the process can be as efficient as possible. Technological advances in the global mobility field can streamline these processes, but nothing can replace a well thought out plan for the tasks required in such a situation. 

Psychological Disruption

All of the above issues may be problematic in of themselves, but you should not underestimate, by any means, the psychological disruption that such events can cause to assignees in-country. The strain that global mobility professionals must deal with in these situations is one thing, but for employees who might have their lives turned upside down at a moment’s notice, it is on another level.

As many globally mobile talents bring their families on assignment with them, especially in the case of long-term relocations, the disruption can be immensely damaging to whole family units and not just individuals. After a large and complicated move across the globe, the mental health of the employee will unlikely be 100%, as family and friends are left behind, and they are figuring out life in a new country and culture. It is therefore critical, that alongside all of the other work that is required in these extreme situations, that you remember that communication is essential in all matters of global mobility and that the client must be kept well-informed at all times to minimise disruption. Any issues could have significant knock on effects regarding productivity and the customer’s feelings towards the company. 


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