Pros and cons of a commuter assignment

19 May 2022

Commuter assignments are those where the employee works in the host country and travels back to their home country approximately once per week. Commuter assignments can be split into two types: multiple workplace and personal choice.

In this type of the employee lives and works in one country but is required to work in other countries regularly as part of their role. For example, a manager of a global team who lives in Denmark may be required to visit and work from the French office two days a week. 
This refers to an employee who has chosen to take up an assignment in another country without moving their family to the host location. These employees aim to travel home every weekend or as often as their commuting arrangement allows. They have made the choice to return home regularly and are considered as a commuter assignee. 
By returning home regularly you can see and maintain relationships with your family and friends by spending time with them. You can still take part in social activities, attend key life events such as weddings, birthday parties etc and spend quality time with your family. This will also help to reduce feelings of loneliness and homesickness while abroad which can be associated with expats on long-term assignment. 

Deciding to go on a long-term assignment abroad without knowing when you can visit home is a really tough decision to make. When you bring a family into the equation you have to think about things like moving children to different schools, separating your family from their social circles and potentially needing your partner to put their career on hold which could lead to trailing spouse syndrome

Knowing that you can come home every weekend can help to make this decision process a lot easier with less effects on those who you love.

Sometimes going on assignment plays a key role in career progression that would not be possible in your home country. Weighing up the pros and cons of this opportunity can be difficult when you want to succeed in your career but don’t want to uproot and change your entire life in return. Commuting can be a good compromise to achieve both.
Taking a plane journey twice every weekend can be a large expense for commuting expats. Some employers may contribute to travel costs as part of the commuter assignment agreement but even with this considered the environmental impact of all this travel is quite large. Salaries may also be altered to reflect the contributions being made to travel costs compared with those of long-term assignees who reside solely in the destination.
It’s true that expats working abroad need to be extra organized with taxation and immigration whether they’re on a short-term or long-term assignment but the frequency and amount of admin increases greatly when you’re traveling between two locations weekly, monthly, etc. Visas need to allow this frequent travel and tax liability can become more nuanced and confusing when there are multiple days spent between two locations in a short space of time.

You would think that traveling home on the weekends would lead to an increased work life balance but in reality many expats are exhausted from the journey when they arrive home and spend most of their free time traveling, resting and preparing to travel again. This can lead to strained relationships at home. Similarly, if you’ve been traveling and socialising all weekend you are too tired to connect or socialise with team members which can lead to strained relationships in the workplace.

Commuter assignments are on the rise with the ECA predicting a 60% increase of global mobility in international companies. However, if you’re considering being a commuting expat you must weigh up the pros and cons to see if it’s right for you. 

Whichever way you decide to work abroad, look after your health and wellbeing with international health insurance from Allianz Care.