• “Out of the Box” Series – Part 3: Would You Live in a Yurt?


    Yes, a yurt… a round, one room semi-permanent platform supported tent/home.  With sparse furnishings, a composting toilet, hot plate, and stove for heating, it offers basic comforts, cozy surroundings and a novel way of living. Is there any reason why an employee couldn’t live in a yurt while on assignment if this is what really turned his or her crank? A tree house in BC, an artist’s loft in Montmartre, a house boat on the Thames are delightful when on vacation, so why not when on an assignment?  Granted, these types of dwellings do not offer all the comforts of home, but they do offer an adventure and a different perspective on life.

    Some employees on assignment relish the opportunity to try something completely new while others expect a duplication of their current living arrangements. Supporting and even encouraging adventure could be a way to manage, or even reduce the cost of destination housing.

    Assignment programs typically aim to provide standard ”expat” housing without necessarily duplicating all the employee’s current home features. Housing options and budget allocations are largely based on annual salary and whether or not the employee will be accompanied by family members. Inevitably, push back occurs around finding comparable neighbourhoods and availability of homes within the budget allocation. On the other hand, there may be cases where the employee figures that the budget is there, it might as well be used up whether or not it is needed… Perhaps a new corporate perspective would help employees view the assignment differently.

    Why not adopt the position that the assignment is not only an opportunity to support employee development and business goals but also one that could allow transferees to try another perhaps often thought about lifestyle for a defined period of time. And from the employee’s perspective, while living in a yurt may or may not be on their bucket list, if he or she is open to or even wanting something different, particularly if it is less costly, why not try to make it work, even if some of the impracticalities may have to be managed.

    Here are some more practical examples to illustrate:

    – From a suburban house to a more modest but central apartment giving the family easier access to restaurants, attractions and cultural events the new destination has to offer.

    – From the busy city centre to a country house with a longer drive to work but closer to all the new destination has to offer in terms of outdoor, healthy living (running, biking, hiking, skiing, etc.), and/or allowing the employee to leave the city easily on weekends to explore more of the new area or country.

    – From city living to a rustic cottage in a quiet picturesque village, and the benefits of leaving the hustle and bustle behind each day, with train service to work.

    In all of the above examples, there would be a definite change of lifestyle. For those seeking it, the employer should be open to some of the impracticalities such as distance from office, weather related risks. For the less enthusiastic group, the employer should encourage “out-of-the-box” thinking and promote its flexibility. This may mean asking a bit more from the rental search and destination housing provider.

    As an incentive to finding less costly accommodation, the savings could be shared with the assignee in the form of a “new experiences” or “exploration” allowance, which could be used for enriching their stay, e.g. a rail pass, a bicycle for transportation, museum passes, theatre subscriptions, etc.

    Alternatively, depending on the requirements of the assignment, acceptance of the proposed living arrangements could mean savings have to be directed to ensuring that some of the impracticalities versus work are resolved, e.g. enhanced internet access, transportation, occasional in-town hotel stay, etc.

    While companies like Google and Apple are providing pet friendly work environments, games rooms and other novel employee spaces, offering up less typical or conventional living arrangements is a way to add some fun and flexibility to your organization and perhaps even contribute to better stress management for those on difficult assignments.

    Obviously, this approach would not apply in all instances as there will be circumstances where the requirements are such that anything less than the standard expat arrangement would jeopardize the success of the assignment. But when it is not the case, a little more flexibility and encouragement on the employer’s part could result in some savings as well as an enthusiastic employee, which is key to a successful assignment.

    So, would you live in a yurt?