Roaming charges are back! You can practically hear everyone jumping for joy. With lockdown restrictions easing, vaccination programs going well, and more and more countries being given the green light for travel, roaming charges are on the horizon.

Since 2017, we’ve been able to enjoy domestic phone tariffs when traveling in the EU. Then Brexit happened and this guarantee disappeared. Article 181 of the Brexit Trade deal specifically discusses ‘international mobile roaming’ in which it states:

“The Parties shall endeavor to cooperate on promoting transparent and reasonable rates for international mobile roaming services in ways that can help promote the growth of trade among the Parties and enhance consumer welfare.”

EE was the first to announce plans to reintroduce roaming charges from January 2022. Three, O2 and Vodafone have all followed suit.

Managing calls, texts, and data usage are soon to be a challenge for businesses, again, and making sure that employees are able to be internationally mobile without racking up huge bills from streaming Netflix shows will be important for preventing bill shock. International mobility is only going to grow, particularly in light of the new workforce management trends that have materialized from COVID.

Work from anywhere movement

The pandemic has ushered in a new age of flexible working, some businesses are allowing 2-3 days working remotely, while others are offering remote-first and work from anywhere arrangements. Either way, more employees working beyond the office will introduce new mobility patterns.

Employees will have the option to take a Wednesday flight to Stockholm and work abroad to get the most from a city break. Alternatively, employees may relocate abroad. Certain locations have been offering incentives like cash lump sums, mountain bikes, and free utilities. The office is becoming less focal to how businesses operate and employees are becoming more nomadic, which creates greater exposure to roaming charges.

Blurred personal and work lives

Although we’d like to believe that employees use corporate provisioned devices purely for work, it isn’t the case. Working from home has created a blur between personal and work lives, so much so that there is an EU initiative called the ‘right to disconnect’ to help employees log off.

When traveling abroad, the temptation can be there to use the corporate data plan for personal consumption, particularly when there is a charge incurred and when you’re expected to be ‘available’ despite being on your travels.

Resuming business travel

In AICPA’s Business and Industry Economic Outlook Survey, 34% of respondents said they have already returned to pre-pandemic levels of travel or plan to do so by the end of the year. As much as we’ve relied on Zoom to bridge the proximity gap for the remote workforce, customers and partners, there are just certain tasks that work better in person.

Mobility teams need to be able to dictate what constitutes acceptable usage on corporate data plans. Every organization’s definition of acceptable usage will vary, some will be pure business, some will allow a degree of personal usage, others will just want to block risky content categories.

The remote-first scenario we’ve endured for well over a year has taught organizations of all sizes that investment is required in digital infrastructure, to make sure that the remote experience is unimpeded and safe, but also cost-effective.