Definition of Flexpatriates

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In the existing literature, different approaches exist to define flexpatriation. The variety is emphasized by diverse expressions for the same term such as frequent flyer (Petrovic et al., 2000) or international business traveller (Welch & Worm, 2006). The characteristics lying behind those names, however, are similar. In the following, the term flexpatriate will be used. This also has the advantage of achieving a clear distinction towards the terminology of “frequent flyer” programs. Moreover, the prefix “flex-” demonstrates the dominant characteristic of being a flexible “expatriate”. Flexibility in this context does not only refer to flexibility regarding the destination but also regarding rhythm, scheduling and planning of travel (Mayerhofer et al., 2004a).

To achieve a first overview of the terminology flexpatriation, it is useful to analyze one of the broadest approaches in understanding this term made by Teng (2005). Highlighting the current development regarding IAs, Teng states “[…] we no longer talk in terms of expats but flex-pats” (Teng, 2005, online source). That is to say, in general, IAs require flexibility which is offered by flexpatriates. Teng defines flexpatriates as “[…] a new breed of younger expatriates who have fewer encumbrances and are more enthusiastic to work abroad” (Teng, 2005, online source). A more pragmatic approach was developed by Welch and Worm (2006). They define flexpatriates “[…] one for whom business travel is an essential component of their work” (Welch and Worm, 2006, p. 284). Aligned with this is the definition of Petrovic et al. (2000) who identify a flexpatriate as an “[…] employee who undertakes frequent international business trips but does not relocate” (Petrovic et al., 2000, p. 20).

The following aspects elaborate further on flexpatriation and therefore give a tighter definition. Mayerhofer (2010) characterizes flexpatriates additionally as flexible employees who have a permanent position in their home...
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