Guest Blog from Sarah Dennis, Head of International, The Health Insurance Group
Moving abroad to accept an expat position can have huge benefits for an employee, as well as their family. It brings with it the excitement of discovering a new country and its culture and a breadth of experience that is difficult to rival. However, there is a flip side and recent research has shown that moving to a new home during childhood can be damaging to health and wellbeing, including mental health later in life. This adds weight to the view that employers need to consider an employee’s family and dependants as well as the employee themselves when providing support during a placement overseas.
Families and dependants of an employee may experience a whole range of emotions as they go through the disruption of a move overseas. Dealing with family issues is one of the most common challenges for employees who relocate for work. It is critical that employers consider the impact on families of any relocation, and offer them the same support as their staff at every stage.
Highest risks for adolescents who relocate
A long-term study*, which followed 1.4m Danish children into adulthood, showed an increased likelihood of adverse outcomes in adulthood for individuals who had moved home in childhood, with the highest risks being among those who had moved frequently in early adolescence.
What can employers do to mitigate the risks?
Employers can help to mitigate these risks for employees and their families by looking at preventative measures to support mental and physical wellbeing at every stage of a move and return from an overseas assignment. Companies should seek expert advice and make sure they have adequate measures in place to support employees and the family travelling with them.
Looking after the health and wellbeing of the children and families of overseas employees needs to be an important consideration for employers. Expat positions offer great opportunities to see and live in another country, and with proper support and care it can be a really positive experience for everyone.
Putting the right preparations in place makes sound business sense too as preventing any issues for both the employee and their dependants supports productivity and creates an environment where everyone gets the most out of an assignment.
Practical support employers can offer overseas families
In the context of caring for families overseas, there are lots of practical steps employers can take to support the wellbeing of staff and their families. These may include encouraging employees and family members to join local expat groups and local clubs, organising an expat buddy scheme so families can arrange to meet up with each other and share experiences including play dates for children of similar ages. Employers can organise family sporting events and encourage everyone to get involved.
Companies should also look at what they are already offering in terms of support and wellness, such as employee assistance programme (EAP) support lines and discounted gym memberships, and make sure employees and their family members are aware of them and using them.