Moving to another country, whether on assignment or independently, can be incredibly rewarding.
Such a move offers the opportunity to experience a different culture, a new city, new people and an alternative working environment.
However, international assignments present a unique set of challenges for the health and well-being of an expatriate and their family, who must cope with the emotional stresses associated with moving overseas.
When 43-year-old Aurélie, a financial services employee, relocated from France to Singapore with her two young daughters, things went well at first.
"The girls were settling in their new school and I felt like I was adjusting to my new role,” she recalls.
However, just two months into her assignment Aurélie learned that her mother had a serious illness, and she began to doubt her decision to move to Singapore.
"I felt guilty about not being there for my mother and father, and that my daughters were not able to spend time with them,” she explains.
“I became increasingly unhappy, feeling isolated from my family and vulnerable.”
Lack of support network
While an ill parent may have triggered Aurélie's predicament, the difficulty of dealing with any number of challenging situations can be amplified for people working abroad, threatening the success of their overseas assignment.
One of the main stresses for many expatriates is the lack of a support network during a time in their lives when they often need more support than ever.
Indeed, many of the most common difficulties experienced by expatriates stem from simply adapting to new social and cultural environments while at the same time trying to balance taking care of themselves, their families, and work responsibilities.
Some expatriates can be overwhelmed by the stress of living and working overseas, even without the added complication of a family illness or other difficult situation.
Altogether, these difficulties can leave expatriates and their families more susceptible to mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression, affecting the employee's well-being and possibly the success of their assignment.
Left unchecked, these stresses can result in assignment failure and premature repatriation, leading to further upheaval that can affect employees' professional confidence and self-esteem, and even result in dissatisfaction upon returning to work in their home country.
With so much at stake, employers must consider how they can support their globally mobile employees and manage the risks associated with international assignments from the outset.
Implementing a comprehensive healthcare strategy that protects both the physical and mental well-being of employees can be a first step in helping to mitigate these risks.
Employee Assistance Programmes
Global assistance and wellness programmes help expatriates take positive steps to improve their physical and mental well-being, reducing the impact of stress, poor health and lifestyle choices while living and working overseas.
When Aurélie was considering cutting off her overseas assignment and moving back to France, she was advised by HR to take advantage of the company's Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), powered by Allianz Care.
Soon thereafter she was put in touch with a counsellor who helped her come to terms with her feelings and helped her cope more effectively, ultimately saving her and her company from a messy premature repatriation.
"It really helped having someone to talk to. I realised that I could still support my mother, but that moving to Singapore was the right decision for my daughters and me,” Aurélie explains.
An EAP helps companies support their employees in work and life abroad by offering a range of 24/7 multilingual support services.
It helps employees and their dependants address a wide range of challenges, from work-related stress and relationship concerns to major life events like births and deaths.
Employees have access to confidential professional counselling - available face-to-face or via phone, video, email and online chat.
In addition, the EAP also offers crisis incident support, legal and financial services, and access to the Allianz Care wellness website.
And expat workers who aren't part of an employer healthcare plan may want to consider the Expatriate Assistance Programme, powered by Allianz Care.
It offers the same services as those provided to employees and is available to anyone who purchases an individual or family international health insurance plan through Allianz Care.
Whether you're being sent abroad by your company or venturing out on your own to work in a new country, give yourself the support you deserve by taking advantage of the Expat or Employee Assistance Programmes, powered by Allianz Care.
After all, why should the challenges of everyday life get in the way of enjoying the adventure of a lifetime?
Philippe Fassier, Sales Director - Partnership & Affinity Business at Allianz Partners
This article was produced by The Local Client Studio and sponsored by Allianz Care.