Expatriate mental health and awareness has become an increasingly popular topic in the last couple of years as companies are putting more of a focus on figuring out the deep-rooted causes of successful and failed assignments. For a large majority of a workforce generation (let’s say from the 1970’s through 1990), assignments had become extremely popular, vastly due to globalization. When this kind of business approach emerges, there isn’t much research to back up a company’s decision to offer certain benefits, rather companies tend to rely on trial and error until they have enough data to support a change.
Fast forward nearly 30 years of successes and failures and now we have enough data begin to identify the roots of either positive or negative outcomes. Mental health has been put in a spot light after determining that it has a lot to do with whether an assignment succeeds. Over the last few years, research conducted by the insurance firm Aetna uncovered that depression and anxiety were the top two mental health stressors among expatriates globally. Even though the APAC region showed a nearly 20% increase in their mental health claims, that’s the smallest increase when compared to EMEA and the Americas (EMEA averaged 30.5% and Americas averaged 26%). These numbers are staggering considering the increase was only from 2014-2016.
So, how does this relate to performance? Well, according to the study, 57% of people who reported that they were stressed during their assignment also reported feeling disengaged at work. “Disengagement led to absenteeism, with highly stressed employees taking 77% more sick days than their low-stress colleagues. And presenteeism – attending work when unwell and unproductive – was 50% higher for highly stressed employees.”
Having the ability to mentally prepare employees prior to their assignment and giving them the opportunity to resolve mental health stressors during their assignment, such as anxiety and depression, could significantly increase the likelihood that the expat will succeed. Failing to provide essential resources before or during the assignment relating to these issues could be detrimental to not only the assignment, but if it continues to be an issue among other expats within the corporation, could cause a considerable negative impact on other business sectors of the company.
Now that we have a plethora of data to support these claims, it’s a good time to put focus on resources before and during the expat’s experience to avoid such failures during already costly assignments.
Find out other ways to ensure the success of your employee’s assignments: “Why employee readiness is critical to successful international assignments.”
A survey of 5000 Aetna International members in 2016 revealed that that 6% of expats are concerned about mental health issues before relocating. The findings also suggest that since most expats have a mind-set open to risk and challenges, some of them may consequently be less likely to take steps to manage any potential issues in advance, not just for themselves, but their accompanying dependant family members as well.