It turns out that reducing stress is the best way to guarantee a great relocation experience. This might not be the most surprising statement, given that high stress has always been a barrier to successful moves, but it's no less important to consider. Over the years, industry providers have sought to understand and minimize stress, which is often caused by adjusting to a different culture, facing language barriers, finding a new home, establishing a new social network, missing family and friends, or dealing with the financial costs associated with relocation. The emotional strain caused by stress is detrimental to a happy work environment. Even worse, stress can also cause physical symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, headaches, and tension. Difficulty in adapting to the new environment, making friends, and feeling isolated are all additional stressors that can have a negative impact on someone's mental health during and after a relocation or assignment.
In an article from VeryWellMind, one expert shares the following:
|“Moving is an overwhelming endeavor that can easily activate many of our emotions, including stress, exhaustion, and anxiety,” says Hillary Schoninger, LCSW. “Although moving may be a happy change, it is still change which can be challenging.”|
Those of us in global mobility know about the elevated levels of stress associated with moving and may have even worked to address some of those challenges in our own organizations. For a few examples of our thinking around stress and employee journeys, check out these previous posts:
The art of converting distress into eustress!
How is increased stress impacting mobility programs?
This is your brain on relocation
Are emotions impacting your global mobility program?
Last summer, Re:Locate Magazine published this article. Part of the research included a Cigna report which explained that while memories of the pandemic were fading, its enduring impact continued to be felt. Stress levels among expats reached an all-time high as of the article's publication, with 90% of expats affected - significantly higher than the 77% of people living in their home market reporting similar stress levels. On a positive note, though, Mercer's article "2 minutes to improve assignee wellbeing" provides some great suggestions for preparing relocating employees for the stress of moving, and ideas for supporting them when stress becomes overwhelming.
Cross River Therapy shares that around 1 million Americans miss work each day because of stress and 63% of U.S. workers report they’re ready to quit their job to avoid work-related stress. New surveys show that stress causes 57% of U.S. respondents to feel paralyzed. One third of all employees report feeling extreme stress. Imagine how adding a relocation to this mix would feel.
Corporate mobility programs are aimed at minimizing stress and making the transition as efficient as possible. At Plus, we work hard to create mobility programs that will "delight" those that are moving. Moving isn't always smooth, and unexpected things can happen. We call these things "escalations", and have a dedicated Escalation Resolution Manager, Ben Castellanos. Here's how Ben talks about his role as a stress reducer:
"I have found that empathy, patience, and listening are the most affective skills when working towards a solution with a person whose emotions are elevated. Letting someone vent by offering a safe space allows that person to share the true reasons as to why an issue is causing them stress. Acknowledging key words or negative experiences that someone shares helps establish trust that you are an advocate.
Learning the effects of stress to the brain in this article was enlightening to me. Knowing that highly stressed people are not personally attacking you when they are communicating their experience is helpful to understand. The brain could be causing them to react out of character which will remind not to take anything personal. I like to think that every escalation is an opportunity to connect with someone and ultimately make a difference in that person’s experience. It can be challenging at times but if you show genuine support to someone in a difficult position can be extremely rewarding. In my work and personal life, I try my best to live by my favorite quote:
'people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. Maya Angelou.'"
On top of any support that mobility benefits provide, relocating employees also have some resources for managing their own stress. Consider these 7 expert-backed strategies that can make moving easier:
Mobility programs truly go a long way to helping minimize the stress of moving. And while this helps employees and families, it also helps the company in a number of ways. First, it can help reduce employee turnover, as employees who experience less stress during the relocation process are more likely to stay longer. Second, reducing stress can help the employee make a quicker transition into their new work role. A more successful onboarding process and a faster ramp-up to full productivity is a big benefit. Finally, reducing stress helps to improve the employee's overall morale and engagement, which can have a positive effect on the team and overall company culture.
Stress is annoying, feels terrible, and can wreck your peace of mind. While it's true that nobody likes being stressed, it's useful to remember that stress has its place: It makes us pay attention and, in short bursts, can help us hone our focus. When there’s a threat, stress can trigger our brain to set off a cascade of reactions that can protect us from danger like a chain of dominoes. When we're frightened by an encounter with a snake, for example, the amygdala, the almond-shaped bundle of neurons that forms part of the limbic system, gets activated.