Research has shown that moving to a new home during childhood can be damaging to health and wellbeing, including mental health later in life. The Health Insurance Group believes this adds weight to its 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.
Highest risks for adolescents who relocate
The 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. This 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.
Five Ways to Wellbeing
The mental health charity Mind** suggests ‘5 Ways to Wellbeing’, and The Health Insurance Group has shown how employers could use this as a framework for thinking about the best ways to support the family and encourage self-care. The five ways are Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Learn and Give.
In the context of caring for families overseas, the following are examples of how employers can support the wellbeing of staff and their dependants.
§ Connect – Encourage employees and family members to join local expat groups and local clubs, organise an expat buddy scheme so families can meet up with each other and share experiences including playdates for children of similar ages; advertise and encourage the use of employee assistance programme (EAP) support lines.
§ Be Active – Organise sporting events and encourage employees to get the whole family engaged in active pastimes, offer corporate gym discounts.
§ Take Notice – Provide access to mindfulness workshops or classes.
§ Learn – Provide opportunities for learning about the host culture and local language.
§ Give – Organise family-orientated fundraisers for local charities and volunteering opportunities that could include supporting other relocating employees as they arrive.
Sarah Dennis head of international, The Health Insurance Group says:
“For World Mental Health Day we want to remind employers of the importance of looking after the health and wellbeing of the children and families of the employees they send overseas. Expat positions offer great opportunities to see and live in another country, with proper support and care it can be a really positive experience for everyone. Looking after dependants is as important to a successful assignment as it is looking after the employee.”