With Covid spiking again in several countries across Europe and disruption ongoing around the world, many overseas employees will not be able to come home this Christmas. For those in countries banning outbound travel, this will be the second year in a row that they have not been able to see family or visit home for the holidays.
Feelings of isolation are likely, therefore, to be greater than ever. Employers need to be aware of the issues and provide strong support for the wellbeing of their overseas staff this festive period.
Sarah Dennis, head of international at Towergate Health & Protection, says: “Despite being geographically removed, employers can, and indeed must, play a role in helping employees to adjust to their surroundings. Employers must also ensure there is adequate support in place for the health and wellbeing of their employees throughout their time abroad.”
Do they know it’s Christmas?
UK employers with staff overseas need to be extra vigilant at this time of year whether employees are in areas that mark Christmas or not. Some people may find it isolating to be in a country that does not celebrate Christmas, whereas others may find it more depressing to have people celebrating around them when they are far from their own home, friends, and family.
Support for overseas staff
It can help when employees feel connected, to the company, to home, and to their host nation. Employers need to keep in regular touch with their overseas employees to communicate any health and wellbeing provision they offer and to remind employees that support is available if they need it. Support can include direct assistance, like providing healthcare abroad, and employers may also wish to implement more subtle wellbeing support, like reminding employees of cultural occasions and encouraging them to explore local events.
Providing 24/7 access to people who have worked abroad themselves and understand the emotional peaks and troughs that employees may go through, particularly during the festive season, can be a big emotional support. Many companies with staff abroad use global EAPs to help overseas employees through any hard times. This may include any financial or family difficulties around Christmas, as well as the mental health issues that can be associated with this time of year. Such support is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, so employees can make contact even on Christmas day.
Mental health apps and helplines can be provided as standalone benefits and can help by giving employees someone to talk to. Making sure employees are physically healthy will also help to maintain mental health. Offering health screening, access to virtual GPs, and health and fitness apps can all help to look after an employee in a holistic way.
Sarah Dennis says: “The employer’s role is clear: inform, provide support, stay in touch, and this is particularly so at Christmas.”