Moving abroad to work can bring your employees many exciting new experiences and opportunities. However, working abroad also has its own challenges, and particularly it can negatively affect your employee’s health and wellbeing.
As an employer, you will have a degree of responsibility to help protect your employee while they’re working abroad. Helping them to manage and improve their health and wellbeing will result in a happier, more productive employee. A good programme for your overseas employees can help with your retention rates and also reduce absenteeism.
Challenges your employee may face abroad and how to support them
There are a number of different challenges your employee may face when they move abroad to work that could impact their health and wellbeing. However, there is also a lot you can do as an employer to help minimise the impact and help them to manage employee wellbeing.
Making sure your employee can easily access good quality healthcare while they’re abroad is vital. You should ensure they have adequate international medical insurance suitable for the country they’re working in.
Some countries will require workers to have international medical insurance as a prerequisite for acquiring a working visa. In other countries, it might not be mandatory for the employee to have insurance, but it can often be advised. Some countries might provide free, public healthcare for workers, but it might be of a lower standard than your employee is used to.
The right international medical insurance should give your employee flexibility to visit convenient and good quality hospitals and other healthcare facilities, wherever they are in the world. It is an important step in protecting the health and the wellbeing of your employees abroad.
It can be difficult for people to adjust to working and living in a new country. There will likely be different social norms and working practices that they will have to learn. They will also usually have to adjust to eating new food, learning a new language, and even following new laws and adapting to new societal values.
To help your employee deal with culture shock, you should give them as many resources prior to them going abroad, to help educate them about the new country. This can help them to prepare for what will be in store for them when they move.
These resources should include details about how the bureaucracy works in the new country. Moving abroad to live and work can involve a lot of administrative requirements. As the employer, you should be on hand to help as much as possible through this, such as managing visas, finding accommodation, and assisting with financial matters such as bank accounts. Where it’s not possible for you to organise yourself, you should provide advice and guidance to help your employee do it themselves.
The education should continue even once the employee has moved abroad. They will usually learn the most about the country once they’re submerged into the culture, so you should make sure they have educational resources to help support them through this.
It can also be helpful for them to have a point of contact to speak to, perhaps another employee who has been living and working in that country for a while, or someone who is a local resident. This can mean they have someone to ask questions and speak through difficulties they may be having. The individual should have enough local knowledge to be able to answer questions thoroughly and in a non-judgmental way, to guide the employee through the new requirements.
Language barrier is related to culture shock but should be dealt with as its own potential challenge, as it can be such a major stumbling block for employees working abroad. Speaking the local language will help the employee to properly take part in both work and social life. Not speaking the local language can hinder the employee’s progress and leave them feeling alone and isolated.
When you know an employee will be moving abroad for work, you should offer language classes straight away. They will likely learn the language best once they have moved and are able to submerge into the culture but giving them a good foundation of the language before they move will help to give them a head start.
It can be helpful to continue language lessons even after the employee has moved, to help increase their fluency while they’re abroad. You can also ensure they have access to language resources, such as translation apps, that can help them to keep the conversation flowing if they don’t know a word or phrase.
Loneliness can be a big challenge for many people who move abroad to work. Ensuring your employee has access to resources to help with learning the local language and dealing with culture shock can help to alleviate some feelings of isolation.
However, your efforts to avoid isolation shouldn’t end there. Most people will want and need an active social life while they’re abroad, to avoid loneliness. So, as an employer, you can help by ensuring there are social events organised for your employees abroad. These should be available for everyone who is working for your company in that location, both expats and locals. This can help to bring everyone together and help the people from abroad feel more included in the local culture.
Havign a physical office space can also help to combat feelings of loneliness. Of course, many people nowadays like to have more flexible working and may prefer a hybrid model rather than working in an office full time. But having a space where people can go to work should they wish can mean people don’t feel like they’re alone.
You should also ensure there are systems in place to keep in regular contact with your employees who are working abroad. This can be done with an online messaging platform as well as with weekly or monthly video calls to check in. If you have employees who work in isolation, try to include them on a suitable team, so they have more of a support system if and when they need it.