Helping your employees maintain good mental wellbeing is important regardless of the circumstances. But now, it’s more vital than ever to ensure your assignees are coping with the stress of an international relocation during these uncertain times.

But whilst global immigration rules and regulations are in constant flux, how can you ensure your assignees have a healthy mental wellbeing?

Understanding the Worries Your Assignee Might Have

Whilst working in another country can be extremely exciting and rewarding for an employee, it can also be
challenging and isolating without the right support network in place. With this in mind, it’s essential to ensure that employees are prepared for the reality of life in another country to ensure successful international assignments for both the employer and employee.

When preparing your assignees mentally for their new role in a host country, there are many factors to consider, such as:

  • What role does our company play in supporting globally mobile employees?

  • Where can we mitigate potential wellbeing risk?

  • What could be stressful for the assignee?

Once you understand how hands-on your support will be, you should consider how the move will impact your assignee. Especially during the effects of the global pandemic, there are an additional number of considerations that could cause stress for an employee who is being posted abroad, for example:

  • Will they need to quarantine?      

  • Will they be able to cross borders when required?   

  • Will there be any delays when shipping their belongings?

Beyond the complications caused by Covid-19, the assignee may also experience stress once they arrive in their host country in adapting to a new culture, potentially learning a new language, settling in their family and
entering a new workplace.

Preparing Your Assignee for The Reality of Life in Another Country

To mitigate potential wellbeing risks, you must understand that all stages of an overseas assignment can have specific challenges and take their toll on the assignee, and that at these potentially vulnerable times overseas employees must be recognised and supported.

There are many things an employer should consider when designing a support structure to safeguard their employees’ mental wellbeing, such as:

1. Having the right policies in place

Consider implementing a mental wellbeing policy and support system that covers both the home and host country.

2. Prepare and educate the employee culturally

You shouldn’t assume the employee will have prior knowledge about local culture or customs in their new location. By spending some time educating them on what to expect, they are more likely to experience a smoother transition because they will be equipped to deal with any challenges at work, culture shock and long absences from home.

3. Have frequent communication with the employee

Even when the employee has settled in, it’s vital to keep in frequent contact. Sometimes employees can feel they have gone unnoticed or rather they are “out of sight, out of mind”. But by keeping in touch with them, you’re able to see how they’re doing on a regular basis and prevent problems from escalating.

4. Understand the key indicators that an individual is struggling

During your regular catch-ups, be mindful of indicators that suggest an individual may be having mental wellbeing problems. Key indicators include but are not limited to: changes in behaviour, a change in their productivity, a withdrawal from communication or social activities and extreme mood changes.

5. Talk openly about mental health

Don’t wait until you notice something isn’t right to be open about mental health. Simply talking about mental health during your regular contact with the assignee will mean they’re more likely to seek extra support if they need it.Remember that in some countries and cultures, mental wellbeing is not as recognised or freely discussed as in others. Therefore, it’s important to consider what support assignees might have been used to back home and what they might need going forward.

6. Consider implementing a global employee assistance programme

A way to improve an assignees mental wellbeing is providing them with a network of people who have similar experiences. If you can, aim to provide them with access to specialists that have worked in a foreign country and understand the problems first-hand.

7. Remember, what works for one employee may not work for another

Everyone is different and will react to relocating in different ways. Be mindful of an individual’s unique background and challenges when considering the support they need.

8. Consider extending your support structure to assignees’ direct family members

Research over the last few years has shown a clear correlation between the level of family support offered and the success of the assignment but many organisations don’t currently extend their duty of care past the assignee. By adding in the assignee’s family members to your support structure, you can help the whole family adapt and reduce stress on the assignee themselves.

9. Implement a supportive environment when an employee returns home

Even after the assignment is over, the mental wellbeing support should continue. After an assignment abroad, there can be a reverse culture shock as the assignee begins to re-adjust to a different pace of work, work-life balance, or culture and this shouldn’t be left out of your policies.

Positive wellbeing can ensure a successful assignment

Undertaking a big change can take its toll on an employee’s wellbeing and employee mental wellbeing
issues are on the rise, impacting both the wellbeing of the assignees as well as the success of their employers. But through communication, offering the right support and putting the right initiatives, HR managers and employers can ensure they are giving their assignee workforce the best experience whilst also getting the most out of them, too.

The knock-on effect of supporting your employee’s mental wellbeing cannot be valued nor replaced and will be one of the most important investments a company makes for its employees that will continue to pay off.

NES & Global Mobility 

Our Global Mobility team are expatriates themselves so they know how stressful relocating can be; it’s important that you seek help and advice from experienced professionals to make your employee’s expatriate experience is as seamless as possible. If you’re looking for support for your Global Mobility function, we offer consultancy, policy reviews and benchmarking, compliance audits, vendor management and more to alleviate the mobility burden. To find out more, get in touch with our experts today.


Georgia Frangou

Georgia Frangou

Global Tax and Mobility Senior Manager

Georgia is a cross-border expatriate taxation and global mobility expert with over 24 years of experience within the Big 4 Audit Firms. Georgia has supported clients with the movement of their workforce across international borders and has vast experience in dealing with HR and Finance professionals, providing them with cross border advice and practical solutions that ensure compliance within their global mobility programme.  Having worked and lived in South Africa Georgia is now based in the UK. Georgia has also experienced expatriate life a few times in her career, having also worked in Canada, Austria, and the USA.

Read more about Georgia’s experience on LinkedIn.