Expat Fatigue is Real

Nearly all assignees and global road warriors experience times of extreme fatigue, exhaustion, and feelings of hopelessness from time to time.  Some common symptoms include anxiety disorders and depression, which can be a result of bombardment with a series of changes in quick succession and little time to process these changes.  According to the World Health Organization, there are nearly 322 million people globally living with depression and 260 million struggling with anxiety.

Duty of Care is very important in supporting the health and well-being of your global employees.  The first step is to recognize that every one of your mobile employees may experience burnout due to the constant pressures of their day-to-day home and work life.  Companies must protect their most valuable assets – their employees.

What are some actions you can take to improve travel and assignment health and help employees to achieve a better work-life balance?

1.  Let your employees know that being flexible can go a long way.  All moves have a sense of uncertainty and they should try to leave room for things that may not work out as planned.

2.  Encourage them to set realistic goals with realistic timeframes. Completing the many tasks this way will build confidence instead of creating overwhelm.
3.  Schedule time to relax.  Some may even need to add their downtime to a calendar.  This allows the mind to focus on something other than the issues or stresses at hand.

4.  Encourage employees to eat well and try to add in time for exercise.  Creating set habits lends stability to a new situation.

5.  Find a trusted person to share feelings of overwhelm or even more extreme cases of depression. Remind your employees of programs your company has that offer access to telephone, online, email, and face-to-face counseling.

6.  Make sure to offer employees access to an online cultural learning tool and access to excellent destination information before they travel or move abroad.  Perhaps learning a few words in the language before traveling will eliminate the fear of not being able to communicate upon arrival.

7. Promote acceptance of host country culture.  Those who reject the host culture tend to be the employees that have the most problems.

Ultimately, empowering your global employees with tools and resources will add to their happiness abroad and yours.  “Companies that build a culture of health yield greater value for their investors.”(1)

(1)Source:  The Link Between Workforce Health and Safety and the Health of the Bottom Line, Fabius et al.  Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Vol 55, No. 9, 2013

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Written by Cathy Heyne –  GMS-T, Managing Director, Living Abroad