Mental health and wellbeing — easier access to counselling and therapy wherever you work in the world
The pandemic has changed the way we work, creating new pressures and anxieties. But for many international assignees, self-care has become easier, especially in developing countries and remote places and spaces.
In this edition of Reloverse, we examine how mental health support is now universally available, making it easier for international talent and their families to work, live and thrive anywhere on the planet. Combined with enhanced support from your Global Mobility partner, it can dramatically reduce assignment failure rates.
Most executive coaches and management consultants have long insisted that face-to-face sessions create better outcomes than those delivered online. The same was true for psychotherapists and counsellors. Using digital platforms or phone calls meant they would miss the nuances crucial for understanding and communicating with their patients and clients. For Global Mobility professionals relocating people off the beaten track or in societies where wellbeing is stigmatised, this meant support for a wide spectrum of mental health problems for their talent was limited.
Coping with crises
The global pandemic meant we all had to get better at using Zoom and Teams, taking many of us out of our comfort zones and traditional ways of working. For mentors and private healthcare professionals, it became a business imperative to switch their services online almost overnight—and most seem to have kept to a virtual model that’s proving unexpectedly efficient and effective. So out of necessity comes a good news story for our sector: accessible services to help everyone cope during times of personal crisis.
Breaking down barriers
Remote or distance therapy offers several advantages over physically sitting in the psychiatrist’s chair. Selecting the right professional for support is easier than ever, as the available pool of practitioners is much larger. It also means talking therapies are delivered in the assignee’s mother tongue, overcoming traditional barriers of language and culture. But there’s a bigger barrier that online counselling conquers—that of taking the first step. A road trip in a foreign country to see a therapist is daunting, and a much higher hurdle than organising a 20-minute discovery call with a friendly face. It’s meant many more international workers, particularly their partners and spouses, have begun a journey to getting better instead of suffering silently. For HR and Global Mobility professionals, this means fewer failed assignments and compliance with their workplace wellbeing commitments, even overseas.
The expat burden
To successfully integrate, expats need to find new ways of working, navigating cultural norms and languages—and addressing the individual needs of their partners, spouses and children. Unsurprisingly, demand from Global Mobility professionals for value-added services, including intercultural support, has surged in recent years.
With broader participation in these programmes comes wider acceptance of the issues many of us face, especially when working abroad. It normalises treatment for anxiety and depression in societies where mental health is stigmatised or used to describe severe mental illnesses—conditions treated in secure psychiatric hospitals. Several studies of expat workers show they’re far more likely to suffer loneliness and depression than most professionals in a domestic setting. Warning signs can include changes in sleep patterns and appetite, lower energy levels and difficulty concentrating. But all these symptoms can be easily confused with adjusting to changes in climate, diet, time zone and local customs. Culture shock and feelings of isolation are felt most by the partners and spouses of assignees, often led by difficulties in settling children in host countries. Global Mobility and HR managers may have a comprehensive expat strategy in place to reduce failed assignments, but intercultural training and access to spousal support are essential components when choosing a Global Mobility partner.
Fruzsina Hodson, Santa Fe’s Group DSP Support Manager says “Distance therapy is a powerful tool that global talent can access easily. It helps them manage mental change and heal the emotional impacts of working far from home. It also builds resilience and helps them learn coping strategies to enjoy a better life experience from their time away. Talking with family, friends and particularly colleagues may not be the answer: the evolution of online support is certainly part of the solution and a plus point of the pandemic. Employers are proactively offering these services to complement executive mentoring and coaching. These services sit alongside what we offer at Santa Fe. Our aim is to head off feelings of isolation through education, communication and setting expectations ahead of travel. It’s all about experience, care and planning to support our clients and customers. Combined with mental health care, what we offer is part of a holistic solution to support their global talent, increasing the number of successful assignments they manage”.
Support for success
In added encouraging news, we updated the diversity and inclusion sections of our popular Destination Services guides in January 2023. These include attitudes and access to mental health support at country level for assignees. There are now better, more cost-effective resources, tools and platforms available than ever to HR and Global Mobility professionals. It means experienced, empathetic experts are on hand to ensure assignments succeed and valuable talent is supported and retained when they work from anywhere.
If you’re looking for an expert partner that understands the impact of employee mental health and wellbeing on successful international assignments, we would love to support you and your teams. Simply drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get back to you.