By Beth Neilson, Director Client Services
For the millions of employees unexpectedly being asked to work from home for extended periods, often without a suitable desk space and with children underfoot – it has and continues to be a challenging time. For those employees on assignment in another city, state or even country, those challenges have been multiplied. With some signs for optimism, global mobility teams are being asked to assess and collate data to ensure that this opportunity is taken to drive change in wellness benefits provided to the mobile population.
Teams are focusing on:
- What are the long-term mental and physical health changes affecting our mobile employees?
- How does global mobility impact wellness for the employee, and what is our responsibility as global mobility professionals?
Look Inside Your Organization
There are many great ideas and options to support employee wellness right under your nose – at your own organization. Here at CapRelo we are taking a holistic approach to wellness with multiple physical fitness initiatives, along with emotional and mental health support.
The physical efforts, inclusive of company-wide running and ‘steps challenges,’ support not only the importance of physical health but builds camaraderie amongst teammates as well. The loss of physical interaction with social support – stopping by desks for a quick chat or a team lunch – can be replaced by team group meet-ups and group calls to discuss mileage run, the best workout gear or post-exercise snacks. These efforts allow bonding and discussion unrelated to work topics for better synergy and support during work-related projects!
Impact of Global Mobility on Wellness
As managers and orchestrators of skilled talent and their families, global mobility teams are being stretched into new areas. Separate to the pandemic there is also a responsibility for employees and their families in new countries, often without wellness resources. Bringing dependents into the mix, it became clear that the predominant current approach of applying standard company-wide wellness approaches to support relocating employees and their families mentally, physically and emotionally is not enough.
Employee wellness and the need for physical and mental health support is currently a hot topic within general HR, however the specific challenges associated with the mobile population have seen limited focus. There is acknowledgement that “assignees, who must get to grips with a new living environment as well as a new job, may be acutely susceptible to the effects of stress and need help with managing it”, but limited evidence of action to address this reality. Uncertainty, quarantine, restrictions on movement, children not able to start at their new schools, a spouse not able to make friends and the inability to travel to see relatives has meant that the pandemic period has provided a unique relocation and assignment experience. However, many of the challenges faced are simply amplifications of pre-existing issues.
Despite previously being recognized as a stressful experience, when employees are given the opportunity to relocate for work, the focus of benefits tends to be on things required for the move to happen, e.g., HHG moves, accommodation, immigration and tax, while there is generally no provision or specific thought given to softer or lifestyle benefits supporting mental or physical wellness. Support for the actual move is also usually provided by an RMC counsellor or HR Business Partner, but once in the host location specific benefits tend to cease. Although there may be company-level wellness benefits, these will not be specific to relocating employees, and may be unsuitable in the current climate. With recent positive news and the decrease in immediate safety concerns, there is a rare opportunity to change this status-quo and update benefit provisions at the global level.
So, How Can We Help Wellness For Relocating Employees?
Accelerated by recent world events there has been a surge in companies seizing the market opportunity presented to deliver remote benefits to support employees. Traditional in-office perks such as gym discounts, fruit baskets or ‘beer fridge Friday’ have been replaced through the delivery of apps, discounts, donations to a preferred charity and even personalized gifts sent to the employee’s home. These can be available in multiple countries and have low set-up fees, often available at the click of a button (e.g., Perkbox, Headspace and Insight timer to name but a few). These new offerings show that there is the opportunity to update policies and benefits and deliver meaningful wellness benefits aimed at impacting employee welfare. More relevant for the global mobility teams, these do not have to be set at the country level but can be tailored to specifically meet the needs of the globally mobile employee. Policies can also be reviewed and updated to give the employee and their family meaningful and flexible support options. Some employees may value additional time to relocate while others need childcare or additional check ins. As a company and as a global mobility team, find the right approach or flexible benefit suite that fits your culture, values, budget and mission as an organization.
And If We Do Nothing?
There are many reasons to get this right for both the employee and the employer – a failed relocation can be expensive, both in terms of financial cost to the business, the possible associated loss of talent from the company and the mental health of the employee. However, as this is often difficult to quantify, the need to provide any core set of benefits or coordinated approach often falls to general HR without focus or support from global mobility. From apps to employee assistance programs, forward-thinking employers have a unique opportunity to change the benefits provided and focus on impactful ways to improve their employee experience.
Distributed talent requires globally relevant benefits along with location-specific support. Companies who can provide this flexibility and adapt to the changing needs of their employees will be best placed to maintain a productive, healthy and committed workforce. Here at CapRelo we support putting the employee first and would welcome discussions to explore with you introducing a wellness program that better supports your mobile employees.
About the author
Director, Client Services
Beth is a dynamic and technical expert in global mobility with a focus on service delivery, proactive analysis and implementing positive process change. With 15 years of experience, she leads the team in delivering excellent service, identifying ongoing process improvements and overseeing implementation of new concepts.
Having started her career in Expatriate Tax at the Big4, Beth has since gained significant knowledge within global mobility through diverse roles, including developing and implementing assignment management software and also leading projects driving change management. She has a keen understanding for expatriate tax, compliance, reporting and policy review, with always an eye on client care, employee experience and cost management.
Beth holds qualifications in tax (ATT) and Project Management (PRINCE2 Foundation and Practitioner) in addition to a Masters in International Political Economy and a Bachelors in Economics and Politics from the University of Warwick.