Published on June 30, 2015

Global MobilityEmployers often go to great lengths to acquire and retain top talent. They offer competitive compensation and benefits, flexible work arrangements and opportunities for advancement. And when an employee has to relocate internationally for a position, an employer will typically provide relocation services that can include anything from assistance in selling his home and finding a new one to household goods moving and car transportation. This relocation assistance can contribute significantly to reducing the employee’s stress level and accelerate a return to productivity.

Find out more about relocating employees with families in our free article.

However, when an employee has a spouse or partner also moving to the new location, that partner can experience challenges, especially if he or she doesn’t have a job lined up or a support system in the new location. According to Expat Info Desk, this phenomenon is typically referred to as “trailing spouse syndrome” and is characterized by one or more of the following:

  • Culture shock: Trailing spouses are more exposed to the new culture than their working partners, since they have to take care of everything with the household and, in the event there are children, schooling. Whereas the working partner usually functions in a more or less international environment where everybody shares one thing in common — the company — the trailing spouse has to manage all sorts of people and situations, ranging from landlords to veterinarians for house pets to shop attendants in stores and dentists for the family. Getting used to new customs while being responsible for the household and family can be extremely stressful for the trailing spouse.
  • Homesickness and isolation: With their jobs, families and friends usually left behind, trailing spouses can find themselves feeling homesick and isolated. Fortunately, modern technology makes it easier to stay in touch, yet it can still be very lonely for a trailing spouse trying to navigate life in a new country.
  • Depression and loss of focus: Especially when a trailing spouse has given up a job to accompany the employee, he or she can experience deep feelings of loss, which can in turn lead to depression. Having a profession gives people a sense of purpose: losing a job can take that purpose away. To complicate matters further, many countries don’t grant the trailing spouse a work permit, which makes it impossible for him or her to get a job.

Trailing spouse syndrome also has a significant impact on the relocating employee, because when the home situation is stressed, there’s a lack of stability. When the employee gets stressed, his or her work is likely to suffer. According to ExpatArrivals, it’s crucial for a trailing spouse to prepare for and take control of the relocation experience. And that’s where a global relocation management company (like CapRelo) can make all the difference. CapRelo can help, in some cases, arrange for a work permit for a trailing spouse; organize cultural and language training; and assist in building a social network. These kinds of services offer significant support for the trailing spouse and make settling in far easier — and that has a positive impact on the happiness and performance of the relocating employee.

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