More Expats Are Accustomed to Working Abroad, the Happier They Are

Economic stability is an important driver of health and well-being, but can an expat working in a country other than his or her own, even with a good compensation package to go with it, claim to feel the same way as their local counterparts? 

For some, working abroad may feel like stepping into the unknown, so the furthest thing on the mind of expats is not exactly economic stability but how they feel about the move. Overall, though, studies prove expats think international work is a positive experience. It just takes time and patience.

The first six months is a test — and many get homesick within that period of time. Those six months are a make-or-break situation. However, when they’ve stayed for more than six months, they start feeling more comfortable, which impacts their mental health in a positive way.

In general, though, the more expats grow accustomed to working abroad, the more positive an impact it can produce on their mental health, according to AXA Healthcare’s study which offers some interesting insights about health and well-being:

  • More international assignments are welcome: From 52% who have completed four or five assignments to 61% for those who did more than six placements.
  • Employers recognize health of expats: 73% respondents agreed their employer recognizes mental health is just as important as physical health.
  • Employers think they need to do more: 87% said their organizations recognize their assignees’ health overall, with 88% of them saying they’re proactive about their assignees’ mental health.

Thorough on-boarding process is essential

Of course, relocation opens the door to unpredictability. Even for someone who looks into every detail of their relocation plans and projected household expenses will discover something new and uncharted. This is why it’s important for employers to offer before-, during and after-hiring support. A thorough on-boarding process to explain the corporate culture is vital, especially office policies that addresses pandemic concerns. Employers will also benefit tremendously when supporting assignees as they settle into their new job. 

But what if an expat is suffering from depression, whether this was experienced in one’s home or host country or on account of the pandemic’s effects in their comfort level? An expat has to know first though what his or her reason for accepting expat work? Are they escaping from something or from their depression? 

The important thing is for expats to open up about their depression when talking to their global mobility managers or HR person. This will help the latter offer a health international plan with coverage on depression, if assigned by an employer. This is why a solid international health insurance plan with coverage on depression is significant. 

A healthy environment

Having a nice environment can also help determine someone’s health and well-being. Global mobility managers can help their assignees assess their area for safety. Others one should look into are amenities, weather and perhaps most vital, access to healthcare. But adapting to a new environment is not easy for some people. 

For those who are not aware, the number one reason why international assignments terminate early is because assignees find it hard to understand the new culture of the host country. This has been amplified by the pandemic, changing people’s mindset about the good and bad thing about living and working abroad.

International workers can experience loneliness and isolation when they realize that it’s not as easy to connect with people due to language and cultural differences.

Happier and more satisfied 

However, the study did indicate that international work is largely viewed as a positive experience based on interviews. Working in new and exciting locations made these expats “feel happier and more satisfied.” The source of their happiness stems from meeting new people, exploring new cultures, and gaining new skills.

Also, most international workers feel supported by their employer when experiencing a general health issue. There are still improvements to be made. About 64% agree that their employer could do more to support their mental health.

Here are some useful tips for those who want to stay positive before or even after they have already started working in their host country. They also apply to foreign students who may feel alone and isolated amid the crisis:

  1. Find balance between work and life. Find the necessary time to socialize or spend quality time with family, if coming with family. If not, allocate sufficient “for me” hours. 
  2. Have sufficient time to adjust. Give it some time instead of giving up right away. The key is not to be overwhelmed by a different culture.
  3. Socialize and build a strong network. This may sound unusual, but networking has never been easier online these days. There’s this new social media app called Clubhouse where anyone can learn a thing or two or speak with like-minded people.
  4. Exercising helps. Studies have proven that regular exercise can curb those negative feelings. 
  5. Set realistic goals. Foreign talents need not overextend themselves to prove their worth to their boss or against their local peers; not to the point of getting stressed out. (Dennis Clemente)