With the latest figures suggesting that poor mental health affects half of all employees, global medical and security expert, Healix International, believes staff working abroad face very specific risks that HR managers need to address.
The possibility of working abroad, whether for a week, six months or longer-term, can be hugely exciting. However, stress and culture shock cut short many overseas posts, with the company footing the bill to repatriate the employee and their family, as well as finding a replacement. Human Resources professionals carrying out detailed assessment of suitability for the post and thorough preparation of the individual can mitigate the difficulties and improve success rates.
“Living away from familiar people and places can be challenging for anyone, and the challenges can be exacerbated for workers with pre-existing psychological issues,” explains Dr Simon Worrell, Head of Medical Communications at Healix International. “The negative aspects of working abroad can be more pronounced for anyone with mental health issues. However, HR professionals can do a lot to offer the support people need to make a successful move.”
Healix International believes that a vital step – before an employee is posted abroad – is a medical assessment that covers both mental health and physical wellbeing. A medical clearance process, which assesses the worker’s medical reports, with their consent, will ensure their suitability for the posting. In addition, a pre-posting assessment will help identify any particular medication requirements so that an employer can ensure that the destination country will be suitable for the placement. Some countries have restrictions on certain types of medication; it’s crucial therefore that there is a clear understanding of a country’s medication restrictions.
“Working overseas can bring considerable rewards, but also present significant challenges” continued Dr Simon Worrell. “Effective HR intervention helps workers prepare for the difficulties that may occur and offers them the necessary support. .
“It is vital that HR works with the employee before, during and after their posting, concerning work related issues as well as life outside of work, to ensure overall wellbeing and increase the likelihood of a successful placement. Education programmes and preparatory training before departure can be invaluable. And if issues do arise, working with an international assistance company gives immediate access to the best, most suitable support, which can be very difficult for the employee, or even their HR, to obtain in another country. With effective HR intervention, the worker can not only be prepared for the difficulties that may occur, but also be supported should troubles arise.”
EMPLOYEES ABROAD – WHAT THEY CAN EXPECT
Honeymoon period – where all is new, exciting and charming, any misunderstandings of culture are easily forgiven. Can last up to six months.
Culture shock – after the Honeymoon, difficulties of being in an alien culture become evident and the employee can be subject to stress and psychological harm.
Acculturation – the process of the worker (often with a healthy dose of good grace and humour) slowly accepting their position and learning the new culture. When the employee ‘comes out the other side’ of culture shock and its stresses, they can now fulfil their role in their new business position.
Reverse-culture shock – the transition back to life in their home country. The expectation is that all will be well once the employee returns home, but 80% experience a reverse-culture shock.