Promoting the wellbeing of globally mobile employees

From apps to employee assistance programmes, forward-thinking employers are using a range of ways to support the wellbeing of their international assignees, expatriates and business travellers.

Health and Wellbeing, Stress Relief and Fitness
As well as putting in place appropriate international private health insurance (iPMI) cover for their international assignees and business travellers, employers should take steps to safeguard employees’ wider wellbeing, including encouraging them to find a healthy work-life balance and practise effective stress management.Doing so will not only help to ensure they meet their wider duty of care towards globally mobile staff but also benefit the business.By helping employees to acclimatise to their new surroundings and way of life, employee assistance programmes, or EAPS, now offered by a range of medical insurance providers, can play a useful part in reducing stress and building resilience. They support employees in a wide range of areas, from marital, family, financial and issues to alcohol, drug and emotional problems.

Empowering employees

It’s important to encourage employees to promote their own health, fitness and wellbeing by eating well, taking regular exercise, and keeping abreast of the latest health news and articles, plus relevant medical and health information. Health and security awareness should be included in international assignment preparation and intercultural training.Both before and during the assignment, international assignees and business travellers should ensure they are aware of the latest health and security developments and alerts in their destination country or region. These may involve war, a civil disturbance or a terrorist attack, diseases (such as the Zika virus), or environmental threats – air pollution in China, for example.The ever-expanding range of health-related apps and technology tools can be very useful.In the UK, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) website publishes vital information in the event of an international emergency. It also provides invaluable foreign travel advice.

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Wellness makes good business sense

Wellness at work is a relatively new concept, but one that is gaining traction as its value to businesses and individuals is increasingly recognised.Workplace wellness programmes can range from onsite medical testing to relatively low-cost options like educating staff about diet, exercise and stress reduction. Larger firms may have their own staff restaurant offering healthy options, a gym or a sports club. Smaller ones may consider negotiating use of local sports and fitness facilities for their employees.
Young man in business suit practices yoga
 In its report Growing the Health and Wellbeing Agenda: From First Steps to Full Potential, the CIPD highlighted the potential role of healthy workplaces in closing the UK’s productivity gap. It said that, while employers and government were aware of the positive impact of promoting workplace wellbeing, a “stubborn implementation gap” was hampering long-term health and business sustainability.According to the report, only 8 per cent of the UK organisations have a wellbeing strategy that supports wider organisational objectives.Rachel Suff, policy adviser at the CIPD and author of the report, said, "The cost of inaction is staggering, yet the gains that can be made from a proactive and holistic approach to wellbeing are equally impressive."To put wellbeing firmly on the business agenda, we need to change conversations around the business case for wellbeing programmes from 'cost avoidance' to 'shared value creation', and highlight what organisations stand to gain, rather than lose.”"By taking a proactive and holistic approach to wellbeing, organisations can help both their people and the business to reach their full potential."Professor Sir Cary Cooper, president of the CIPD and a leading wellbeing expert, added "In the fast-changing world of work, wellbeing has never been more important. With the UK at the bottom of the G7 and near the bottom of the G20 countries on productivity per capita, the way we manage people and create cultures that enhance wellbeing are now bottom-line issues.Prevention, Professor Cooper said, was better than cure. It was high time that business leaders recognised this and created cultures in which wellbeing was centre stage and people were happy, healthy and committed to achieving organisational success.Supporting mental healthInternational 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.The importance of good mental health is increasingly being recognised by employers, thanks to initiatives like World Mental Health Day and Time to Change. However, independent research carried out by Westfield Health found that more than half of employees who had taken time off work because of mental health issues didn’t like admitting the real reason for their absence, feeling that that to do so might affect their careers negatively.Westfield Health’s executive director, David Capper, said, “Without open, honest conversations in organisations, many employers might think they provide a good support package for employee illness, but actually it’s failing to address one of the most common problems.“What’s more, a lack of transparency means the problem is much bigger than many employers realise.”

For more news and features about health and wellness, visit our Global Health and Wellness section.

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