Mental Health and Corporate Relocation: Key Considerations for HR and Mobility Specialists

For many employees relocating for work, the new opportunity brings a range of emotions. There’s the obvious excitement of the job offer, what it could mean for their career and the opportunities the destination city may present. Still, when moving day comes, other feelings can begin to set in, namely sadness and anxiety of leaving friends and family, not to mention the unknowns that can arise with getting acclimated to a new location. All of this can be compounded when the employee is bringing a family with them, who also faces the challenges of making new friends, starting a new school and navigating a new community.

Navigating these stressful unknowns are why it’s so important that employers do all they can to make a transition as seamless as possible with a relocation bonus and benefits like paid relocation to help minimize stress or anxiety during the move process. However, it’s equally critical that employers also recognize mental health issues like anxiety are often not isolated instances that can be resolved with a one-time benefit. Those suffering with anxiety require regular care and attention which should continue throughout their time with your company – both for their benefit and yours.

Companies need engaged employees who are willing to relocate and ready to take on any challenge. In a recent CNBC article, 61% of workers said their productivity was affected by their mental health, and 37% indicated that their work environment contributed to their symptoms. Approximately 200 million workdays are lost due to mental health conditions each year – costing $16.8 billion annually in employee productivity, yet mental health still remains a taboo subject.

What can employers do to help provide relocation assistance?

Set expectations early on

If an employee is moving to another country, educating the employee and their family on cultural differences is extremely important. Being unfamiliar with these differences quickly can become a point of frustration and stress – so much so, the transferee may begin wondering if the move was a mistake. Similarly, good medical screenings are vital to confirm that everyone is prepared for any medical differences in the new country.

Even if the employee isn’t moving abroad, they may face cultural differences should they be moving to another part of the country. Again, recognizing and discussing these potential differences early on is key to ensure a smooth transition.

Establish peer support groups

Too often, isolation can give root to mental health issues – and accentuate existing ones. Attention needs to be given to make sure recently relocated employees are making connections within the company and their new community. Newcomer groups are a great way to help employees learn the ropes in the new office and often provide guidance on where to go locally for entertainment, children’s activities, religious groups and basic living necessities. With the recent pandemic and related safety concerns, consider virtual options for these groups to participate.

Review medical policy with new employees

Most medical policies include mental health resources. When recruiting a new employee, educate them on what is available to them and their family to help during these difficult times.  Encourage them to utilize these benefits! According to a 2019 study from Businessolver, an Iowa-based health benefits administrator, 68% of employees worry that reaching out for mental health benefits could negatively impact their job security. Encouraging employees to use these resources can help with assimilation and reduce assignment failure.

Create awareness and openness surrounding mental health issues

Sixty-two percent of Millennials say they are comfortable discussing their mental health issues compared to 32% of Baby Boomers, according to a recent SHRM article. Like so many other things related to organizational culture, the message that it is okay to talk about mental health needs to come from the top. When leadership speaks regularly and candidly about the importance of this issue, others will recognize that it’s something worth exploring, and if needed, worth discussing with health care professionals and friends. Creating a forum for open dialogue can help eliminate the stigma associated with mental health issues.

Assignment failure is one of the costliest issues a relocation manager can face. By taking a holistic approach to an employee’s relocation and focusing on the business need as well as the employee’s assimilation, companies can find a happier and more well-adjusted employee. And with this, a more productive employee too!

If you need assistance with identifying the right benefits and relocation support for your employees, we’d love to help!


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