Globally mobile employees may be feeling more discouragement, burnout and stress during the coronavirus pandemic compared to their domestic peers.

Indeed, outside of the crisis, expatriate employees are generally more prone to these hurdles, said Nancy Brown, national sales director for Canada at Metlife Worldwide Benefits, in a session at Benefits Canada‘s 2020 Plan Sponsor Week earlier this month. “These stresses and challenges may affect these employees’ success at work and impact their overall productivity levels, which can be detrimental, especially as organizations work through a crisis globally.”

By this logic, stressors affecting domestic employees are likely amplified for globally mobile workers, she said. In an April 2020 survey by MetLife, expat respondents said they were less satisfied with their jobs and less committed to their organization’s goals than the year before.

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“As the world works through the challenges of COVID-19, organizations need to take extra steps to keep their globally mobile employees healthy and well-informed,” said Brown. “These employees face more personal and professional challenges than their domestic peers. Business leaders need to take care of these employees as they’re away from their traditional safety nets of family and friends by anticipating common stresses.

“Employers that understand how to support a good work-life integration for globally mobile employees and help them manage all the aspects of their health, especially mental, will have a more engaged and productive, successfully globally mobile workforce.”

Before the pandemic, expat employees already expected more support from their employers on maintaining boundaries, she added. “Work-life balance is critical for these workers’ success and a major factor in deciding on a global assignment.”

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When work-life integration doesn’t prove satisfactory for employees, it ups the risk of absenteeism issues, noted Brown. Indeed, before the pandemic, more than 50 per cent of globally mobile workers said they missed work due to stress-related issues, whereas just 19 per cent of domestic workers said the same, according to MetLife’s survey.

“Business executives should encourage managers to lead by example and establish flexible working solutions for themselves, thus encouraging their direct reports to do the same. They can also provide managers with training and empower them to have productive boundary-setting conversations, especially with employee who work abroad.

“Employers can design shift schedules for employees settled abroad with their personal needs in mind. Businesses can also encourage employees to take paid time off or personal days to rest and recharge even though travel is restricted in most countries and regions.”

All of the 2020 Plan Sponsor Week sessions are available on-demand at

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