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Undertaking a global assignment and working in a foreign destination can offer numerous benefits for both the expat and the organization. For the employee, such a move presents a unique opportunity to immerse oneself in a new culture, country, and community, which can lead to personal growth and development. Additionally, for the employer, having employees work abroad can increase market presence and aid in cultivating top talent. 
However, relocating abroad can pose a variety of challenges and stressors for expats. Moving homes or starting a new job can be daunting enough, but when coupled with the absence of a familiar support network, cultural differences, and language barriers, it can cause significant pressure that can lead to stress, anxiety, and depression. Therefore, it is essential for individuals considering relocation to be aware of the potential challenges and prepare themselves accordingly. 
According to the World Health Organisation, “Mental disorders are not rare among travelers. Overall, mental health issues are among the leading causes of ill health among travelers, and “psychiatric emergency” is one of the most common medical reasons for air evacuation, along with injury and cardiovascular disease.” 
Undertaking international assignments can be a costly investment. Nonetheless, it is a strategically vital undertaking, and any failure can have a significant impact on the company. 
The following are some critical areas that may present risks to expats: 
While living abroad can be exhilarating, it can also be challenging and overwhelming. Relocating to a new destination often entails adjusting to a different culture, which may require a shift in social activities for the expat. To help expats prepare for cultural shock, we have recently published a blog with plenty of advice. Building a new social network can be difficult in itself, but language barriers can further complicate things, potentially leading to feelings of loneliness and isolation. In addition, expats must adapt to a new working environment, with different organizational structures, new supervisors, and working cultures. All of these changes can evoke emotions such as fear, frustration, and stress. Unlike at home, where people have access to their support network, expats may find it challenging to manage everyday stress without such a support system. A key issue is that expats relocating for work may focus solely on their job, neglecting other essential aspects of their lives such as forming new social connections. 
How can employers support their globally mobile employees? 
In order to make a difference, employers should take a proactive approach. It is advised that organisations help employees prepare for the move even before they’ve left their home country. 
Selection Stage 
The initial stage of selecting an employee for an international assignment is crucial, as is effectively screening them to determine their suitability. It is important to assemble the appropriate panel to select the candidate, which should include a department manager, staff from the destination country, and HR staff from both the home and host countries. Employers should also provide the candidate with a realistic preview of the assignment, outlining the specifics of their new role and destination. According to Paula M. Caliguiri, an industrial-organizational psychologist at Rutgers University, it is critical to consider a range of psychological factors, such as open-mindedness, flexibility, emotional stability, intellectual curiosity, relationship skills, and ability to cope with stress and ambiguity when predicting which employees will succeed in international assignments. 
Trial Period 
Another approach, although it can be costly, is offering the employee to experience the new location for a short period.  This will reduce the risk of the assignment as the employee will be able to make a more sincere decision. 
Language skills 
Insufficient language skills are one of the primary challenges that expats encounter. Learning a foreign language can greatly enhance their experience of living abroad. Employers can promote language acquisition by emphasizing its significance and providing guidance to employees. They can also offer as part of the relocation package ‘Language Training’… 
Spousal and Child Support 
For expats relocating with their families, emotional stress can be even more challenging, especially if their spouse and children have difficulty adjusting to the new environment. Expat spouses may feel isolated, which can strain their relationships. To provide support, employers can assist spouses in finding employment, building a social network, and developing a sense of purpose. Addressing expat mental health issues is crucial because employees experiencing high levels of stress are less likely to perform well, struggling to meet expectations. Failure to address these issues can result in assignment failure and premature repatriation. 
Mindfulness is a valuable tool that can help transform our everyday experiences into more meaningful and rewarding ones. Activities like meditation, journaling, and yoga can be integrated into our daily routines to make a significant difference. Meditation, in particular, can be practiced by anyone, anywhere, and can assist expats in managing the increasing stress they face. Employers can encourage mindfulness by providing meditation breaks in the workplace, for instance. 
In conclusion, expat mental health is a crucial aspect that should not be ignored by individuals or organizations when preparing for international assignments. While living and working abroad can be exciting, it also comes with its own set of challenges that can lead to stress, anxiety, and depression. It is important for expats to be aware of these challenges and to take steps to prepare themselves, such as by building a support network, learning the language, and practicing mindfulness. Employers also have a role to play in supporting their employees’ mental health, by providing spousal support, offering training and resources, and creating a positive and inclusive work environment. By taking a proactive approach, individuals and organizations can ensure a successful and fulfilling expat experience for all involved. A relocation company facilitates a seamless and smooth transition, ensuring a stress-free start for individuals or families. They provide various services such as Home Finding assistance, spousal support, language skills development, and more, to help clients establish a new home and settle into a new environment promptly.
It’s important to note that organizations can seek help in preparing their employees for life abroad and addressing mental health concerns. At Cornerstone we can provide you and your employee with the required vital assistance, covering all the critical stages of the assignment – pre, during and post-move. Contact us to find out how we can help you and your employees make the most of this opportunity! 

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