Sarah Dennis, head of international, Towergate Health & Protection, explains why employers need to think about supporting overseas employees in these worrying times
The pandemic of Covid-19 has been an unsettling and difficult time for many employees in the UK. For people working overseas, it can be even more so. They have quite specific issues that they need to deal with and it’s important these are understood, and everyone is offered appropriate support from their employers.
This is a challenging time for many, and being overseas can magnify those challenges. Supporting employees working abroad at this time has never been more important.
Dealing with the virus and all that entails, including social distancing and self-isolation, in an unfamiliar country can make people feel very lonely. Potentially coupled with a different time zone, it can be even more difficult to keep in touch with friends and family back home, and that can exacerbate loneliness.
As travel restrictions are applied, many people working overseas aren’t able to return home to be with family and friends. This can be a particular strain if they have elderly parents they are concerned about but unable to visit. If they do have family with them, they have the added responsibility of looking after them.
It is particularly important that lines of communication are kept open. The situation is changing rapidly, and overseas employees need to be kept updated. This might be in terms of a particular region’s guidelines, or the employer’s policy, or what support is available for them. But employers don’t need to wait until there’s a change in policy to get in touch with their team.
Little and often is the order of the day, just touching base to see how people are will be hugely valued at this time.
While there are physical concerns associated with the virus, the situation can also be extremely challenging for mental wellbeing. For many, the stress and anxiety will be one of the biggest factors they need to deal with.
It can be very helpful to offer access to professional support such as a global employee assistance programme. When made available 24/7 and employees are able to talk to someone who’s worked and lived abroad themselves, it can be a great support to help people dealing with such an uncertain time.
Overseas workers don’t have the familiarity of all that they’re used to around them in the same way that those who work in the UK do. Supporting their mental wellbeing is paramount to help anyone working abroad through this time.
Every country has been affected in different ways, and the situation changes rapidly. Employers need to monitor the situation and keep up to date with the latest guidance and directives from reputable sources, including the World Health Organisation.