Nurturing expats’ mind strength in a virtual world

PUBLISHED: 8 October 2019 | LAST UPDATED: 9 October 2020

We explore how employers can use virtual healthcare to support their employees’ mental health, to create a happier and healthier environment for international workers. 

The birth of virtual healthcare

In the digital age, our daily lives are intertwined with technology. 

With opportunities to work internationally, work remotely and nurture a work life balance, more employers are turning to online platforms and applications for virtual healthcare.

In comparison to traditional healthcare, its virtual counterpart is available in the employee’s native language, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, from anywhere in the world. 

Employees working on international assignments are detached from their usual support network, creating a need for trusted and convenient healthcare. By offering virtual healthcare as part of your benefits package, your employees will get the help they need, when they need it, without local restrictions or language barriers. 

However, virtual healthcare is not just limited to physical health, with over half of HR departments currently using virtual healthcare to support their employees’ mental health.

What is ‘mental health’ and why does it matter? 

Looking after your mind health is now essential part of modern-day work culture. 

By taking better care of the different aspects of mental health, we reflect, strengthen and nurture our employees’ emotional wellbeing, in and outside the office.  

By pro-actively offering your employees’ mental health support virtually, you equip them with the tools and techniques to overcome common causes of anxiety or depression. This can take many forms, from virtual counselling, to mood tracking or practicing mindfulness. 

In AXA’s World of Work 2020 – Mind Health Report,  we explore the importance of nurturing mind health in a virtual world, supported by insights from real employees on international assignments. 

Here are just some of the highlights from our report:

  • 1 in 5 employees working on international assignments experienced mental health difficulties during their placement 
  • 2 in 5 agreed that living and working in a new country put a strain on their family life
  • 31% of those in junior management/non-management roles reported that they received no mental health support from their organisation 
  • 71% of employees felt their employers recognised the importance of mind health
  • 75% of HR decision makers agree that virtual mind health is just as effective as face to face support for international workers

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We learned that the benefits of improving mind health are for the everyday, not just a crisis. And its popularity is rising, with over 80% of employees agreeing that access to mental health support was an essential part of their employee package, putting it on par with their physical health. 

Why should employers offer virtual mental health support? 

Employees on international assignments are often working in a new country and an unfamiliar working environment - isolated from their support network of friends and family. Even if it wasn’t expected from you as a duty of care as an employer, employers know that supporting employees through this change is the right thing to do. 

As we know, international assignments also involve a high level of investment, costing $69,429 on average, over and above an employee’s salary. By taking a pro-active approach to mental health support you can go some way towards protect that investment by enabling employees to stay focused, increasing their productivity and engagement.  Early interventions for mental health concerns can also lead to lower short and long-term absences caused by mental ill health.


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In good news, 71% of the employees we surveyed felt that their employer cares about their mental health. However, 64% felt employers could do more. 

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How so? Employees want to see mental health support offered for more every day challenges, not simply offered in reaction to a crisis, such as the death of a loved one, serious illness or even during pandemic. 

How can employers improve the mental health support they offer international workers? 

  • Have a strong mental health strategy that actively promotes the mental health support services available, and, to employees of all levels of seniority 
  • Offer effective preventative support, including virtual check-ins to ensure international workers feel they have a support network, every day
  • Make = tools and guidance easily accessible for all employees
  • Be mindful that mental health issues aren’t always immediately obvious.  Often mental ill health can lead to, or be hidden by physical illness such as insomnia or gastrointestinal problems, so it’s important to offer health and wellbeing in a holistic way. 

How can AXA - Global Healthcare help? 

As the global health experts of one of the world’s leading insurers, we pride ourselves on our ability to move with the times, using the latest industry insights to support our members. 

As part of this work, Virtual Doctor from AXA is included with most of our healthcare plans1, giving our members access to a real doctor, by phone or video call, at a time that suits their schedule, anywhere in the world2.

Virtual Doctor from AXA offers the reassurance of a doctor from initial advice and diagnosis, to online prescriptions3 and support arranging ongoing care. And there’s no need to claim, as this service does not affect your employees’ policy benefits. 

Take the first step towards better mind health 

Download AXA’s World of Work 2020 – Mind Health Report to access our insights, to help you take the first step towards a happy and healthy international workforce. 

1. The Virtual Doctor from AXA service is now available to all individual and SME members (excluding those whose health plan is insured by AXA General Insurance Hong Kong Limited). Access to the Virtual Doctor service is an optional add on for all Large Corporate groups, to check if your group has access please visit your Healthcare Hub. If you are unsure, please check with your AXA representative.

2. Appointments are subject to availability. You do not need to pay or claim for a consultation but you will be charged for the cost of the initial phone call when using the call back service. Telephone appointments are available 24/7/365 and call-backs are typically within 24 hours. Video appointments are available between 08.00 and 00.00 UK time, Monday to Friday. Video appointments in German are available between 08:00-20:00 CET, Monday to Friday.  

3. Prescriptions available if medically necessary and subject to local regulation.