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Talking to your manager about your mental health - an employee's guide

PUBLISHED: 30 October 2020 | LAST UPDATED: 1 December 2023

When you’re working in a new environment it’s easy to forget the importance of looking after your mind health. However, 1 in 5 employees surveyed in AXA’s 2020 World of Work: Mind Health Report experienced mind health difficulties whilst working away from home. What’s more, 50% said that the biggest impact on their mental health happened at the start of their assignment.

Mental health signs to look out for when you are an employee working abroad.

Did you know?… The number one reason that international assignments end early is because of difficulties adapting to the culture in their new country of work. This highlights the importance of having meaningful conversations with your manager if you’re struggling with your mental health. 

Recognising that you need support 

In the excitement of starting a new international assignment, it’s easy to miss the signs that you may be feeling low and need additional support.  

Here are some signs to look out for: 

1. Withdrawing or disconnecting – feeling that you don’t have the time or energy to interact with others.

2. Feeling overwhelmed – finding it hard to make decisions or to know where to start. 

3. Feeling unmotivated – lacking your usual ‘get up and go’, to start or finish a project.

4. Easily irritated – losing your temper often, including with your friends and family. 

5. Feeling tearful – feeling more emotional and experiencing the urge to cry over small things.

6. Lack of focus – being easily distracted and showing less interest in things you previously enjoyed.

7. Changes to your sleep or appetite – finding it harder to get to sleep or waking more in the night. Sudden increase or decrease in your appetite.

8. Increase in ‘numbing behaviours’ – such as scrolling on your phone, internet shopping, or watching tv despite being tired. 


How to speak to your manager about your mental health 

It’s not always easy to talk about your mental health. It can be uncomfortable, and you may feel that you have to carry on despite how you’re feeling. However, early intervention has proven to be more effective than letting feelings of stress or anxiety build up.

In our previous article, ‘Mind Health is for everyday life, not just times of crisis’, we explored the benefits of making time for mind health exercises in your daily routine, and how investing in your emotional wellbeing is as important as physical health when working or living abroad.

Three ways to start the conversation with your manager:

1. Be proactive – look for opportunities to regularly check-in with your manager, either virtually or by telephone. Set aside 30 minutes at the start and end of each week, to reflect on your achievements together, and discuss any challenges. 

2. Use a mood scale – regularly reflect on your mood to recognise and flag when you might need additional support from your manager. Use our mood scale to help you. 

3. Ask questions – encourage your manager to share details about the support available to help you maintain good mental health – and don’t be fearful of asking for help. This could include speaking confidentially to a trained professional through face to face or virtual therapy, by phone or video chat.

What mental support do we offer? 

As a member of AXA - Global Healthcare, your plan includes Virtual Doctor from AXA1, with access to a real doctor, by phone or video call, at a time that suits your schedule anywhere in the world.2

You can use Virtual Doctor from AXA1 to confidentially discuss anything you’d like, from diagnosing or treating physical problems, to discussing challenges you’re facing with your mental health.  

Virtual Doctor from AXA gives you the reassurance of a doctor from initial advice and diagnosis, to online prescriptions3 and support arranging ongoing care. And don’t forget there’s no need to claim as this service isn’t deducted from your benefit limits. 

Not an AXA member?

If you’re not already an AXA member, you can find out more about our health plans and how they could help you.

Take your first steps towards better mind health 

Book your Virtual Doctor consultation today. 

The information in this article is correct at the time of publishing.

1. The Virtual Doctor from AXA service is provided by a third-party, Teladoc health and 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. You won’t be charged if you request a call back using the app or online portal. Telephone appointments are available 24/7/365 and call-backs are typically within 24 hours. Telephone appointments in Greek are available between 09:00 and 21:00 EET, 7 days a week. Video appointments in English, Spanish and Mandarin 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.