Remote working: A manager’s guide to supporting employees on international assignments

PUBLISHED: 30 October 2020 | LAST UPDATED: 3 November 2020

Did you know?... 1 in 5 employees surveyed in AXA’s 2020 World of Work: Mind Health Report experienced mind health difficulties while working away from home. What’s more, adapting to the challenges of a new culture in their new country of work  is the number one reason international assignments end early.  

International assignments involve a high level of investment, costing $69,429 on average, over and above an employee’s salary. You can support your remote employees’ wellbeing and protect your investment by taking a pro-active approach to mental health. This could benefit you and your business by increasing productivity and employee engagement, and lower the number of long-term absences caused by stress and anxiety.

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Global research in communication has shown that 55% of what we communicate is revealed through body language: 38% through tone, and only 7% in the words we say. This highlights the benefits of interacting with your remote workers in different ways, from phone calls to virtual meetings. By interacting visually, you’re less likely to miss important body language cues, or misinterpret tone, which can happen when relying on email alone.

Did you know?... 64% of employees surveyed agreed that their employer could do more to support their mental health and 50% said that their employer only offers support in response to a crisis.

By paying close attention to the individual mental health needs of your international employees, you can ensure that the support you provide works for them.

Look out for these signs that your employee may be struggling with their mental health:

  1. Withdrawing or disconnecting – being unusually quiet or changing how they usually interact with others, perhaps using email to replace phone calls or virtual meetings.  
  2. Missing deadlines or finding it hard to prioritise – feeling overwhelmed will often affect their productivity, as they struggle to know where to start.
  3. Procrastination – they may find it hard to make decisions quickly and delay beginning a project.
  4. Lack of focus – moving from one project to another, without finishing the task at hand. 
  5. Being tearful or easily irritated – pay close attention to any changes to their usual behaviour. This is easily missed on email and is more obvious over the phone or in virtual check-ins. Pay specific attention to their tone, eye contact and body language.

How to speak to your employee about their mental health 

We understand that it’s not always easy to bring up the topic of mental health with your employees, however it’s been shown that starting the conversation early can be more effective than tackling a problem once it exists.

Five ways you can support your employees' mental health:

  1. Be visible – interact with them regularly in different ways, including virtual face time and speaking over the phone. Remember, according to the Mehrabian Communication Model only 7% of communication is verbal; the remaining 93% is revealed through body language and tone.
  2. Stay connected – schedule regular check-ins ahead of time, ensuring they know where you are, and how best to contact you. Be mindful of time differences if you’re managing from a different country! 
  3. Ask how they’re feeling on a scale of 1-5 – encourage them to reflect on their mood and share any challenges they may be facing. You can use our mood scale to help visualise this, moving away from the automatic ‘I’m fine’ response.
  4. Ask questions – show interest in their life and encourage them to share things that are important to them, such as how they’re settling into their new home, or finding a new school for their children.
  5. Offer support – share details about the support available as part of their benefits package, such as speaking confidentially to a trained professional through virtual therapy, by phone or video call.

How can we help you support the wellbeing of your remote employees? 

As a member of AXA - Global Healthcare, your plan includes1 Virtual Doctor from AXA, 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 AXA 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 help 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. 

1. The Virtual Doctor from AXA service is 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 members of Large Corporate groups. To check if you have access as a member of a Large Corporate group please visit your Healthcare Hub or check with your HR 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.