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International assignments increasingly failing due to mental health

More than two thirds (68 percent) of multinational companies say they are concerned about international assignments failing due to mental health problems among staff being sent on assignment, with 21 percent saying they are very concerned, according to new research from AXA-Global, the international health insurer.
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More than two thirds (68 percent) of multinational companies say they are concerned about international assignments failing due to mental health problems among staff being sent on assignment, with 21 percent saying they are very concerned, according to new research from AXA-Global, the international health insurer.

The research, conducted among 250 multinational firms headquartered in eight different countries and 372 expatriate workers, reveals that 11 percent of all international assignments fail due to personal reasons, compared to 8 percent that are terminated due to commercial reasons.

The most common personal reasons for assignments failing are family concerns (responsible for 54 percent of assignments terminating for personal reasons) compared to 42 percent terminating due to the employees own ill health and 28 percent because staff found it difficult to adapt to life in the culture and country they were working in.

The stresses and strains of international working are increasing according to the study, which found that more than two-in-five expatriate workers (43 percent) say that hostility towards foreign workers has increased since they arrived in the country they are working in, with just 19 percent saying it has diminished and 38 percent saying it remains unchanged.

More than eight-in-ten (82 percent) staff working on international assignments in the USA said that attitudes towards foreign workers have become more hostile / unwelcoming, with more than half of ex-patriate workers in the UK (53 percent), Singapore (54 percent) and Hong Kong (56 percent) reporting increased hostility since they arrived in the country.

The result is also impacting employers with more than a quarter (27 percent) of multi-national companies saying that concerns about staff security and safety are prompting them to send fewer people to work in other countries.

Tom Wilkinson, CEO of AXA-Global healthcare team stated: “Helping staff maintain good mental health and wellbeing should be as important as physical health for companies sending people to work on international assignment.

“While working in another country can be tremendously exciting and rewarding and can help staff accelerate their careers and gain better pay and promotion prospects it can also be challenging and isolating without the right support network and packages in place.

“Ensuring that staff are prepared for the reality of life in another country and that they have the appropriate health screening and care packages and language and cultural training is key to ensure that more international assignments work for both employers and their staff.”

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