If the past few years have been an emotional rollercoaster, we can take comfort in knowing that life is returning to normal. However, it’s clear that some things have changed, not least our relationship with health and well-being. Many people have hit the reset button and concluded that there’s more to life than a successful career. Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is now considered more important than ever. This was borne out by the results of our 2022 Global Well-Being Study: Burned Out Overseas – The State of Expat Life which canvassed opinions from over 12,000 employees around the world. The findings confirmed what we suspected: stress and burnout are widespread among overseas employees: 90% of expats said they were stressed, with 98% admitting to experiencing symptoms of burnout – a figure linked to the fact that 89% of respondents complained about the effects of the ‘always on’ culture and their inability to switch-off.
It's worth noting that we’re looking at a younger generation of expats who view the world differently today. With money worries rising too, 73% admitted to re-evaluating their life goals since the pandemic and 76% said that being close to family and friends is more important than before. Has the glamorous ‘expat dream’ taken a back seat to real-life challenges and priorities? The evidence would suggest it has.
Health and well-being in the post-pandemic era
If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that good health is not something to be taken for granted. COVID-19 not only affected individuals and families, it had a profound impact on the business community, especially companies with globally-mobile employees. For those organisations, things got a whole lot tougher as they faced the dual challenge of supporting staff already working overseas and also filling new expatriate roles. As the research findings confirmed, the best way to retain and recruit talent is to offer an attractive salary and then raise the stakes with a company health plan that provides comprehensive insurance cover and a range of well-being benefits designed specifically for international employees and their families.
Planning international health insurance for your expat employees
There’s lots to consider when designing a group insurance plan for expatriates, not least the healthcare services in their new country of residence. Not only are health systems different around the world, but they also vary in quality, cost and availability from what an employee has experienced at home. Not surprisingly, this can lead to anxiety. Staff can sometimes feel isolated and vulnerable when they are working abroad, however knowing that healthcare is available 24/7 brings much-needed peace of mind.
Many employees jump at the chance to live and work overseas. It’s an opportunity to experience a different country and culture, meet new friends and learn the local language. Some take it all in their stride. However, others may struggle to adapt to their new surroundings and feel overwhelmed by everything, particularly if they are away from their family for the first time and missing home. It’s perhaps no surprise that in the early days of an assignment, many people feel additional pressure as they come to terms with reality and this can be detrimental to their well-being and work performance. For this reason, health plans for expatriates focus on employees’ mental well-being as well as their physical health. This holistic, Whole Health approach ensures employees are better placed to deal with the challenges presented by an unfamiliar work environment and the demands of their new role.
The expatriate assignment journey
There’s a significant business cost associated with overseas assignments and a huge expectation on employees to meet their goals and generate a healthy return on investment. To do this, they need to be in the best of health, enjoy the experience and receive the right care and support when they’re working abroad. Planning company health insurance for expatriates takes this into account, allocating resources and services across the four phases of a typical assignment:
- Early assignment
- During the assignment, and
- At the end of the assignment
Each stage of the journey presents specific challenges. The process begins by making sure the right employee(s) is selected, based on their experience and the professional and personal qualities they will bring to the role. A pre-departure online medical assessment is then carried out to find out if there are any underlying health risks and to identify the medical needs of each employee and their families.
As employees begin their assignment, the emphasis shifts to resilience, early intervention and preventative care. As part of their health plan, staff have access to tools and resources, via an online health platform, to help them manage their mental health and make sure the transition is as seamless and stress-free as possible. By combating negative symptoms such as anxiety, loneliness, homesickness and insomnia, employees can approach their new adventure with greater confidence. Services also include a Multilingual Contact Centre which helps new arrivals navigate their way around any language barriers.
Support continues during the assignment. Easy-to-use online tools allow existing medical conditions to be managed more easily and there’s a strong emphasis on mental health too, with counselling and psychiatric care offered through the International Employee Assistance Programme. Throughout their assignment, employees are encouraged to take responsibility for their health and well-being. With services including Global Telehealth and the Cigna Wellbeing® App, they can become more proactive in monitoring their health and improving their lifestyle. And as the assignment ends and employees return home, they have the peace of mind of knowing that their health plan will provide uninterrupted insurance cover throughout the repatriation phase.
This is a cost-effective way of designing a health plan for global employees, as it allows services to be assigned more accurately against the unique challenges they will face at each stage of the assignment.
International health insurance plans and benefits for global employees
Cigna Healthcare is part of a global business that’s responsible for the health and well-being of over 190 million customers around the world. Why does this matter? In the context of international medical care, it gives our members access to an unrivalled network of health professionals, doctors and nurses. With local expertise and global reach, employees can get on with their lives safe in the knowledge that quality health care is always available to them and their families.
Because there are so many factors to consider, planning health insurance for expatriate employees can be daunting and it’s particularly challenging for smaller companies to understand what they need to do. That’s where we come in and it’s the reason why we’ve made our plans easy to understand and manage.
We provide several health care plans which offer core cover for in-patient treatment, evacuation and repatriation and cancer treatment. Additional insurance cover can also be provided for out-patient treatment, maternity care and health & well-being services. Comprehensive and flexible, this coverage offers employers the chance to design a plan that reflects their duty of care and gives employees and their families the services and advice they need wherever they are located in the world. These solutions are also globally compliant. Our plans support businesses in over 30 countries and jurisdictions, and because we hold a Global Licence we can develop insurance products in other countries where there are specific compliance restrictions.
To achieve business success, it’s essential that employees remain motivated, engaged and, above all, healthy. By investing in company health insurance and creating a supportive corporate culture that prioritises staff well-being, there’s no better way to protect your most important asset.
If you’d like to discover more about our health plans, talk to us today. We are responsible for the healthcare requirements of over 180 million customers and patients worldwide and lead the market in developing cost-effective, sustainable plans that can be customised to include the products, services and tools each client needs.
Cigna Connect is our latest solution. Designed for small businesses, our Connect plans fill a gap in the market for simple, affordable and flexible health insurance that offers outstanding cover and great value for money.