DigitalCFO Newsroom | 14 July 2022
Burned Out Overseas – The State of Expat Life 2022 reveals a dynamic and changing expat landscape that presents a challenge for employers filling overseas assignments and supporting employees working abroad.
Cigna’s International Markets’ eighth edition of the Cigna 360 Global Well-Being Survey, Burned Out Overseas – The State of Expat Life 2022 reveals a dynamic and changing expat landscape that presents a challenge for employers filling overseas assignments and supporting employees working abroad. Most notably, 90% of expats surveyed report that they are stressed and 98% say they have experienced symptoms of burnout, likely from feeling unable to switch off from work.
The Cigna 360 Global Well-being Survey has tracked health and well-being perceptions including physical, family, social, financial, and work indices since 2015. The survey has evolved over time to include additional geographies and more fully capture the perceptions of the global population as we collectively navigate a changing health and well-being landscape, including the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Expat Burnout Prevalent With Money Worries Increasing
The 2022 survey results show that almost all expats have experienced symptoms of burnout compared with 77% of those living in their home countries. Rising financial concerns are contributing to this feeling, with only 38% of respondents indicating confidence about their current financial situation, and just 33% reporting sufficient savings for retirement. An additional cause of burnout for those living abroad is a feeling of isolation, with nearly 9 in 10 expats saying they feel helpless, defeated and alone.
These findings underscore the need for employer-provided holistic health care. “It is important that expats have access to whole person health care, including mental health support, to help them manage the challenges of living and working abroad, and to thrive in their assignments,” says Dr. Stella George, Chief Medical Officer, Cigna International Markets. “While many of the stressors causing burnout were always around, the pandemic accelerated them. It is critical, especially now, that expats have robust behavioral health support to be resilient no matter where they are in the world.”
A Younger Generation Of Expats Motivated By Lifestyle
Survey data indicates a demographic shift in those interested in moving abroad from mid- and senior-level workers to those more junior in their careers. In a shift from traditional expat demographics, more than a third, 37% of those respondents aged 18-24 years and 34% aged 25-34 years are interested in making the move abroad, while only 13% of those over 50 years shared the same sentiment. With the shift to earlier in career employees going abroad, employers need to adjust their expat support to reflect this new demographic, by offering services such as scholastic benefits as well as behavioral and physical health.
In another example of how the pandemic has altered the ways we live and work, more than 7 in 10 of current expats surveyed have been re-evaluating their priorities since the start of the pandemic. Among this group, regardless of age, the desire to live closer to family is now an overarching priority, placing above financial gain. For those who have been working and living abroad for more than five years, proximity to family is the number one consideration in assessing an expat assignment, with 26% of respondents expressing a desire to live near their family.
A Change In Desired Destinations
The list of preferred locations for those living abroad has evolved from years past. The top three most desired locations cited by current expats are now Canada, the United States and Australia. For those planning to pursue a future expat assignment, the U.S. and United Kingdom take the top spot with 16% of respondents expressing a desire to live in these locations. Meanwhile, only 1% of those surveyed and seeking to live abroad for the first time are interested in relocating to Mainland China or Saudi Arabia.
Looking Forward To Employer Action
“The pandemic highlighted the critical importance of employers offering globally accessible and relevant health care – and the peace of mind that it can bring especially to those living outside of their home countries,” said Ann Asbaty, CEO of Cigna Global, Americas. More than 1 in 5 of current expats surveyed said it is critical that their employer offer an enhanced health care plan extending beyond traditional medical coverage. Those individuals currently living abroad want to ensure that their whole health needs and those of their families are being met, regardless of where they are living.
The Cigna study results highlight the unique challenges the expat population is currently facing and offers employers actionable insights. By providing whole person health care services, employers have an opportunity to better the experience of their expat employee populations while ensuring a more successful assignment. These employer-provided services can help create a positive work and personal life for expats, which may reduce expat turnover. With more than half of current expats undecided as to whether they would remain abroad over the next two years, ensuring that expats feel supported is more critical than ever.