ISOS: Managing employees’ emotional well-being

15 November, 2017

Recently released research from International SOS has identified jetlag, poor sleep and diet, a lack of work/life balance and social isolation from friends and family are the top stress factors for corporate travellers in Australia. These factors may then be having a negative impact on people's mental health, owing to the need for Australian companies to improve emotional support for travelling staff.

See related report: ISOS research determines the top 5 stress factors for Australian corporate travellers

ISOS's survey of almost 100 companies from Australia and New Zealand, found 44% do not provide mental health support to their travellers, and less than half of the companies who do provide support, proactively communicate that it is available to their travellers.

Regardless of if the trips are short and frequent or long deployments, travel can expose people to unfamiliar and unexpected situations. From feelings of homesick to sensory overload, many situations can trigger stress and anxiety.

Taking a proactive approach to offering emotional support services can provide the following benefits:

  • Business Continuity: exposure to new environments, minor medical conditions or simply being too far from loved ones can impact your mobile workforce. These events trigger stress and anxiety. This can lead to distraction, business disruption or even something more serious.
  • Peace of Mind: in times of stress or anxiety, a mobile workforce needs professional emotional support often at short notice and in their native language. Timely support can make the difference between controlling a situation and an event spiralling out of control. Easy access to services through a single point of contact helps people make the right decisions at a critical time.
  • Well-being: short-term counselling support services assist people with psychological issues, wherever, whenever. Mobile workers should have their medical, safety and emotional needs addressed by a single incident manager, in a holistic way via a single assistance number.

Ensuring employees' emotional well-being is protected

Implementing an employee health check program means companies can demonstrate a Duty of Care to their employees whilst preventing avoidable disruption and costly hospitalisations or evacuations due to a medical incident. Health check programs aren't about stopping employees from working but rather ensuring your employees are prepared both physically and mentally for the tasks required of them.

Pre-trip and assignment screening

87% of organisations do not have a mental health screening process pre- and post-travel for employees with a history of emotional or mental health issues

Source: ISOS

83% of organisations do not provide mental health screenings for family members of international assignees and expats pre- and post-deployment

Source: ISOS

Insurance and mental health

Only 24% of respondents knew if their travel insurance policy covers mental health related treatment and repatriation costs incurred due to mental illness

Source: ISOS

Collecting personal information

In order to prepare mobile workers for travel, and to provide support to these employees when working in remote locations, companies may seek sensitive personal information from their employees.

When requesting personal information, it's important to clearly articulate:

  • Why the information is being collected and that there is some reasonable requirement for the employer to have that information; and
  • How the information will be used.

Once this information is collected, members may have certain obligations, including:

  • To ensure the personal information is not used for any purpose other than the original non-discriminatory purpose;
  • Not to disclose or communicate the information to anyone unless necessary; and
  • To take reasonable steps to destroy or de-identify the information when it is no longer required.

It is critical for employers to combine an immediate- response approach with a proactive one when it comes to managing mental health issues. This responsibility integrates the topic of mental health into the wider Duty of Care agenda. Companies that send staff or contractors overseas on business or have expatriate staff living abroad, must extend the same Duty of Care to all staff, regardless of their location. The duties owed to workers under the WHS Laws are criminal in nature. This means that businesses and individuals who fail to discharge the duties imposed on them are exposed to criminal prosecution and, if found guilty, subject to conviction for a criminal offence.