How to create a health and wellbeing strategy for expatriate staff

This article has been supplied by Cigna Global.

If you read nothing else, read this…

  • Employers should manage the risks associated with international assignments from the outset. 
  • Employees with underlying health issues should take priority.
  • Health coaching and behaviour-change programmes can help employees improve their health.

Creating a comprehensive health and wellbeing strategy for expatriate staff need not be difficult, with the right preparation.

The world is constantly on the move and employee mobility is increasing as more employers look to expand into new markets.

Global employers have to deal with a range of challenges, often resulting from poor lifestyle choices by employees, which is why it has never been more important for employers to provide quality, compliant and sustainable international health programmes for globally mobile staff.

Pre-assignment period

Employers should start managing the risks associated with international assignments right from the outset, so the pre-assignment period should mark the beginning of the expatriate journey.

Employers should focus on identifying employees with underlying health issues that could cause problems in their assignment destination, so they can create programmes to prevent potentially serious medical situations from developing. 

But even after detailed pre-assignment assessments, some globally mobile employees will still need medical support. When they do, their employer must ensure they receive the most appropriate treatment in the most cost-effective way. They can do this by working with an insurer that has access to a comprehensive hospital network.

Another key factor can be access to a case management team actively involved in co-ordinating potentially complex or high-cost clams.

This valuable resource will ensure that access to care and costs are managed effectively. The team will work with hospitals to ensure the appropriateness of treatment plans. These teams help to drive better health outcomes for employees and improve their satisfaction with the level of care they receive.

Health risk assessments

Health risk assessments, delivered online and in multiple languages, can provide a complete picture of the health and wellbeing of an employer’s global workforce. But questions must be aligned with different cultures so that employees in different jurisdictions have the opportunity to answer questions that are relevant to them.

Assessments can be used to compile a report collating employees’ answers to key questions about nutrition, stress, weight management and other lifestyle behaviours. This can help employers to identify the key areas where targeted health promotion strategies will have the biggest impact.

Take action

Armed with this information, employers should provide opportunities for their employees to take any necessary action.

Global employee assistance programmes, health coaching and behaviour-change programmes will all help staff make positive lifestyle changes to improve their health. This is likely to result in a rise in workplace productivity and a fall in health plan usage.

Employers should also consider how to control costs and prevent medical problems from arising. They can do this by measuring employees’ health risks, understanding their global health profile and developing a robust health and wellbeing programme to reduce the impact of poor health and lifestyle choices.

If something goes wrong

If something does go wrong, employers must be confident that their healthcare insurer can provide the right support, which may include access to the best network of hospitals and a case management team to deliver the best care to employees when they need it most.

First of all, employers should consider the best way to create a comprehensive healthcare strategy that will give them a deeper understanding of the health and wellbeing needs of their globally mobile workers. Ultimately, this should have a positive impact on workplace health and healthcare costs.

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It really is time for employers to change their healthcare strategies and behaviours.

John Kay is director of sales and client management, Europe at Cigna Global