December 9 2007 - International work assignments are becoming more common as major corporations
announces new offices in rapidly developing countries such as China, Dubai or India. But the 2007 Expatriate Work-Life Balance Survey from ORC
Worldwide(R) has found that international assignees are finding it difficult to maintain
an equilibrium between their personal and professional lives.
While about two-thirds (65%) are feeling the strain of managing the competing
demands of work and family, the survey shows that 55% are burdened by stress caused by factors such as:
- longer hours
- extended work days/weeks
- cultural differences
Moreover, almost three-quarters (74%) feel that their their organizations are not doing enough to
help alleviate the causes.
The survey found that international assignees identified the top five pressure points as:
- Challenge of a new job (62.8%)
- Inability to take part in activities available at home (44.6%)
- Loss of support network (42.8%)
- Language and other cultural difficulties (40.7%)
- Spouse unable to find work (37.9%)
Siobhan Cummins, Managing Director EMEA, ORC Worldwide, London said:
"Work-life balance is undoubtedly a top-of-mind issue for both employees trying to juggle personal and career
obligations, and employers who want to retain those employees while needing to compete successfully in an
aggressive international marketplace.
"Yet, while flexible working practices and work-life balance initiatives are increasingly available to employees
in their home locations, the degree to which these are applied to the global workforce has not been examined until
Around a half (51%) of respondents to the survey felt overworked, working an average of
13.4 more hours than domestic equivalents. 'Intrusive technology' and a '24/7-business mentality' were cited
as some of the main reasons. Intriguingly, more men (49%) thought that overseas assignments intrude and affect,
home life than women respondents (42%).
In ORCís 2005 International Survey of Work-Life Balance Policies, almost 4 in 5 (79%)
of HR respondents believed that work-life balance
policies were important to organizational performance, and two-thirds (66%) said they made a difference at the personal
level. But the 2007 study found polar opposite responses from expats with 77% believing such policies
had not made any difference to organizational performance. 82% of international assignees did not feel
that they made a difference on a personal level.
"There is an unmistakable disparity in the perceived lack of organizational commitment to work-life
balance," said Siobhan Cummins. "The difference between the policies and intentions of HR, and the sensitivity and
experiences of the employees while on international assignment is central to our apparent failure to effectively
separate work from home life and leisure."