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Expatriate Work-Life Balance Survey

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:

  1. Challenge of a new job (62.8%)
  2. Inability to take part in activities available at home (44.6%)
  3. Loss of support network (42.8%)
  4. Language and other cultural difficulties (40.7%)
  5. 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 now."

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."

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