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  • Liz Parsons | Comfort Challenge Coaching

Dear Employers: What you risk when you ignore accompanying spouse mental health !

Dear employers,

When you ignore accompanying spouse mental health and wellness, you risk a failed international assignment.

It’s hard to quantify the cost of a failed international assignment (when you have to move an employee back home, early, after a failed international relocation). There are relocation costs and business disruptions.

Different estimates put the global rate of international assignment failure at anywhere from 25-70% depending on location, industry, and what challenges your employee faced.

Many factors contribute to a failed international assignment – but one significant factor that I see consistently neglected is accompanying spouse mental health and wellness. It is crucial that employers like you recognize the link between international employee/spouse mental health and business performance.

Yesterday I attended a Human Capital Europe 2022 event here in Luxembourg (, and I was so happy to hear about all the ways leaders are prioritizing conversations, strategies, and resources that support employee mental health and wellness. Leaders are recognizing the link between performance, retention, burnout prevention, and mental health and wellness. There is growing awareness of how psychology, coaching, and mental health impact businesses and employees.

This is fantastic! Conversations about mental health and wellness feed my soul. I applaud HR and business leaders in Luxembourg for making mental health and wellness a priority. But I’d also like to raise the standard: if you are an employer who relocated your employees internationally, you need to not just consider their mental health, but the mental health of the accompanying spouses as well.

As we have learned in the last 2 years of living in a pandemic, the lines between our personal life and our work life have blurred. More and more, we bring our whole human selves to work, and we bring our work into our homes. But we have been slower to acknowledge, to our detriment, how much what is going on at home affects our employees’ ability to engage in and contribute to their work.

Research conducted in the last 20 years has consistently shown that international assignments fail when the employee and their spouse or family fail to adapt to the host culture. Now, ‘failure to adapt’ to the host culture can encompass many things, and to the employers that provide language learning, cultural training, and career coaching for your employees and employees’ families, I say that’s a great start. But when you fail to holistically address mental health and wellness, you miss a significant part of adapting to a new home. Accompanying spouses want to feel grounded, confident, connected, fulfilled – and often this requires more than language learning and relocation assistance.

Not only do employers need to provide resources to support the mental health and wellness of accompanying spouses (things like coaching, counselling); employers also need to have more open and honest conversations about the challenges that accompanying spouses continue to face, and how this can impact your employees.

Accompanying spouses experience so much shame and guilt as they struggle to adapt to their new home. You as employers have an opportunity – and dare I say, a responsibility – to raise awareness and promote access to resources that can improve the chances of the accompanying spouse adapting to their new home.

Often, you are relocating not just an individual performer, but a partner and a family as well. If you want your employee to perform, you need to support their mental health and wellness, as well as that of their partner or spouse.

Of course, I am biased, because I am a service provider that supports the mental health and wellbeing of accompanying spouses through coaching. But I started my business because I see a massive, important, unmet need that accompanying spouses are not receiving or accessing the mental health and wellness supports they need.

I’m going to be bold and say if you move a family to a new country, you have a responsibility to support the mental health and wellbeing of that family. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it will hurt your bottom line if you don’t.


A concerned coach and accompanying spouse


Liz Parsons has been an accompanying spouse since 2017, through 2 international relocations. She is a certified coach with 10+ years experience, a Master of Education degree, and the Founder of Comfort Challenge Coaching. Liz helps accompanying spouses and partners feel like themselves again after an international move.

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