In the past many have been reluctant to work abroad and leave their families but it seems attitudes and personal circumstances are changing.
Crown World Mobility has recognised a growing phenomenon with its global clients. They have predicted an increase in the number of split family assignments in 2015, with a flurry of Skype calls home for fathers or mothers abroad on June 21.
“It’s a significant trend and one that we’ve monitored closely,” says Lisa Johnson, global practice leader for Crown World Mobility’s consulting services.
“We are used to seeing rotational assignment policies where the employee was in the host location working almost around the clock for a few weeks and then was home with family for a few weeks. This approach was and still is common in the oil and gas, mining or engineering industries.
“But split families is a newer and growing trend in international assignments – families that choose to be separated during an assignment.
“It emerged initially as an accepted approach in Asia but is increasingly being applied globally.”
Peter Sewell, now regional director for Crown World Mobility and based in London, has personal experience of just how difficult it can be working abroad, thousands of miles away from his family, after ‘commuting’ to Thailand for two-and-a-half years in a previous role.
“I set up a Global Employment Company in Thailand and spent up to six months a year travelling backwards and forwards whilst we set up the entity and developed a new team,” he says.
“Being away from my children so much was not easy. I tried to arrange my travel so that I was generally around for most special occasions. But I did feel bad missing my daughter’s drama and having to ask a friend to take my son to a Chelsea match. It’s four years on and my daughter still reminds me every time that I travel on business, so it has obviously had a major impact on her. I ended up calling time on my job because of the impact that it was having on me and my family.
“But that’s not to say there were no positives. I got to spend time working in a very different culture and it was a great experience for me. I feel incredibly close to the team that we created in Thailand and know that we achieved something special.
“My advice for anyone thinking about a split-family role is be clear on how long it will be for and ensure that you build in enough time for your family and not just work. Make sure that you have the right support structure in place.”
Assignments abroad are rarely long-term solutions and companies are realising they must provide extra support to make it work. These may include increased number of home leave trips for employees or reverse home leave for the family to visit the employee.
Lisa Johnson adds:
“When utilised on a long-term basis, the stress of the split-family lifestyle can overtake its benefits. Employee burn-out and family disruption are common side effects. But things are certainly changing.
“Dual-career families, children’s education needs and extended family responsibilities are some of the drivers, along with growing evidence that assignments abroad can boost your career. But it does mean that as Father’s Day approaches there may be more and more families spending the day apart.”