Work Life Balance Strategies for Expats

13 May 2022

Are you working internationally? Either on expat assignment or as a commuter for your current organisation?

As an expat you may have pressure on you to achieve objectives quickly in an unfamiliar environment. The result might be you are laser focused on the work you have to do and lose track of the hours you are clocking up. 

If you are feeling fatigued, unable to concentrate or achieve as much as you did in a day or week, you may need to look into some work life balance strategies. Not just for your productivity but for your health and wellbeing too. 

A study by the World Health Organisation in 2021 found that working more than 55 hours a week can pose a serious health risk. The study between working hours and loss of life found the risk of dying from stroke rose by 35% amongst those who worked more than 55 hours per week compared to those working the standard 35 to 40 hours.  

If you are working more than 55 hours on a regular basis in your expat role, it may be time to take stock. Not only for your mental health and productivity but most importantly for your physical wellbeing.  

It is easy to let the pressures of work lead you to believe you need to work more hours. In reality, science says differently. A study by the Corporate Executive found that those with better work life balance were more positive at work. This  leads to better rapport with colleagues, essential on expat assignments. They also worked 21% harder than their counterparts working long hours.

There are some easy strategies you can employ to help you find better balance between your career and life away from work:

1. Know your values

You may have a clear idea of your values when you are at home but are they reflected in your life overseas? If family, hobbies and other interests are part of your life at home, reflect on this and how you might incorporate them into your expat life. Finding meaning in life matters regardless of where we are living and working. 


2. Task management

Try using a task management tool to visually represent your day. Start off by adding regular meetings and setting focus time between that. It’s worth auditing time spent in meetings too. Ask yourself if they are all productive? Could they be reduced from weekly to bi-weekly or even monthly? Using a task management tool also aids collaboration and delegation, essential if you are aiming to finish work earlier.


3.   Remove distractions

So, you are at work but how often do you find yourself distracted by life outside of work? Social networks become even more important while you are away but they can prove extremely distracting. Try using a social media blocking app to stay focused during the day while carving out time over lunch or in the evenings to catch up on what is happening at home. 


4. Set boundaries

As an expat who wants to impress and achieve a lot, sometimes in a short space, setting boundaries is essential. Work out what tasks are most important and try to say no to anything that might diverge from your critical path to success. This can prove difficult, but it is important to achieving your overall goal. Set out of hours boundaries too, turn off email and instant message notifications. If something critically important happens ask colleagues to call you.  


5. Delegate

Sharing work amongst your team not only helps you reduce unnecessary hours, but it also enables team members to step up and get experience working on different tasks. 


6. Nurture relationships

Although your family and friends may not be with you on expat assignment, it is important to maintain your relationship with them while you are away. Make time for regular calls with them. It’s also important to build new relationships while you are away both inside and outside work. Doing this successfully requires time. 


7. Exercise

Regular exercise is essential for our bodies and minds. Movement has been shown to reduce stress as well as improving physical wellbeing. If exercise isn’t something you naturally enjoy, try to find a way of incorporating movement in a way that is fun for you. Some ideas include:

  • Walk and listen to an audio book or favourite podcast
  • Try Pilates or yoga for something different to running on a treadmill
  • Join a sports team

Try indoor climbing for something that engages your brain as well as bod


8. Relax

Last but by no means least, building in time to relax is vital. It enables you to rest and recharge. You don’t have to finish work to relax, try to build some time into your day. Have tea or coffee with a colleague, go to a quiet room and follow a meditation video for ten minutes. Taking time to relax can also help with perspective, making it easier to see the value in better work life balance.

There are likely to be periods of expat life that are stressful, but a good work life balance is worth investing in for productivity, health and wellbeing. 

Finding balance between work and home life might be tricky as an expat but accessing private healthcare should you need it doesn’t have to be. International health insurance provides you with cover you need leaving you to focus on your objectives.