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Combating the stress of employee relocations


Packing up to relocate

As if climbing the career ladder wasn’t stressful enough, the pressures of relocating, not to mention the responsibilities of a new job, can send stress levels soaring. Yet a supportive and well-prepared manager can help smooth the move and de-stress the employee, says Philippa Robinsons.

Having the right people with the right skills in the right place is crucial to the growth and profitability of any business – and that will inevitably mean moving staff around from time to time. But there’s no doubt that moving is stressful, especially if you’re moving as the result of someone else’s business decision.

For a business, successfully relocating a key member of staff within the UK, while maintaining productivity and keeping his or her family happy, is a tough challenge.

Even when an employee is happy to move and excited about new opportunities, a relocation will mean added stress and anxiety. Work-related stress in general is a major cause of ill health in the UK. A third of all new incidences of ill health can be put down to stress and as a result, 12.8 million working days were lost in 2004/05, according to the Health and Safety Executive.

Deeper issues

That’s why it is so important that employers take time and trouble to look into their staff’s needs and concerns when they decide to relocate them. It isn’t just a matter of practical details, like helping them find a new home or arranging for their belongings to be packed, stored or transported on the day; there are deeper issues here.

A move cuts emotional as well as physical security lines. Leaving your old home behind can lead to feelings of insecurity. Leaving your social network can be even more devastating. Many companies and individuals simply don’t anticipate how deep-seated this impact can be and so fail to compensate for it.

An employee who is unhappy and unsettled in his or her new location won’t be an effective member of staff. An ill thought-out or badly managed move can lead to discontent, staff churn and family break-ups – all of which will impact badly on your business.

Responsible employers need to take a caring, supportive attitude to managing employee relocations, gearing them to each individual’s circumstances and taking the whole family unit into consideration. This not only makes good HR sense but excellent business sense as well.

“An ill thought-out or badly managed move can lead to discontent, staff churn and family break-ups – all of which will impact badly on your business.”

So what support can you provide? Well, there’s a lot that the responsible employer can do to ease the strains of relocating an employee.

To start with – be prepared. At Robinsons International we advise our larger clients to put a company policy in place for employee relocation, clearly setting out what is provided for employees and including a facility for them to voice their concerns and views.

Don’t forget the rest of the family. Recognise that the family needs are at least as important as your company’s and ultimately reflect on the success of the move – and on your bottom line.

Go the extra mile. Family circumstances vary enormously and any relocation policy should take these into consideration. HR managers should provide staff with a comprehensive pack about their new relocation, with information on everything from housing and schooling to shopping facilities and gyms.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

Keep your relocating staff informed on the progress of the move. Most professional employee relocation companies will allocate a move manager to each project, so your employee has the reassurance of direct one-to-one contact with an experienced individual who can answer their questions and soothe their concerns. Don’t wait for an employee to buckle under the stress of a move, offer help before it is asked for.

Take the long view. Be understanding and recognise that it may take a little while for staff to settle into a new area, before they can take up their new roles effectively. Don’t expect them to be fully up and running the next day.

Demanding and discerning

Many business people are used to moving on from company to company – but that doesn’t make relocating any easier. In fact, in some ways it makes employees more demanding and discerning when it comes to relocation. They’ve done it all before and they don’t want to make the same mistakes again.

If employers don’t offer their people the comprehensive and effective support they need when they are moving them, they run the risk of losing key members of staff to organisations who do appreciate the wisdom of investing time and money in providing practical and emotional help to staff at this potentially stressful time.

Philippa Robinsons is director of Robinsons Corporate Moving Services, which handles corporate moves tailored to the specific requirements of the corporate client and those of each relocating employee. Please visit or call 01235 552271 for more information.

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