This week Sian Williams, the BBC Breakfast presenter, announced that she plans to leave the show ahead of its move to Salford. The BBC plans to move half of its operations outside of London by 2016, and Williams is just one of a number of staff who’ve criticised the decision. Other high-profile resignations include Question Time’s editor, Ed Havard, who refused to relocate to Glasgow, while Question Time’s presenter David Dimbleby will stay put in London while an editor flies down to brief him every week.
BBC staff aren’t the only ones reluctant to up sticks and move for their job: whether you’re moving to Manchester or Milan, leaving a place where you’ve put down roots can be a huge upheaval. It’s not just employees who are affected, but their families too: Williams said she was concerned about the effect the move would have had on her four children, one of whom is studying for his A-levels. Stylist magazine recently published interviews with women who’ve relocated abroad for their partners, from a diplomat’s wife to a rugby player’s girlfriend. Most of them had difficulties settling into a lifestyle very different to their own and struggled to form new social circles in an unfamiliar environment.
Relocating abroad can be an exciting step to take, but the culture shock involved, not to mention the reams of red tape, can make the first few months of a move difficult for employees and their families. If moving house is one of the most stressful things we experience, it’s no surprise that moving abroad is such a headache, involving applying for visas and bank accounts, arranging utility bills and transferring medical records. Parents will also need to research and apply to local schools. Then there’s the move itself, which involves tricky logistical decisions: should you ship all your worldly goods over there or put them into storage for the day you return? And even more importantly, where are you going to live in those important few months while you look for somewhere more permanent to stay?
This is a problem for employers as much as employees: if staff feel anxious or isolated, productivity can suffer, while assignments can fail if they decide to return home prematurely. On the other hand, feeling settled and confident in a new country can allow employees to interact productively with local businesspeople.
SilverDoor work with a number of relocation agents, who use serviced apartments to help their clients bridge the gap between moving abroad and finding a new home. The apartments provide a comfortable base from which employees can search for their new home, taking all the time they need to find the perfect place, and because utility bills are covered they needn’t worry about arranging these beforehand.
Relocation agents can help to make the process easier in other ways, too: they can take the never-ending paperwork off your hands, from visas to bank accounts; offer advice on school selection and childcare; help with removal issues and looking for new homes and provide detailed local knowledge.
Employers can also make the move easier for employees and their families. Sue Shortland, writing in Re:locate magazine, recommends that if spouses struggle to find work while living abroad, employers should offer them advice and share details of their skills with other employers in the host region. They could help them fill their time with voluntary opportunities, which they can add to their CV to help them find work on their return home. It’s also always helpful to provide cultural information and language classes for employees and their spouses: this will make settling into a foreign country much easier for them, and facilitate communication between employees and local businesspeople.