MetLife study shows that, despite the current global environment, nearly one-third of employees are still willing and interested in expat work assignments, but employer support is needed

In the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic, there is still a healthy appetite among employees to take expatriate (expat) assignments. While COVID-19 has brought on added challenges for current and aspiring globally-mobile employees, nearly 30 percent of U.S. workers are interested in expat assignments, with the youngest generations of Gen Z (39 percent) and Millennials (43 percent) leading the charge, according to a deeper look into the results from MetLife’s 18th Annual U.S. Employee Benefits Trends Study (EBTS).  

However, while there remains an appetite for expat assignments, the same study found that 42 percent of Gen Z and 36 percent of Millennials do not feel mentally healthy, and many who are on expat assignments feel more stressed than their non-expat counterparts. Specifically, 45 percent of both Gen Z and Millennials who are expat employees reported being stressed out versus 37 percent of Gen Z and 34 percent of Millennial Americans working in the U.S.

“Younger employees are still seeing the opportunity in international work experience; however, these challenging times have had impacts on current and aspiring expats that cannot be ignored,” said Ann Deugo, vice president and head of MetLife Worldwide Benefits. “If employers can find a way to show additional support to these employees, that appetite for global assignments can only increase and result in improved productivity, engagement and loyalty.”

Holistic well-being improves productivity

As the world continues to navigate the short- and long-term effects of the coronavirus, the importance for employers to expand their benefit offerings to support their globally mobile employees now and for the future can’t be understated. Globally-mobile employees (defined by MetLife as expatriates and inpatriates with ties to the U.S.) who are holistically well – those who report feeling mentally, socially, financially and physically healthy – are drastically more likely to report feeling productive (88 percent versus 26 percent), successful (88 percent versus 20 percent) and loyal (90 percent versus 39 percent) compared to globally-mobile employees who are not healthy on any aspect. These findings demonstrate the importance of caring for current employees in this group and sustaining the interest in those who would consider taking an assignment in the future.

Fortunately, 83 percent of employers that offer expat plans agree that they have a responsibility to safeguard and support the health and well-being of their employees. However, employees still feel there is room for improvement when it comes to the programs offered: only half of expats surveyed said that their employer provided them with benefits that were personalized to suit their needs in a new country.

Sixty-eight percent of globally mobile employees agree that having a wider array of benefits to meet their needs would increase their loyalty to their employer significantly. When asked which benefits or programs would ease their stress and improve their well-being, the top choices included the ability to work from home, HSA/FSA accounts, flexible hours and arrangements, increased PTO and life insurance.

“Employers must customize and supplement their current benefit offerings to support global employees and their specific needs. By providing additional support and resources, employers can improve the holistic well-being of employees and enjoy greater productivity and loyalty as a result,” added Deugo.

Research Methodology

MetLife’s 18th annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study (EBTS) consists of three distinct studies. The first two were conducted in August and September 2019 (Wave 1) and the third in early April 2020 – during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic (Wave 2). The 2019 employer survey consists of 2,501 interviews with benefits decision makers and influencers at companies with at least two employees, augmented with 904 decision-makers with responsibility for expatriate benefits at multinational companies.

The 2019 employee survey includes 2,650 interviews with full-time employees, aged 21 and over, at companies with at least two employees. The updated 2020 employee survey consists of 2,367 interviews using the same criteria (full-time employed at time of survey completion). The Wave 1 employee study was augmented to include 701 interviews with globally-mobile employees, defined as being an inpatriate (n=423), or workers in the US. on a work visa or company-sponsored assignment for at least six months, or expatriate (n=278) workers, defined as U.S. citizens who have lived and worked outside the U.S. for at least six months at any point in the last 10 years. The Wave 2 employee study was augmented to include 420 globally-mobile employees – 311 inpatriates and 109 expatriates. All studies were fielded by Rainmakers CSI – an international strategy, insight and planning consultancy.

About MetLife Worldwide Benefits

MetLife Worldwide Benefits has been providing personalized solutions for globally-mobile employees for nearly 60 years. MetLife Worldwide Benefit’s products are underwritten by Delaware American Life Insurance Company, a MetLife affiliate domiciled at 600 North King Street, Wilmington, DE, 19801, and other affiliates. For more information, visit


Kimberly Prime