Anyone who has been required to move for work will agree that moving is can be a miserable experience. Whether you are moving 20 miles or 2,000, the sheer stress and exhaustion of packing up your entire life and setting it down again in a different place is enough to induce at least a temporary funk. Being aware and having a coping strategy are important when dealing with relocation stress.
Unfortunately, new research shows that the well-being dip caused by moving may last longer than previously expected. In a 2016 study in the journal Social Indicators Research, happiness researchers recruited young adult volunteers and used an app to regularly ping them with four questions:
How are you feeling?
What are you doing?
Where are you?
Who are you with?
Over the course of two weeks, some interesting data had emerged.
The newly relocated people changed their habits. The study showed the relocated people spent less time on “active leisure” like exercise and hobbies—less time overall, in fact, on all activities outside the home/work/commute grind. They also spent more time on isolating activities like the computer than they had previously.
Secondly, newly relocated people spent similar amounts of time eating with friends, but they enjoyed it less than before.
Moving creates a perfect storm of unhappiness. You’re lonely because you don’t have good friends around, but you may feel too depleted and stressed to invest in social engagements outside your comfort zone. And of course, you’re not getting nearly as many invitations because you don’t know as many people.
The worse you feel, the less effort you put into activities that have the potential to make you happier, and the worse you will do at your new job. It’s a downward spiral of motivation and low energy exacerbated by your lack of the kinds of friends who can help you snap out of it. As a result, transferees may opt to stay home surfing the internet or texting far-away friends, and function at a less effective level at work.
When transferees do push themselves to go for drinks or dinner with new friends, they may discover that it’s less enjoyable than going out with long-time friends, both because they can’t be as choosey about who they hang out with, and because their ties aren’t as tight, which can make them feel less comfortable. That can simply reconfirm the desire to stay home.
Dealing with Relocation Stress
Nationally, between 30 and 50 percent of transferees regret their decision to move. A 2016 study showed that recent movers report more unhappy days than people who did not choose to relocate.
The question is, what can you get over it?
Or, if you are relocating an employee, how can you minimize the pain and disruption of relocation stress (for the sake of employee’s effectiveness at work in addition to their own happiness).
Moving will always be hard. If you’re in the middle of, recovering from, or preparing for a move, you need to know that things won’t be all rainbows and unicorns in the new city. That’s completely normal.
But you also need to make choices designed to increase how happy you feel in your new place. It starts, however, with choices about how you spend time in your daily life.
Here are three choices that can help:
Get out of the house. You may be tempted to spend weeks or months nesting in your new home, but the boxes can wait. Instead, explore your new neighborhood and city, preferably on foot. Walking has been shown to increase calm, and it opens the door to happy discoveries of restaurants, shops, landmarks, and people.
Accept and extend social invitations. The more you interact with people in your new community, the more likely you are to develop a new network of friends. Even if the people you hang out with aren’t a perfect fit, they could introduce you to people you can “click” with. These relationships will probably involve some disappointment, but it may lead you to meet that new BFF.
Do the things that made you happy in your old place. If you were an ardent member of a softball team, soccer team, or running club before you moved, find a similar league in your new city. Engaging in activities that you are passionate about increases the chances of meeting people with similar interests, who are more likely to become quality friends.
If your post-move sadness is debilitating or lingers longer than you think it should, “hang in there” and be active, interact with your new community and slowly work toward making your life in your new place as enjoyable as it was in your old place. It will happen.
If you are an employer, you can assist your employee in their adjustment by providing concierge services like those from Relocity. Relocity will assist them in finding and connecting with activities and organizations that fit their lifestyles and interests, which is the best way to increase happiness and reduce loneliness and seclusion.
At Relocity we believe in relocating not just furniture and belongings, but entire lives, and that includes helping your new hire find a fit in their new community. Unlike supposed relocation companies that are really just moving companies or rebranded real-estate companies – or worse yet, just software packages – Relocity will be there physically to make sure your new hire has access to all the elements that make up a life.
Knowing this gives your employee the confidence and security to focus on their work on Day One. We have found that this holistic approach contributes to higher levels of productivity, retention, and happiness in newly relocated employees.
We call this holistic approach “the wheel” (as demonstrated in the illustration below). Relocity believes that a relocating employee needs all three phases of the wheel to be happy and productive. Neglecting any aspect of the wheel means risking a failed relocation and jeopardizing your investment in a valued employee.