Number of Moves in Lifetime Affects Ability to Cope

Relocation History May Predict the Future

Your new employees’ past history of moving (or lack thereof) may have a profound effect on how well they cope with the current move and how much stress (and illness) they experience throughout the relocation process. The findings of our research and the research of other social scientists indicate that one’s residential history can play a pivotal role in determining how well an individual adapts during the relocation process.

Our findings suggested results that might seem intuitive: (1) the more often people had moved in the previous year and a half prior to the current move, and (2) the shorter the time period between the previous move and the current move, the more stress and illness people reported during the current relocation process. Interestingly, while having recently moved just prior to the current move was most closely related to psychological complaints, the number of moves that occurred in the preceding 18 months was more closely linked with physical injuries and illnesses.

What do these findings tell us? In short, while having a previous history of relocation may help prepare people for the logistics of moving, too many prior moves—especially when the previous moves have come close in time to the current move—may actually make things worse. Too many moves close in time to the current move can exacerbate relocation stress, making people more vulnerable to adverse consequences of emotional and physiological illnesses.

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moved number of moves-2017 survey

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So what do employers do to help new employees avoid pitfalls stemming from their own or their partner’s residential histories?   For employers with new employees dealing with these conditions it is recommended that transition liaisons be especially attentive to being available and supportive and to supplying these employees with all the resources they need to make the transition a smooth one.  The primary goal is to encourage new hires and transfers to talk about the key issues surrounding previous moves prior to the current move. It is highly recommended that new employees discuss with partners/spouses and other family members who will be making the move with them their residential histories in terms of how many times moving has occurred, how traumatic or pleasurable it was, what conditions surrounded previous moves (job changes, divorce, etc.), and what trends and tendencies occurred in reaction to the stress of previous moves. Discussing their residential histories will bring to light previous experiences and feelings that were likely buried long ago. These insights will be quite valuable to help all family members prepare for the challenges and potential problems that may lie ahead in the upcoming move, and increases the likelihood that your new employees will make a successful transition to their new home and their new position.

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From the Book: The Hidden Costs of Relocating Employees: Corporate Strategies for Reducing Loss from Relocation Stress