Why more expat workers say they're happy with their jobs than those who stay local

@elias.lika | Twenty20

Landing a new job out of the country may be the ticket to being happier at work.

That's a main takeaway from MetLife's recent U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study, which surveyed 2,675 full-time employees, 545 of whom are either U.S. citizens working abroad or people in the U.S. on a work visa or company-sponsored assignment.

The results show 91% of these expat workers who receive company benefits are satisfied with their jobs, compared to 73% of their colleagues who stay local. A similar share of expats say they're committed to their organization's goals, and they're also more than twice as likely to recommend their company as a good place to work, compared to those who have stayed in their home countries.

Expats may value their employer more than resident workers, especially if the company is able to provide a source of stability and community for people in a new, unfamiliar country, the study says.

Indeed, 76% of expats say companies have a responsibility to provide financial security through employee benefits; 60% of non-international workers feel the same way.

Employees who work outside their home countries "lean on strong relationships with their employers to navigate work and life in a foreign country," said Ann Deugo, vice president and head of MetLife Worldwide Benefits, in a release. "When the employer can make this a positive experience, these employees will reward their employer with increased loyalty, enthusiasm and commitment."

An organization's willingness to invest in international career opportunities could bolster the perception of its company culture, which one Glassdoor survey suggests workers find more important than salary. That's not to say promotions and raises don't matter to expat workers at all — the MetLife survey finds these are highly motivated professionals, with 29% under the age of 45 and in an executive leadership role.

In fact, there's a good chance young professionals could see a significant pay bump by taking an international assignment. According to HSBC's latest expat survey, the average 18 to 34-year-old's salary rose 35% after relocating overseas, from $40,358 to $54,484. In some markets, earning potential rose by as much as 51%. That could potentially make them happier, as well.

Expat workers also point to satisfaction in career prospects, economic outlook, job security and work-life balance as key factors in enjoying the working-abroad experience. High marks in each of these categories helped Vietnam be named the best country to move to in order to work abroad, according to the Expat Insider 2019 Survey. (For comparison, the U.S. ranked 40th on the list of where expats were happy in their careers.)

While companies can provide some guidance and stability around settling into a new country for work, advice from people who've done it before can help make for the smoothest transition.

"One of the key benefits of the globalized world we live in is there is likely to be someone you can learn from when it comes to moving," John Goddard, head of HSBC Expat, told CNBC Make It. "People have been crossing borders for work for decades, and they can be a valuable source of insight and knowledge to anyone looking to make the move today."

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