Travel for work differs from business to business and each traveller will have different travel requirements for their role. For some, the occasional trip for a meeting or conference is the extent of their corporate travel, whilst for others a new destination every week is the norm. Some people are more susceptible to stress and associated burnout and the volume of travel can have a big impact on their general wellbeing.
The World Health Organisation estimated that depression and anxiety cost the global economy US$1 trillion each year in lost productivity, with 15.4 million working days lost in 2017/2018 in the UK alone. Understanding and addressing the risk that business travel can pose on your staff’s mental and physical health and creating a plan to support them is key to maintaining happy, healthy and productive travellers.
Here’s just a few ways they are at risk and how to recognise and combat traveller burnout when travelling for business.
What puts travellers at risk of burnout?
- Jetlag and disrupted sleep patterns – we all know how hard it is to function when you haven’t had enough sleep, let alone do a good job at work.
- Loneliness and isolation – being away from friends and family, whether for a few days or longer periods can cause loneliness and feelings of isolation, especially when working in a time zone that is drastically different to that of everyone at home.
- Poor diet and irregular eating - hotel food, dinners out and convenience food when on the go can all be high calorie but lacking in nutrients. Increased social occasions can also lead to increased alcohol consumption. A poor diet can make you feel lethargic and sluggish and means your body won’t be working at its peak.
- Lack of leisure time – travelling for work can give a feeling of always being ‘on duty’ and that you can’t take time off to relax, take some leisure time or get a workout in. This feeling can result in increased stress and anxiety.
What are the signs of burnout?
- Headaches, stomach aches and other physical symptoms – burnout may feel mentally draining, but it will often manifest in a range of physical ways such as headaches, as well as intestinal and digestion issues, thinning hair, dull complexion and a drained appearance.
- Mental and emotional exhaustion – they may experience feelings of irritability, tiredness, finding it hard to cope with everyday tasks and a general lack of energy.
- Alienation from work – usual work tasks will seem frustrating and more stressful. Employees may grow cynical about the type of work and it can all seem a bit pointless, as well as becoming irritable and short with their colleagues.
- Reduced performance – with burnout comes a lack of creativity, difficulty in concentrating and a general lack of enthusiasm to do a good job. A task that may have been easy and quick may now take much longer to complete and to a lesser standard.
Addressing and reducing burnout risk
- Pre-travel health checks
Ensuring travellers are healthy and fit to travel before they leave is the best way to start any trip. Understanding any pre-existing conditions will allow employers to manage and support staff and minimise any potential health risks. A pre-trip check will also allow for conversations surrounding mental and physical health to happen, which may not take place in a usual working environment.
- Strict rules around travel time and downtime
Part of your travel policy can include rules surrounding travel times and downtime. If a traveller has been away over a weekend for work, do they receive days in lieu? If they took a long-haul flight and arrived back late at night, are they expected in the office later that day? Putting rules around downtime will allow travellers to have the recuperation time required.
- Pick your travel and accommodation carefully
Carefully selected flights and hotels can dramatically reduce your stress. A flight booked for 6am might get you there early, but it means an early morning and disturbed sleep which can contribute to increased stress levels. A hotel booked far from your desired location means even more travel, potentially in a country you may not know the language of. Your Travel Consultants are experts and can advise you on the best flight times, ground transport and accommodation options to suit your agenda.
- Clear expectations
Be clear with travellers what the expectation is of them and their work whilst away on business travel. If they are at a conference during the day, are they expected to maintain the same output as they would in the office or is the evening for leisure time? Clarity around work and output expectations will reduce anxiety and stress and allow travellers to relax and take their leisure time, guilt free.
- Resilience training
Training can be provided to employees to equip them with resilience and coping strategies. This can include how to recognise signs of stress and combat it before burnout occurs. Resilience training will give travellers simple and effective ways to manage their own health and wellbeing.
A healthy routine is a large part of maintaining a healthy mind and body when away from home. Employee wellbeing programmes at work can encourage healthy habits such as exercise, a balanced diet and even mindfulness, equipping travellers with the best foundation for a healthy trip and a routine which they can maintain whilst away.
- 24/7 support
Knowing you have a support system and assistance when you need it while away on business travel is a real benefit. A TMC can provide 24/7 support for travellers, including assistance with the travel itself to reduce the stress of delays or missed flights, assistance in case of emergency or even a phoneline to talk to trained counsellors to support their mental wellbeing.
If you want to find out more about travel management with CT Business Travel, and how you can help keep your employees happy and healthy on the road, contact us today
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