Business Travel Stress: How to Prioritize Well-Being
tl;dr: When it comes to corporate travelers, most companies focus solely on productivity — here's how they can also prioritize well-being.
Business travelers are extremely important to companies. They are the ones on the front lines delivering presentations, networking, and closing deals. Unsurprisingly, companies are hyper-focused on the results of business travel: what’s the ROI? How is it contributing to growth?
But while the ROI of corporate travel is important, it’s also critical to make sure you’re providing for the well-being of your frequent travelers.
Business travel stress may not be a popular topic around the office, but ignoring it can lead to problems with retention, engagement, and even employee health.
In this article, we’ll look at what the science says about frequent business travelers and provide some simple tactics to help improve the well-being of your frequent travelers.
What the Science Says
The link between frequent business travel stress and health risks is firmly established in scientific literature.
For example, Andrew Rundle, Associate Professor of Epidemiology at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health, and his colleagues published a study in 2018 titled, “Business Travel and Behavioral and Mental Health.” The study assessed associations between business travel and behavioral and mental health. Thousands of business travelers were examined to determine the impacts of business travel on well-being.
The study found a strong correlation between the frequency of business travel and a variety of physical and behavioral health risks. The most common threats to health, which affected all travelers, included sleep trouble, unhealthy eating and drinking, and lack of exercise. For those who travel even more frequently, the threats of business travel stress expanded to include anxiety, depression and alcohol dependence.
Rundle’s study is just one of several that have concluded that business travel stress can have negative effects on workers’ health. Another study analyzed insurance claims among World Bank employees and found that travelers submitted far more claims than non-travelers for chronic diseases such as asthma and back disorders. A second World Bank study found that almost 75% of workers traveling for business internationally reported high or very high stress.
Lastly, a study from the Journal of Travel Medicine analyzed 12,942 health risk appraisal records of travelers and found that international business travel was significantly associated with excess alcohol consumption, sleep deprivation, and diminished confidence to keep up with the pace of work.
From these studies, it can be understood that business travel can take a toll on employees’ well-being, which ultimately translates to weaker work performance.
Improving Travelers’ Well-Being
One important takeaway from this research is that it is not anything inherent in the travel itself that increases the health risks of frequent corporate travelers. Rather, it is common side effects and symptoms related to all that travel: reduced or disrupted sleep, poor dietary options, highly stressful situations and so on. This is good news because it means that there are actually ways for companies to reduce the physical toll of frequent corporate travel.
It is in everyone's interest to have business travelers be happy and healthy. Here are ways to ensure this:1. Allow Business + Leisure (Bleisure) Trips
When travelers go to new and unique places they often are excited to see the area. But, they’re typically too busy with work responsibilities to have any leisure time. Allowing travelers to extend their trip after completing their job for leisure is a great way to let them de-stress and come back to work feeling good. This is what we call “bleisure trips” and we highly recommend organizations consider allowing them.
Overall, work trip extensions on business trips for leisure are becoming more and more popular. New research from Expedia Media Solutions shows that bleisure travel is thriving, with more than 60% of business trips in the past year including a leisure portion. Moreover, 67% of business travelers want to have the ability to extend their trip for leisure. Pedro Colaco, Great Hotels of the World (GHOTW) CEO, commented on the rise of bleisure trips saying, “Business travelers are drawn to extend their stay when they can find properties that offer both excellent business amenities in addition to perks not found in smaller, boutique hotels—this is the best of both worlds.” In order to make business travelers happier and healthier, it is a wise idea to allow for bleisure trips.2. Book Familiar Brands
Booking with familiar brands can help reduce the stress of traveling for employees because they will know what to expect. For example, with JetBlue, travelers know they will be getting free Wi-Fi, complimentary snacks, and in-seat TVs with free live television no matter how short the flight. Knowing what to expect means that travelers will not have to stress about what will and will not be offered. This allows them to focus on more important things. Having stress-free trips is more probable when sticking to tried-and-true brands.
3. Make Booking Easier
One of the most stressful aspects of corporate travel actually happens before a trip even starts: during the booking process. If business travelers in your organization book their own travel, it is important to make sure it is as easy as possible for them. Avoid using consumer sites such as Expedia and Booking.com, and opt for a corporate travel management platform. Corporate travel management platforms are better geared toward business travelers and make corporate booking faster and smarter. Here at Lola.com, we pride ourselves on being the easiest way to book corporate travel. Here are some of the ways we do this:
- Streamlined Travel Booking - Lola.com’s intuitive platform and consumer-grade mobile app connect you directly to our massive inventory of flights and hotels, making it easy to book the most convenient and affordable travel options for you and your colleagues. No more comparing fares across dozens of sites or bouncing between tabs.
- Preferences and Profiles - Hate red-eyes? Love a specific hotel chain (and its loyalty program)? Lola.com automatically stores traveler preferences and profiles so you can book corporate travel just the way you like it, with a single click. We also allow companies to integrate their travel policies right into our platform so employees do not have to worry about booking out of policy.
- Automatic Expensing - With Lola, paper receipts are a thing of the past. Lola integrates with popular expense platforms, such as Expensify, so it’s easier than ever to get reimbursed. Travel purchases are automatically submitted, whether or not they’re booked on the corporate card.
4. Educate Employees
The previously mentioned study by Andrew Rundle concluded that employers should provide programs to help employees manage stress and maintain a healthy lifestyle while traveling for work. Just like many companies have a well-being program for workplaces, they need to implement a well-being program for travelers. One suggestion Rundle has is to focus on teaching business travelers about how to make healthy food choices when traveling. This is important because oftentimes travelers end up getting stressed which leads them to eat unhealthy and calorie-dense foods. By preparing employees in advance to make good choices, they will be better set up to staying healthy and happy while traveling.
5. Travel Support
Providing business travelers with great support is extremely important to help with their well-being. One of the biggest problems with business travel is that travel can get confusing due to flight delays, cancelations, and misses. In fact, business travelers #1 fear is that their flights will be delayed. As we all know, trips don’t always go perfectly. Because of this, it is essential to have a support system for travelers to reach out too.
World-class travel support is often not something that travel managers, EA, and admins can typically provide. It is best to have a corporate travel management platform which provides support services. Here at Lola.com, all of our customers are given 24/7 live support from travel experts based right at our headquarters in Boston. This service is oftentimes what users love most about Lola.
Great Support = Great Travel Experience!
Travel stress often takes a toll on the mind and body, and this is especially true for business travel, which comes with added exertion and tighter timetables. You may not ever be able to eliminate the physical and mental toll of corporate travel, but by following these tips you can make it more manageable and create a happier, healthier work environment for your employees — wherever they are.