Editor, The Business Travel Magazine
Companies are waking up to the mental and physical impact of frequent business trips and are beginning to take action.
Business travel is not always the glamorous pursuit it’s billed as. Rather, it can be stressful, exhausting and unhealthy. Hours may be spent waiting at airports, on long-haul ‘red eye’ flights, rushing between meetings or even chasing down lost luggage.
Those travelling on business regularly can suffer serious detrimental effects to their mental and physical health.
Recent research from Amadeus showed that 80% of travel managers believe their colleagues sometimes experience high levels of stress while travelling on business, and 11% believe they suffer from stress most of the time.
Traveller wellbeing is a top priority for 2020
While the subject of traveller wellbeing has been a much talked about subject in the last 18 months, it is now among travel managers’ top priorities in 2020, according to the ITM, and companies are beginning to make changes.
Organisations are acutely aware that tired, ill, stressed and unhappy employees do not perform at their best, are more likely to book travel out of corporate policy and might even consider moving on.
There is recognition of the link between bad business travel experiences, staff absence and attrition, the cost of recruitment, and even potential reputational damage.
Encouragingly, Amadeus’ report also revealed that 39% of companies have actively taken measures to improve the wellbeing of their travelling employees. How they do that varies widely and businesses have different approaches.
Small, inexpensive changes can vastly improve the travel experience
Some make subtle tweaks to travel policy such as allowing rest days after long-haul trips or introducing something as simple as providing chauffeur transfers from airports rather than asking employees to tackle public transport – or even drive – after an overnight flight.
But some are taking it a step further and, with the help of travel management companies, keep records of hours spent on flights, the number of nights spent away from home and the number of time zones crossed in a month. They may also compare absenteeism among regular travellers and non-travelling employees.
This sort of data can be used to measure what is sometimes known as ‘trip intensity’ or ‘trip friction’.
Some companies now ask employees to fill out pre-trip forms to self-assess whether they are mentally and physically fit to travel.
Traveller wellbeing can also be addressed with simple steps such as reducing the number of indirect flights, minimising travel outside of office hours, choosing preferred hotels carefully or allowing some flexibility in their travel policy.
While that might set alarm bells ringing because of supposed increased costs, companies would do well to remember that replacing good employees can be a bigger and more expensive challenge altogether.