With workshops entitled “9 Secrets to Stay Energized, Healthy and Balanced When You Travel for Business” and “How Do You Measure Traveler Well-being,” the Global Business Travel Association cast a spotlight on the issue of business travelers’ health at this year’s convention in San Diego.
We don’t believe it’s a coincidence either. Lately, more and more attention is being paid to traveler well-being, especially after a study finding a strong correlation between the frequency of business travel and a range of physical and behavioral health risks was published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine in December 2017.
According to the report, corporate travelers who are away 14 or more nights in a month are significantly more likely to feel unhealthy, have trouble sleeping and deal with anxiety, depression and alcohol dependence. Regular business travelers also report higher levels of smoking and get little to no exercise.
It’s not only the individual travelers who suffer. The organization does, too.
As the researchers wrote, such issues “can create immediate costs through reduced employee productivity and performance, absenteeism, presenteeism, short-term disability and possibly strained or severed relationships with suppliers.”
Since accidents and injuries can occur as a result of alcohol use or lack of sleep and jet lag, this issue also blurs into a firm’s duty of care obligations.
To minimize the impact of frequent travel, employers should look to implement initiatives that promote more healthy behaviors on the road.
To get started, an organization might take a closer look at its travel program to understand how much traveling its employees actually are doing and if the amount of time they are spending on the road could lead to serious health consequences. To gain this kind of knowledge, you may use a data analytics tool to review KPIs such as the frequency of travel at an employee level, distances they have traveled and time they have spent on the ground at the destination. This will give you a clearer picture of the quality of your program and what types of issues your travelers may be running into and what kind of perks and solutions may be helpful.
Employers also may work toward educating employees about the impact the choices they make, when repeated over time, can have on their health. Some of this training easily can be done at a travel road show, where a nutritionist can come in and discuss healthier food options when dining out, in the airport or on the go as well as the health benefits of cooking your own meals when travelers have access to a kitchen while staying in an Airbnb accommodation or in a long-term serviced apartment.
An expert in stress management also may come in and teach some meditation and mindfulness techniques, which may be able to ease travel-related stress and improve sleep. Or a fitness trainer can demonstrate a workout routine that travelers can take with them on the road and do in their hotel rooms.
A company also may tout the benefits of physical activity on business trips through its employee wellness program. By the way, not only can exercise ward off weight gain and the associated side effects, but it also can boost one’s mood and help to alleviate jet lag.
But it can be hard to motivate one’s self to maintain a fitness routine on the road, especially if the hotel gym is dinky and dingy. Organizations can help in this regard by reviewing their in-policy accommodations to ensure there are plenty of options with nice gyms that entice travelers to work out. Today there even are some hotel brands that offer fitness equipment in their guest rooms.
Or instead of trying to seek out accommodations with superior fitness amenities, your organization may decide to offer travelers an allowance for day passes to fitness studios when they are traveling. Companies with mainly domestic travel programs also may consider providing traveling employees with memberships to gym chains with a national presence.
Of course, there is no quick fix. All these actions will take time to implement. Since we would hate to see it get to that point, here are 20 business health and wellness travel tips for your travel program to demonstrate how much you prioritize your traveling employees’ health and well-being.