Exhaustion, stress and anxiety – compared to before the pandemic, business travellers are increasingly experiencing these feelings, reports a recent Opinium survey published in Forbes.
Arguably, the loss of muscle memory around travel was one of the enduring consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. And, as we hear that more travellers are taking less frequent but longer trips – in part driven by companies’ sustainability commitments – they’re away from home for extended periods. Add in the effects of routine change, plus the potential added pressure to go out for late dinners, the difficulty in maintaining personal diets and the disruption to sleep patterns, business travellers may experience a considerable impact on their mental health.
The Global Business Travel Association highlighted that in 2023 ‘Traveller wellbeing should be at the forefront of all risk programmes’ and this remains a fundamental outlook for corporate travel as we approach 2024.
Supporting employees when they travel for work is not only the right and responsible thing to do for their wellbeing, but there is a business case for it too. If employees are arriving at, and spending time in, destinations well rested, calm and focused, that translates in better performance and ultimately, a better return on investment.
The role of the travel manager therefore plays an integral part in helping their organisations’ travellers maintain good mental health. Take time, with your travel management companies (TMCs), to review where wellbeing and mental health support can be woven into your travel policies.
Read on for tips on how to minimise travel stress and ensure business travel has a more positive impact on mental health for every traveller.
Minimise stress: plan ahead
· Where possible, switch to day rather than night flights to minimise jet lag. Not everyone can sleep well on a plane and the cost of that could be a lack of energy and an impact on business performance on arrival. Would the traveller be more comfortable in a window or aisle seat, depending on the length of the journey? Or would booking the class above help travellers have a more restful experience?
· Also consider if the flight is very early morning, can your traveller get to the airport easily? Make a point of considering the entire journey from the traveller’s home to their hotel and minimise the stress of that journey.
· Ask your travellers prior to booking if they would like to share whether they may need additional support with any pre-existing conditions.
· Also consider that one in six people now live with a disability, according to the World Health Organisation. And, of those, the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Scheme has estimated that 80% live with a non-visible disability. Review with your TMC where you can ensure any traveller with a disability can have the best possible travel experience.
· Ensure passports and visas are up-to-date and valid for where your traveller is visiting. Check the type of luggage allowed on the ticket type too – if it’s cabin luggage only, find out if you’re allowed a bag for the overhead locker as well as under the seat.
· Easily manage boarding cards by downloading them to your wallet on your smartphone. Reed & Mackay clients who have opted for online check-in can also easily access travel documents via R&M/Mobile.
· Provide maps of airports or other large-scale areas, such as conference or exhibition centres, that your travellers are visiting. Add information such as whether those venues offer delegates a wellness space or relaxation hub. And include full details of the trip so the traveller knows exactly where they’re going for meetings or events, how they’ll get there and how long it takes.
· Include details of who to contact in case of an emergency during a trip, from local offices of your company to embassies.
time off in lieu
· Work with your organisation to offer time off in lieu if a trip takes several days, particularly if it lasts overs a weekend. Ask your TMC for data on bookings on how many hours travellers have flown and across how many time zones. This can be translated into relatable data that demonstrates how many extra days work is involved, to show to C-suite.
· Is there an opportunity to offer blended travel – bleisure – at the end of a trip? If you’re combining leisure travel with a business trip, plan ahead for approved trips and excursions. What is your company’s duty of care policy for your spare time and/or extended stay?
· Check back in with your travellers on their return and collate any feedback to inform subsequent trips.
· If exercise is important to your mental health, check with your hotel whether they offer on-site leisure facilities. If you prefer running, check where there are nearby free park runs, or if the hotel has details on any running groups you could join if you don’t want to run alone.
· Provide numbers for the emergency services at the traveller’s destination.
· Check ahead with the hotel or accommodation if it’s safe to walk in the area, plus the safety of public transport from the hotel to any meeting points.
· Can you provide travellers with in-country training prior to departure? With your TMC review the protocols around disruption and how you’ll get travellers back home.
· There are numerous ways, before and during travel, to reduce the risks while travelling alone on business trips. We partner with risk management company, Crisis24, to power our unique travel risk platform, R&M/Protect. Read more advice from their experts for solo female travellers.
are you a reed & mackay client?
You can link to Sherpa in the R&M Portal to find all the latest travel and health restrictions from around the world.
Clients also have access to R&M/Protect, a unique travel risk platform providing traveller tracking. And Reed & Mackay’s Incident Management Unit is always prepared to assist and ensure the safety of your travellers. Contact your Client Success Manager for more information.