For people who don’t, travelling for business is often viewed as a high flying, glamorous lifestyle…something to envy and aspire to. You get to visit far off destinations, experience the luxury of expensive hotels and if you’re lucky…you might even get to travel in business class! This perception has only been magnified in recent years with the likes of Facebook and Instagram giving us back home a filtered glimpse into the lives of the travelling elite.
But whilst there certainly are many perks to travelling regularly with work, studies have shown Frequent flying can have many negative effects on an employee’s physiological, psychological and emotional well-being.
As part of your companies Duty Of Care compliance, it’s important to think about these effects and put in place solutions to ensure your employees don’t burn themselves out – which isn’t good for the traveller or for your company.
Here are some of the different ways ‘hypermobility’ can affect your business travellers:
Effects on the Body
Travelling at speed through the sky in high pressured cabins can has many negative effects on the human body. These are arguably the most well-known effects of flying as we have all experienced them in some form when travelling for leisure. For those of us who only fly a couple of times a year, these effects have no long lasting impact, but for those who fly regularly, these effects can become more serious.
Jet Lag, which is caused by crossing time zones at high speed and de-synchronising the body’s circadian rhythm, can cause things such as insomnia, disorientation and nausea – making easy tasks seem much harder as your body is confused and thinks it’s time for sleep – not ideal if you have an important business meeting to attend! According to the American Sleep Association, Jet Lag affects about 93 percent of travellers and can last up to several days, which is sometimes the entire length of the business trip.
Other symptoms from regular flying include the increased risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis from long periods of sitting in the same position, as well as catching colds much more easily due to the contained environment and foreign germs which we may not have come across before.
Another serious effect from flying is the increased exposure to radiation caused by the thinner air containing less gas molecules to deflect the cosmic rays coming from outer space.
But maybe the most worrying of all – scientists now believe chronic jet lag can disrupt the gene expression that influences and quickens the aging process in our bodies.
Social and Psychological Effects
Whilst we all may be looking on with envy at that friend who is off jet setting with work– how many of us consider the effects being away from home regularly can have on a person’s own wellbeing, as well as the strain it can have on their loved ones left waiting?
Being away from your support network can invoke feelings of isolation and loneliness, as well feelings of guilt for all those missed birthdays and important social events.
For those left at home, having a loved one away for a considerable amount of time can mean an increased share of domestic duties, leading to resentment, and in some cases, a breakdown in relationships.
Studies also show there can be psychological effects for children, causing changes in their behaviour due to the emotional impact of a parent being away.
There is also stress and anxiety to consider – missed flights and delays whilst dealing with Jet Lag and workloads can all contribute to negative psychological impacts.
Effects on the Business
Whilst your employee’s well-being is always the number one concern, there is also the impact on your company’s productivity to consider.
‘Traveller Friction’ is the term that describes the emotional and physical wear and tear on a Business Travellers well-being. Ask any seasoned traveller and they will have a ‘journey from hell’ story to tell you about. But going beyond the anecdotes, how productive is an employee going to be when they are in a constant cycle of Jet Lag?
If you are paying for an employee to travel to worldwide destinations, chances are they are highly valued and contribute massively to the company’s overall success. Ensuring they are emotionally and physically cared for is both an ethical and legal obligation and something which should be viewed with the utmost importance.
Unhappy travellers equal increased staff turnover, and it can be very expensive to replace your highly valued employees.
There will always be a need for business travel, it’s essential in growing a company and maintaining close links with employees and clients in different time zones. But as we are becoming more aware of the negative effects of regular travel, companies are having to consider the importance of alleviating travel friction.
This can be achieved in many ways and if you have a good Travel Management Company on board, they will be able to work alongside you to incorporate this into your own travel policy. A good place to start would be to run a traveller satisfaction survey which will gauge how your own travellers are feeling. These results will then enable you to make the relevant changes to your policy and to maintain a healthy workforce.
Whilst getting the best price for business trips is always an important factor, should this factor be placed above the traveller’s well-being? Business class is an expensive antidote to many of the stresses that come with flying, but there are other more cost-effective options to consider too; direct flights, airport lounge access and ensuring your travellers don’t have to work over weekends would all have a positive impact on reducing travel friction without costing the world.
A study by Dr Scott Cohen from the University of Surrey found that individuals who have to travel regularly on business either 'flourish' or 'flounder’. With businesses and the world becoming ever more globalised, it’s in everyone’s interest to make sure their own business travellers are the ones that flourish.