The Impact Of Business Travel On Mental Health And How To Create A More Supportive Workplace
As a people leader, you’re probably well aware of how your team’s mental health affects their success at work. Employees experience stress and burnout from numerous things including:
- Increasing workloads
- Rapid technological change
- Changing market demands
- Lack of work-life balance
- Business travel
Business travel can have a significant impact on mental health, especially if it is frequent or unpredictable.
Employees who travel for business may experience:
- Jet lag
- Disrupted sleep patterns
- Social isolation
- Difficulty maintaining work-life balance
- Stress from meeting deadlines and dealing with unexpected problems
A recent survey by Opinium on behalf of World Travel Protection found that the most common mental health implications of business travel are exhaustion (32%), stress (30%), homesickness (29%), and anxiety (28%).
Dr. Joel Lockwood, Chief Medical Officer, Canada, World Travel Protection, highlights the rise of homesickness and deteriorating mental health among travellers since the pandemic. “The stress of travel and being away from traditional support networks is challenging for many people, and this is compounded by a burnout created by the Covid-19 pandemic. The severity of episodes and shortness of onset are certainly key areas to watch,” he said.
Here are some ways to support the psychological health of your team while keeping up with the demands of business and business travel:
Creating a psychologically healthy workplace
A psychologically healthy workplace has many components based on communication, workload, trust, and support for business travel. Some signs of a psychologically healthy workplace include:
- Trust in managers, supervisors, and senior management
- A clear understanding of the organisation’s vision and strategy for all employees at all levels
- Clearly defined individual duties and responsibilities
- A safe environment where employees feel they can voice their opinions and are encouraged to do so as needed
- Recognition for good work and service
- Well-managed workload
- Work-life balance, including support for business travel
- Respectful behaviour to all employees regardless of level
- Established conflict resolution practices
- Professional training and learning opportunities
- Programmes in place to help reduce the stigma of mental health issues
- Resources, such as an assistance programme, for those seeking help
Supporting employees who travel for business
As the travel industry continues to navigate the new normal, it is imperative for employers to prioritise the wellbeing of their employees and take concrete steps to ensure safe and stress-free travel. Increased communication, pre-travel briefings, the use of travel apps and other measures to address the concerns of business travellers are crucial to promoting a healthy and productive work environment.
In addition to the general support strategies listed above, there are some specific things you can do to support employees who travel for business:
- Provide clear and realistic expectations. Employees should know what to expect in terms of workload, deadlines, and travel arrangements.
- Be flexible with work schedules. Employees who are travelling may need to work odd hours to accommodate time zone changes and meeting schedules.
- Encourage employees to take breaks. It is important for employees to take breaks throughout the day, especially when travelling. Encourage them to get up and move around, and to take some time for themselves to relax and de-stress.
- Provide support for social connection. Employees who are travelling may feel isolated from their colleagues and friends. Encourage them to stay in touch with their loved ones and to take advantage of opportunities to socialize with other business travelers.
- Be aware of the signs of stress and burnout. If you notice that an employee is struggling, offer them support and encourage them to seek professional help if needed.
Travel risk management strategies
Travel risk management is the process of identifying, assessing, and mitigating the risks associated with business travel. This includes risks to the employee’s physical safety, mental health, and security.
Some travel risk management strategies that can help to protect the mental health of employees include:
- Developing a travel risk assessment process. This process should be used to identify the risks associated with each trip and to develop mitigation strategies.
- Providing employees with training on travel safety and security. This training should include information on how to avoid common travel scams, cybersecurity, mental and physical assessments, how to stay safe in different environments, and how to deal with emergencies.
- Providing employees with access to travel assistance services. These services can provide employees with support and advice in the event of an emergency.
By implementing these strategies, you can create a psychologically healthy workplace and support the mental health of your employees, even when they are travelling for business.
Here are some additional tips for supporting the mental health of employees who travel for business:
- Encourage employees to talk about their experiences. This can help them to process their emotions and to feel less isolated.
- Be understanding and supportive. Remember that travelling for business can be stressful and demanding.
- Offer employees resources and support. This could include providing them with access to mental health professionals, employee assistance programs, or other resources.
By taking these steps, you can help to ensure that your employees have a positive experience when travelling for business and that they return to work feeling refreshed and motivated.