Business travel can be a great way to improve productivity and performance, but it can also come at the expense of employee wellbeing. A study conducted by Collison found that 35% of business travellers had concerns about the impact of travel on their mental health and admitted that they had at some point given a false reason to avoid having to travel for work.
Those who frequently travel for work often face unique challenges that other workers do not, affecting their mental health. They can feel isolated from their homes, family and regular routines. Changing time zones can also throw off their sleep patterns. All of this negatively impacts employee productivity, negatively impacting your company's bottom line.
"Employers should provide additional support to employees who travel for work to alleviate the stress associated with business travel and increase their desire to travel for business," says Oz Desai, GM Corporate Traveller.
As business travel picks up, employees may feel anxious about flying and turn to their employers for guidance on staying safe. However, with the right support, employees can travel confidently once again.
"Corporate travel managers are looking to the future and thinking about how they can help their employees feel confident about travelling again. Wellness initiatives and strategies are being incorporated into travel programmes to alleviate some of the worry and stress that comes with planning and executing business travel," says Desai.
"As travel managers, it is our responsibility to look for ways to reduce travel risk and stress and ensure the safety and wellbeing of all travellers. This shift from simply maximising value and savings to a policy that puts people first requires a new level of dedication and commitment from us," he continues.
Now more than ever, travellers need to be reassured that flying is safe and that their physical and mental wellbeing is a priority.
7 ways to improve mental health by updating travel policies
1. Help business travellers make healthier choices
Travel managers and employees should work together to make healthier choices while travelling. This could include choosing a more convenient flight time, choosing a hotel with a gym, or increasing the per diem to allow for a healthy room service breakfast.
2. Reward healthy travel habits
You can modify travel wellness policies that help travellers achieve better balance. For example, enable them to work from home on their return, or provide a full post-trip duvet day to help employees feel well rested. Encourage employees to participate in a healthy travel programme by offering incentives such as gift cards or perks.
3. Improve the travel experience to prevent burnout
Employees who travel a lot for work can be under a lot of stress. To ease their anxiety, consider frequent flyer programmes which offer perks like free upgrades and lounge access, or schedule a rest day after flights that exceed a certain distance or time.
4. Give them more choices
Business travellers should have the freedom to choose the services and accommodations they prefer (within policy). That way, they can tailor their travel experience to their own needs and preferences.
5. Think beyond the hotel option
Serviced apartments offer a homier atmosphere than traditional hotel accommodations, allowing business travellers to maintain their daily routines while away from home. With access to a fully equipped kitchen, for example, business travellers can prepare healthy meals instead of eating out daily – which is great for longer trips.
6. Promote “bleisure trips”
Bleisure travel is growing in popularity because it offers a more flexible and enjoyable way to combine work and play. Unlike business travel, which can often be stressful, bleisure travel promotes wellbeing by allowing employees to recharge their batteries through a combination of business and leisure travel. These can be business trips that are extended to include personal time or vacations that include business components.
7. Provide support every step of the way
With business travel resuming after the pandemic, a smooth, efficient process is more important than ever. Business travellers often have to deal with missing details, last-minute changes and tedious expense management – all of which can add to a lot of stress. Easy access to a travel management platform and the support of a travel manager will streamline the process. All these elements can make a big difference for busy professionals travelling.
"When designing a travel policy for your company, it's important to consider all aspects of travel, not just cost. A well-designed travel programme should consider employee needs and preferences to create a culture that makes business travel a positive experience," says Desai.
Companies should sit down and think about what their employees want from the future of business travel to make the experience less stressful. Only by understanding this can they develop a well-communicated travel risk management (TRM) programme.