- Business travel is essential for many employees, but it can be a major source of stress if not planned correctly.
- Travel-related stress can negatively impact work performance and distract workers from doing their jobs effectively.
- Anyone who travels for business should take measures to reduce stress and ensure their work doesn't suffer.
Traveling for any reason is usually stressful, but especially for business travelers. According to a national survey by On Call International, a travel risk management company, over one-third of American business travelers feel more stressed than usual while traveling.
The survey also revealed how impactful the hectic, high-pressure nature of business travel is in perpetuating unhealthy diets, lack of regular exercise, poor sleeping habits, and even unhealthy vices: 16% of travelers said they drink more on business trips than they usually do, and 8% said they are more likely to smoke cigarettes.
"These results are concerning, and it is up to both business travelers and their employers to turn the trend around," said Dr. William Siegart, chief medical officer at On Call International, in a statement. "Organizations have a duty of care to ensure the health and safety of their traveling employees and should focus on mitigating the dangers of their travelers falling into unhealthy habits on the road."
In light of these findings, Siegart recommends organizations take an active role in preparing their employees for business travel, such as hosting pre-travel workshops that reinforce healthy travel behaviors and encourage travelers to identify and manage their most frequent causes of stress.
"These best practices can also have a positive impact on travelers' overall, long-term health," Siegart said.
While organizations should step up and invest in the health and well-being of their traveling employees, travelers should be proactive and do everything in their power to make their trips run smoothly. Here are some tips for business travelers to make the most of their time away.
1. Plan ahead to save time.
Plan as many details in advance as possible. Create a travel checklist, and check out programs for expediting the airport security process, such as Global Entry for international travel and Clear for domestic and international travel.
2. Use travel apps.
Use travel apps such as Yelp and Tripadvisor to help you find hotels and places to eat, CamCard to scan and save all the business cards you collected, and Expensify to capture and itemize receipts, mileage, and other expenses. This will keep you organized and reduce stress during your trip.
3. Clarify expectations with your supervisor.
In the days leading up to your trip, meet with your manager to set clear goals and objectives, and try to connect as often as possible while you're away.
4. Take advantage of downtime.
Spending every moment of your trip on work only adds to the stress of travel. Use short lulls in your trip to unplug, recharge and explore when possible.
5. Work while you travel.
If you have some downtime on a long flight or train ride, why not get ahead on some work? You may not have all the resources you need, but if you can take care of backlogged work before you arrive, it may reduce stress.
6. Get enough sleep.
This is a good tip in general, but it's especially relevant when you travel. Lack of sleep can raise stress levels and reduce cognitive function. It can be difficult to maintain healthy sleep patterns while you travel, especially if there is a time difference, but making the effort will go a long way in reducing potential stress.
7. Make arrangements.
The more you plan, the less stress you'll have come trip time. If you leave anything up to chance, the likelihood that problems will arise increases dramatically. Book a hotel and transportation as soon as you've committed to making the trip, and don't forget about the little things, like scheduling appointments or car service.
8. Don't get lost.
If you're traveling to a place you have never been before or have little familiarity with, stay on the beaten path unless you have a guide. Although it's acceptable to explore in your free time, business travel is not a vacation. If you get lost driving to a restaurant on the other side of town or searching for some other attraction, it will only add stress.
9. Stay focused.
Business travel can be a welcome break from the norm, but remember that you're still working. If you get lazy and treat it like a day off, it's likely your work will suffer. If you don't end up accomplishing what you've been sent to do, it will cost your company time and money that will inevitably cause problems when you return to work.
10. Take time to yourself.
If travel normally causes you stress, then it's important to take time to relax. Don't get too chill and forget what you came to do, but take an hour or two to unwind and sit by the pool, or have a relaxing dinner once your work is done. This will help you reset your mind and focus on the tasks ahead.
11. Call friends or family.
Sometimes the stress of travel comes from what you're leaving behind more than the activity itself. If you are worried about your spouse and children, your elderly parents, or any people close to you, give them a call when your work is done. With all the technology available today, there's no reason to let physical distance keep you from communicating with loved ones.
12. Ace the mission.
The best way to relieve stress is to accomplish the task you're stressed about. If you have a big meeting or interview coming up that's giving you anxiety, take a deep breath and prepare as much as possible. Once you've done enough prep to feel confident, the nerves will start to disappear, and you'll be better equipped to take on whatever challenge is causing you stress.