Better coping strategies needed to manage business travel ill-effects

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A psychologist has suggested business travellers should develop “coping strategies” after a survey found 32% of employees who regularly travel for work have felt ill or have missed out on sleep.

According to a report from Capita Travel and Events, 15% of workers who travel for work-related reasons have regularly struggled with their mental health, rising to almost one in five (19%) among 25-34 year olds.

One in five (19%) said their physical health had been negatively affected by their business travel commitments.

This, the report says, mirrors the findings of a study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, which found that those who travelled for work for 21 or more days per month had trouble sleeping, mild anxiety, symptoms of depression and were more likely to smoke..

Capita Travel and Events’ head of behavioural science Jonti Dalal-Small said: “Travelling used to be a thrilling aspect of the workplace. Some people used to take jobs just to be able to travel because it was an exciting prospect – but now it’s a real chore. It used to be an adventure, now it causes dread and uncertainty, with all sorts of problems.

“It can vary for different people. Each generation is becoming better at understanding wellbeing – jobs used to be a case of ‘like it or lump it’, but the younger generation are understanding those factors well. I believe the reason the younger generation are struggling more with their mental health is because they have a better understanding of what it means.

“That being said, I think a more experienced traveller develops coping strategies. For me, I know different ways to make it easier, even if it’s just collecting my tickets ahead of time. It reduces my stress and you see quite a difference in behaviour. I think the biggest thing for those who travel for work is finding a way to reduce stress and alleviate pressure.”

The Unnoticed impact of business travel report finds that 40% of employees usually returned home late after being asked to travel, which the report suggests could prompt safety concerns in the dark winter months.

Interestingly, 27% of women and 22% of men said they had had to walk somewhere they felt was unsafe when travelling to a meeting, while 23% of business travellers have had to park somewhere they didn’t feel safe.

Regular business travel was also affecting employees’ diet: 53% said they often arrived home too late to cook a proper meal, 47% often had to get a takeaway on the way home, and 39% had missed a meal entirely.

Oliver Davies, a brewery financial executive, travels for work around three days per week – often between 800 and 1,000 miles in total.

He says in the report: “It can be lonely at times. Not only do I not see my friends or my wife, but half of the time I’m driving by myself. It definitely has a negative impact, it caused me to change jobs once before – but it’s affected by what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.”

Capita’s report suggests employers could help reduce the pressure placed on employees by scheduling meetings so that staff avoid travelling during the rush hour and by finding a “mutually beneficial” location that shortens employees’ travel time.

The survey involved 502 business travellers – defined as those who “regularly” travel significant distances for work.

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