Stress of Business Travel and How to Beat It
It’s easy to see what attracts people to embrace work which involves a regular amount of travel. The chance to see new places, meet new people, experience new food and cultures – and all on the company’s tab – can’t be underestimated.
Many people value the opportunity to travel for work as being almost as important as a pay rise or a promotion*
But despite the apparent glamour, as any weathered road warrior will tell you, there are definite downsides to travelling so frequently, which inevitably can take its toll, once the glitz and novelty of airport lounges and free upgrades has lost its lustre.
When Business Travel is Just Regular ‘Work Travel’
Firstly there’s the misapprehension that business travel always means travelling in, well, business or first class. The reality is that’s quite often not the case, especially for SMEs and owner-operators, with most road warriors having to slum it in economy or premium economy if they’re lucky.
According to one recent US study, only 4% of business travellers travel in business or first class on domestic flights. The numbers do jump slightly for international (6%) and intercontinental flights (33%) but the vast majority of traveling managers travel in economy being mindful of cost savings.’
The Perils of Hypermobility
For many then, ‘business travel’ really just means long distance commuting. Some commentators have pointed out the false economy behind flying economy for long haul trips, citing the chronic impact jetlag can have on your circadian rhythm and your general health and wellbeing in the longer term.
According to Scott Cohen, one of the authors of a report into the Darker Side of Mobility, ‘If you fly just 85,000 miles a year, which is the equivalent of flying return from New York to Tokyo seven times a year, you've already exceeded the safe limit for radiation exposure.’
There are a number of key stressors involved with regular business travel and while some of the biggies may simply be beyond your control (such as delays and lost luggage) there are others which you can prepare for and insure yourself against maximum impact.
These are some of the biggest stress triggers for regular business travellers, along with some measures you can take to fight back against business travel stress.
The Backlog of Work
How to best tackle the backlog, particularly answering email,
that accumulates during your business trip is a perennial issue and boils down to personal choice.
Putting your out of office on may manage some expectations from colleagues, and you can state in this that you will only be replying to urgent questions while you’re travelling.
If you are planning to do some work on the road, make the most of airport lounges for their reliable internet and quiet spaces to think.
You can also use productivity tools like messaging app Slack, which many business people claim reduce email load in general and also keep business communication restricted to specific channels of your choosing. Then there’s that other perennial first world problem to contend with: Flaky or non-existent internet coverage.
The Loneliness of Perpetual Travel
While some younger business travellers initially enjoy the accumulation of perceived social status that exotic travel brings - and the inevitable one-up-man-ship encouraged by sharing your latest glamorous check in on social media.
This can be a problem in itself, as evidenced by the growth of the #FOMO (or fear of missing out) phenomenon with travellers seeking to notch up as many destinations as they can to boost their social status.
But most will tell you that combating loneliness is one of the biggest battles they face on a regular basis. This is especially pertinent for those with families and younger children. For parents, some of the key stressors include a lack of family time, a blurring of worklife balance due to travelling over the weekend and departures at unsociable hours. These can put undue strain on relationships and exacerbate symptoms of depression.
Make the most of Skype and Facetime to ensure you get to speak to your loved ones and see the whites of their eyes while you're away. Also try to bring back simple gifts from your destination, to show them that you're thinking of them.
Frequent travel can put a strain on your physical health too. It’s not always so easy to find healthy food choices when you’re on the road. Airline meals often have a high sugar and salt content to make them as appealing as possible, and while your hotel may have a gym you might not always get time to use it.
It could be worth weighing up the relative cost of economy vs super-economy / premium-economy or business. While it’s tempting to always try to save money on long haul flights, not looking after yourself has a cost too and this needs to be factored in.
Here are some more general tips to help you best manage the range of issues that constant business travel inevitably brings.
Simply being organised and planning ahead can take a lot of stress out of travel. Some things to think about: have you organised visas, booked transport to and from the airport, checked in online, printed your itinerary, found the best places to eat, contacted any connections in the area, got the right adaptors, had the right jabs, downloaded books to your Kindle or tablet etc?
And if you’re a senior executive, which of these tasks might you be to offload onto your assistant?
Feel refreshed when you arrive at your destination
Travel is tiring in itself but there are some easy ways to make sure you feel ready for a day of meetings wherever you are heading to.
- Catch up with emails, eat and then relax in the business lounge when you arrive at the airport.
- Wear comfy clothes, wash your face and clean your teeth before you board – that way you can go straight to sleep.
- Pack some healthy snacks and keep hydrated with a bottle of water.
- Beat jet lag with the Jet Lag Rooster app
- Find the best seat possible with Seat Guru
- And finally, keep toiletries and business clothes accessible, so you can freshen up before disembarking.
Know where you're going
Whether you're heading to a new city or one you've been to before, finding your bearings is a great confidence booster. Check where your hotel is before you arrive and any restaurants, attractions etc that you'd like to visit.
It's also worth downloading a city map app like Triposo to help you get around. Google Maps is worth considering, but it's not great for offline use.
Knowing how to get around (by bus/metro/tram/taxi etc) can also be extremely useful. Check your destination airport's website or tourist information for local transport options.
City Mapper is a great local transport app to consider. It's not available worldwide but it does cover 31 well-known cities, including London, New York, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Paris and more.
Learn some key phrases for your destination
There's nothing worse than arriving in a country and not understanding the language. Luckily for UK travellers, English is spoken in most countries but knowing a few key phrases will not only help you but will also go down well with locals. Try apps like Google Translate and Way Go (specifically for Chinese, Japanese and Korean translations) to give you head start.
We particularly like the Word Lens tool on Google Translate, where you point your camera at a foreign word and it's translated in real time.
Upload your documents to the cloud
You may feel happier transporting hard copies of your most important business documents with you, but cloud-based storage – such as Dropbox, Google Drive and iCloud– is a great way of keeping important files safe and accessible from anywhere in the world and on multiple devices.
Take some time out to explore the city you’re visiting
More and more business travellers are taking leisure time when they travel for business. It not only can make a difference to productivity and morale, but simply taking a couple of days either before or after a trip can also give you time to adjust to time differences, do some sight seeing, try out local restaurants, build some cultural knowledge which is always useful in business – and most importantly spend quality time with family, loved ones or friends.
To find out how CTM can help you with your business travel, give us a call on 0870 470 8702 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.