The Health Effects of Business Travel

Travel is essential for many businesses and employees in order to provide a more personal connection to potential and current clients. Those tasked with traveling undoubtedly know what to expect and may enjoy getting to see new locations, but too much travel can easily lead to health problems and burnout. Regardless of how necessary work trips are for the company, it is important to allow flexibility and work-life balance for employees.

According to a study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, individuals who spent at least fourteen nights away from home per month, compared to those spending one to six nights per month away, had a higher body mass index, poor self-rated health, lack of physical activity, symptoms of anxiety, depression, and more. While only 12% of the employees included in the study traveled this frequently, employers should take considerations as to how travel plays into the physical, behavioral, and mental health of employees.

What’s Causing the Negative Health Effects of Business Travel?

Think about the average trip, particularly when it involves flying. Most of the employees are not those at the top level and are more than likely traveling with only a small budget.

The stress of flying

Preparing for a trip and ensuring everything needed is packed and ready, getting to the airport with enough time to make it through security and to the correct gate, boarding, handling possible layovers and flight changes before arriving, renting a car, and then getting to a hotel that may or may not have the amenities they need. The stress of simply getting there is enough to wear anyone out.

Lack of healthy food options

Some traveling employees have also noted the lack of healthy food options surrounding the area, leaving them with no choice but ordering out for pizza or visiting a fast-food chain.

Strain on relationships

Travel also wears on a person’s wellbeing. Many will send only one employee, leading to a feeling of loneliness as they leave behind friends, family, and coworkers. Some may develop family or relationship issues as those at home feel they are away too much and miss important events or milestones, or simply because they aren’t there to help with the day-to-day household management. Unfortunately, when they do eventually get home, there’s not much time for rest and recovery as the person attempts to make up for lost time, often making them feel more fatigued.

Exposure to germs

Of course, food, physical activity, and mental health are only part of it. Frequent travel can expose a person to all sorts of viruses and bacteria, especially for those who travel internationally. Even with precautions in place, stress and fatigue can lower the immune system, making it even easier to get sick. Not only that, but other health problems may arise, as well, such as symptomless deep-vein thrombosis, which can lead to fatal blood clots.

How Frequent Business Travel can Poorly Impact a Business

Some employees feel they are unable to voice their concerns regarding their frequent travel if they believe it will hurt their future opportunities or result in management looking down on them. Should the employee be subjected to too much travel, it may lead to feeling over-stressed or over-worked and a poor work-life balance.

Attempting to work through that can easily cause burnout, driving good employees away, and if the practice does not change, high turnover could become common within the role. Even if a frequently-traveling employee does decide to stay, arising health issues can lead to more sick days or the potential for having to go out on sick leave due to a major health concern.

What Companies Can Do to Reduce the Negative Health Effects of Business Travel

Any business that utilizes travel should always be aware of their policies and know when or if they need to change. Perhaps travel needs to become more limited or ensure it is more comfortable and enjoyable by spending the extra amount on business class and allowing for time at the location that doesn’t involve any work. The most important thing a company can do is allow employees to be open and honest. Travel may be unavoidable, but everyone should feel that admitting they feel overwhelmed will not be held against them.

If you are concerned that your company is not getting the honest feedback it needs from employees, utilize a comprehensive third-party survey, such as HSD Metrics’ StayRight stay interview. In the event an employee decides to leave, make sure you get insight into turnover benchmarks with in-depth analytics through an outsourced exit interview, like ExitRight®.

For more information about our available survey options, or to schedule a live demo, contact us today.