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Frequent business travel can exacerbate stress and burnout

Frequent business travel can exacerbate stress and burnout

Almost a third (28%) of business travellers surveyed said having a personal day around during a work trip would help, and 27% said they would be more likely to stay at a company that allowed this.

While many employees enjoy business travel and see the importance and benefit it can have, a new Opinium survey commissioned by World Travel Protection showed that may not be the case for those frequent travellers, especially when there is a lack of support from employers.

Having surveyed 500 Australian business travellers, the data found that despite half of the surveyed reporting a positive influence of travelling for work on their mental wellbeing, many feel frequent travel adds to stress and burnout (47%), and gets worse for those who travel at least once every two months (56%).

*While the survey was conducted in Australia, HRO believes the results remain relevant to our readership in Asia.

The data showed that many travellers struggle with mental health due to work travel. The most common feeling experienced by Australians on business trips is:

  • homesickness/missing their family (38%),
  • feeling exhausted (37%),
  • anxious (34%),
  • stressed (32%), and
  • lonely (26%)

Experiencing depression, high anxiety and a panic attack are also a concern for many travellers (48%), especially younger travellers between 18-34 years (58%).

In that sense, at least one in four travellers (27%) has sought mental health support to address the challenges of work travel, with the number increasing to more than one third (36%) for frequent flyers who travel at least once every two months.

However, more than a third (35%) feel their organisation does not take their wellbeing seriously when travelling for business.

Dr Neil Slabbert, Regional Chief Medical Officer (Asia-Pacific) at World Travel Protection, highlighted that having peace of mind about their own safety when abroad can play a big part in how confident employees feel when they are working.

“Organisations have an obligation to ensure their employees feel supported when they’re away from home and their loved ones, both from a physical safety and mental health perspective,” he noted.

Supporting initiatives from employers include:

  • providing pre-trip medical and country intelligence
  • supporting daily family or next-of-kin video calls
  • downloading a wellness or meditation app to the employee’s phone
  • having a solid action plan in case of an emergency

The rise of 'bleisure' travel

Interestingly, many Australians are riding on the trend of 'bleisure' travel – by incorporating leisure time into their business travel itinerary – to improve their happiness when travelling for work.

Almost a third (28%) said they feel less burnt out and stressed if a work trip allows for a personal day around or during a trip, with 27% saying they would be more likely to stay at a company that allowed for this.

Psychologist Patrea O'Donoghue said whether it's exploring local cuisine, enjoying quiet moments, or engaging in conversations with locals, these experiences enrich employees’ journey and foster a deeper connection to the present moment, especially when they are feeling overwhelmed or homesick. This can allow them to decompress and recharge, and lead to greater overall wellbeing and improved productivity.

She also advised proactively managing expectations with employers before travel, addressing workload, boundaries and the importance of downtime to promote more effective and sustainable work travel.

“It’s important to maintain routines during business trips, which can provide stability and control in unfamiliar environments. Consistently adhering to your exercise routine and opting for nutritious, light meals while travelling can also help you feel more like yourself."

Lead image / 123RF

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