How Is Business Travel Affecting Your Wellness Stats?
Corporate Wellness Policy
Is business travel specifically addressed in your corporate wellness policy? Evidence shows that good travel management and enlightened travel policies can have a positive influence on morale, motivation, wellness and absenteeism. Is it time you took a second look?
Hours of travelling, time zone changes, back-to-back meetings and hectic schedules can take their toll on the body and mind. What’s more, the lifestyle changes that travel incurs compound these problems. Limited physical activity, poor or disrupted sleep, unhealthy food options, and dehydration from flights all take their toll – negatively impacting both employer and employee.
What are the problems?
We know there is a link between fatigue and low productivity. Analysis by RAND Europe estimates that the effects of sleep deprivation on health and productivity are costing the UK up to £40bn each year. Where business travel involves punishing schedules, out-of-hours travelling and crossing time zones, it can significantly contribute to this lost productivity. What’s more, it can affect employee health and stress levels.
A study by the Mailman School of Public Health at Colombia University found that people who travelled most frequently for work were more prone to obesity and, consequently, obesity-related diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. Another survey by Christopher Barnes, associate professor at Foster School of Business, University of Washington, found that daily sleep quality directly influenced leaders’ self-control. Those who were sleep deprived were rated as significantly more abusive and toxic in personal interactions.
In addition, we know that work-related stress can cause impaired immune systems, absenteeism, anxiety, depression, and affect physical health.
Employers’ Duty of Care
Employers need to address these risks, not only to create a more productive and effective working environment, but – crucially – also to fulfil duty of care obligations. These include:
- Being aware of the working conditions that could cause ill-health
- Assessing the potential impact of stress factors
- Identifying measures that could prevent ill health
- Ensuring employees are ware of preventative measures
- Taking action, that includes considering the needs of individuals
- Monitoring the ongoing impact, especially for vulnerable individuals
Given the duty of care employers have, and the potentially negative consequences for morale, productivity, staff turnover and individuals’ health, it is important that business travel policies are developed to ensure that business travel has the least impact in terms of stress, sleep and physical health.
Developing a Business Travel Policy with Wellness at Its Heart
To manage the potentially negative impacts of business travel, companies should work with their corporate travel company to develop a corporate travel wellness programme. When developing such a programme, employers might want to review:
- Assistance for employees in booking travel to reduce the stress factors involved in this.
- Prioritising direct flights.
- Giving employees clear information about destination risks and how to deal with them.
- Avoiding booking “red eye” flights or journeys.
- Reviewing policies around meeting start times.
- Allowing an extra night’s stay either side of a business meeting.
- Reducing stress factors around travel, such as transport to and from airports, easy and early access to information about delayed flights.
- Booking hotels with gyms or yoga classes and/or providing an allowance for exercise classes for business travellers.
- Prioritising accommodation in the new generation of “wellness” hotels where possible.
- Putting measures in place to encourage healthy eating, such as meal vouchers for certain healthy food establishments, booking hotels with “wellness” menus, or developing an information campaign.
- Developing ways of promoting and incentivising healthy behaviours.
- Offering the option to extend trips with days booked as holiday or “bleisure” travel.
In this way, employers will not only comply with their duty of care obligations and protect the business from reputational damage and the financial costs of prosecution or litigation, they will also help to create a more productive, motivated and healthy workforce.
In addition, these enlightened travel policies may act as a pull factor, attracting the best talent with a well-earnt reputation as a caring and supportive employer.
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