Business travel can negatively impact employees’ health and well-being, here’s how to reduce it
The benefits of business travel are widely acknowledged, not much attention has been paid to how it impacts employees’ health and well-being. Here’s how to mitigate its negative impact.Updated: Sep 27, 2019 14:42 IST
In 2018, Indian organizations spent nearly US$40 billion on travel and the country is one of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing corporate travel markets. While the benefits of business travel are widely acknowledged, not much attention has been paid to how it impacts employees’ health and well-being.
People often have a romantic view of business travel – flying business class, five-star hotels, lobster dinners, piling up the points, cutting epic deals. And sure, it has its perks! But ask anyone who travels for work regularly, and they’ll tell you it can be stressful too.
Earlier this year, we surveyed road warriors around the world about their health and wellness habits. Around two in five globally – and a similar proportion from India – said they find it challenging to maintain regular routines on business trips. As someone who travels frequently for business myself, I’ve experienced the struggle first-hand.
Sticking to your regular routine on business trips can be challenging for various reasons, such as limited options or tight schedules. You’re focused on your work and trying to make the most of your trip, so you don’t really have the time to search for a gym or affordable healthy eating options if they’re not easily accessible.
While on the face of it, a disruption to your routine for a couple of days might not seem like a big deal, over the long-term it begins to add up, especially for frequent business travellers. A study published in the Harvard Business Review in 2018 found that business travellers who are on the road a lot – two to three weeks each month – tend to have significantly higher body mass index scores and are much more likely to report poor self-rated health, no physical activity or exercise, and trouble sleeping.
This should give business leaders food for thought. We need to be more cognizant of how travel impacts our employees. This means we need to start looking at business travel differently.
You can’t effectively design employee-friendly corporate travel programs and policies, when business travel is viewed as just the cost of a plane ticket, hotel and taxi. Of course, cost control is an important priority – and travel and procurement managers are typically very good at managing costs – but it shouldn’t be the only priority.
Instead, business travel should be viewed in the context of operations, revenue streams and human impact – not just cost. Corporate travel teams need to work more closely with other parties such as HR and Finance, and combine data from different parts of the business to get a more complete picture.
For example, by overlaying your organization’s travel data with your HR data, you can start to see if there’s a correlation between travel and illness. You may find that employees who have certain travel patterns are more likely to take sick days after their trips. When you add finance data to the mix, you begin to understand what this means for your business in terms of lost productivity and potentially higher insurance premiums.
With this sort of information, companies can begin to design more informed travel policies. For instance, do we need to increase hotel rate caps in certain cities so employees can book properties with fitness facilities? Are they frequently travelling to cities with a high cost of living and is their meal allowance sufficient to cover healthy food options? Additionally, are employees who are taking red-eye flights or travelling over the weekend have enough time to recover?
Once we stop looking at travel data in a vacuum, we change how business travel is viewed, experienced and managed, and we can create new KPIs to measure the effectiveness of travel programs. Business travel becomes a strategic topic, and HR directors, CFOs and CEOs join the conversation. Most importantly, we stop trying to just minimize the cost of business travel, and instead increase the return on investment of business travel, which works to the benefit of both the business and the employee.
-- by Vishal Sinha, CEO, India, CWT
First Published: Sep 27, 2019 14:41 IST