It’s all too easy to picture luxury flights and hotels, delicious meals and nights out in exotic locations when we discuss business travel.
But as our recent podcast episode highlighted, business travel is often far from glamorous and can actually negatively impact our wellbeing.
We were lucky to be joined by Dr. Rachel Lewis from Kingston Business School, who took us through her recent research on the perils of business travel. It seems like being away from home leads us to engage in various forms of risk taking, including eating what we wouldn’t eat at home, deviating from our fitness regime, drinking more than we’d usually drink and dropping our standards of personal safety at night. Indeed, according to this study, 34% of international business travellers report engaging in this kind of risky behaviour
Quite the cocktail!
It’s easy to see how this happens. We might find ourselves in environments where alcohol is free, like an airline lounge. We might find ourselves relying on unhealthy room service offerings, rather than our usual balanced diet. And we might find ourselves far from home without access to our usual gym, so our exercise routine is abandoned. If this sounds personal, that’s because it is. Lots of what Rachel had to say on our podcast hit home with me. As someone who travels for work almost constantly, I identified with lots of what she had to say.
However, this kind of activity plainly isn’t sustainable over time.
According to the study discussed on our podcast:
- 76% of people travelling internationally for business are less likely to have a balanced diet
- 73% reported experiencing a negative impact on their quality of sleep
- 76% reported being less likely to exercise
- 31% reported experiencing emotional exhaustion
So what’s to be done?
Maintaining our wellbeing habits can be a challenge when we’re away from home, but it’s not impossible. Being clear about the challenges you’ll face and considering how to deal with them in advance can indeed be helpful. Planning for setbacks, in other words.
Additionally, engaging in some helpful ‘habit stacking’, to stick to our routine. An example would be to ensure that gym gear is plainly in sight when we return to the hotel room after a day of work. Add to this the intention “When I get back to my room, I’ll get changed for the gym” and you’re more likely to find yourself working out than lying down and flicking through TV channels.
Maintaining our personal routine can also be useful. There can be the temptation to just keep working in the evening when we’re far from home and our family. But would you do this at home? Consider how you can maintain your end-of-day transitions, so you can move into personal evening time and more effectively manage the boundary between your personal and professional domains.
The bottom line?
If you’re a frequent international business traveller, you can probably recognise some of these data points in your own experience. I know I can! But it’s not all doom and gloom. Business travel isn’t a holiday, so it’s best to maintain your daily habits and routines wherever possible. Small ‘treats’ when it comes to food and drink can take their toll over time. So when you’re on your next trip and presented with something tempting, ask yourself “Would I do this at home?”.
And me? Well I’ll ensure my gym gear is packed for my next business trip!
If you haven’t heard the episode in question yet, you can do so here. And if you’re interested in learning how WorkLifePsych can assist your organisation when it comes to wellbeing at work, visit our wellbeing page to learn more.