How to Balance Meeting Objectives While Promoting Employee Health
It’s no secret that staying fit and leading a healthy lifestyle is challenging while traveling for business. But a new study from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University is putting some jarring statistics behind that conventional wisdom.
The study indicates that employees who travel 2 weeks or more each month are more at risk for a wide range of symptoms than employees who travel less than a week each month. The study is based on data from 18,328 business travelers taken in 2015.
As a business executive, you have a great deal of power and significant responsibility when it comes to determining the need for travel, the team members who travel, the frequency and the overarching benefit of business travel. Also, less frequent travel saves money and delivers a boost to your bottom line (more on this in a moment).
What does this study mean for you? Here’s a look at some key considerations for executives who are striking the balance between meeting business objectives and promoting employee health.
The 2-Week Travel Threshold
The study outlines an important 2-week threshold beyond which business travelers experienced heightened ill effects from their time on the road.
Specifically, employees that spent 2 weeks or more out of each month traveling for business were more likely to smoke, more likely to experience difficulty sleeping, and more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression. In addition, employees that spent more than 2 weeks out of each month traveling and who also drank alcohol were more likely to develop addiction issues and dependency.
The natural question for an executive to ask is: How often do my team members need to be out of the office traveling? If you’re regularly asking employees to travel beyond that 2-week threshold, it might be worth carefully considering the value of that amount of time spent on the road.
Think about how often your employees travel, why they travel, as well as the benefit corporate travel delivers to your company’s bottom line. A closer examination may reveal that your team members are making trips that aren’t really needed.
Increasing Numbers: Are They Needed?
According to the GBTA Foundation, the number of business travelers is increasing. In 2016, about 503 million people traveled for work-related purposes, which represented a jump of about 15 million from 2015.
This increase in business travel might be explained by a still-recovering economy or expanding globalization. But it’s worth asking: Is more business travel needed, even if markets have stabilized and new markets abroad are opening up?
After all, mirroring an increase in business travel is an increase in communication and productivity technologies that make it possible for team members around the world to hold meetings and calls without leaving the office.
And executives might also see decreased business travel as an investment in the long-term future of their team members. As Mailman School Associate Professor Andrew Rundle notes, increased travel “can be seen as a job benefit and can lead to occupational advancement.”
If business travel is seen as an honor and responsibility bestowed on the most deserving and valued team members, it would also seem executives would want to limit travel to a frequency that promotes better long-term employee health and satisfaction.
Is Travel Training Provided?
Travel is often essential for companies. That is, it’s not something that can be limited and avoided. In those cases, it’s also essential to make employees aware of the threats and challenges posed by business travel — and to equip them with information to help combat the symptoms related to frequent travel.
Does your company have in place any sort of training that addresses lifestyle choices while traveling? For example, travel-related health risks are more acute for those who drink alcohol. Regular training for your travelers can serve as an opportunity to promote healthy choices while on the road.
Also, difficulty sleeping is a common symptom for frequent travelers. Your company can help travelers by providing tips and tools that help them sleep better and wake more refreshed for the workday.
While training and information may take time, money and energy to create and provide, they can also provide dividends in productivity later down the line.
The Best Way to Save Money is to Not Travel
One final consideration for executives at companies where team members often travel: Make travel approvals with careful consideration.
The best way to manage travel expenses is to not travel at all. So think about how often your employees travel, why they travel, as well as the benefit corporate travel delivers to your company’s bottom line. A closer examination may reveal that your team members are making trips that aren’t really needed.
Perhaps the travel budget expanded as the economy recovered after the Great Recession. Or maybe your team members have been traveling for meetings that can now be conducted virtually thanks to new technology.
Either way, this new study provides a compelling reason to take a closer look at the frequency of your team’s travel — and whether it’s really needed.
Make Informed Travel Decision With JTB
If you don’t really need to travel for business, you’re just wasting money. That’s common sense.
And, at JTB Business Travel, common sense is the thread that runs through the products and services we offer as well as the recommendations we make to our clients. As your comprehensive corporate travel agency, we can help you evaluate the return on your business travel while also helping promote the healthiest possible travel schedule for your employees.
Contact us today about making the best business travel decision for your company and its traveling team members.