Long-distance trips may be something to boast about, with wanderlust-driven influencers posting perfectly filtered photos on their social media accounts. Work-sponsored road trips also may sound glamorous but workers should recognize the potential negative impacts of business travel on their health.
Frequent business travel is associated with poorer health outcomes, according to “Business Travel and Behavioral and Mental Health,” a 2018 article from the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. The analysis found that people who traveled more often for work were more likely to smoke, have trouble sleeping and show higher levels of anxiety and depression symptoms. The study concluded that “employers should provide programs to help employees manage stress and maintain health while traveling for work.”
Hal F. Rosenbluth, chairman and CEO of New Ocean Health Solutions, at one point hit the road every other week for work. Rosenbluth knows the challenges of regular business travel within the U.S. and abroad. For people who travel overseas, there’s “always the possibility of sickness or geopolitical events that require immediate attention and sometimes evacuation,” he said.
Medical and travel security services firm International SOS and medical insurance provider Geo Blue are among the options for these travelers. “I typically use it if I’m traveling to countries where medical care isn’t terrific or I’m out of the city somewhere where there isn’t a lot of care. If something goes wrong, I know I can have a plane or a helicopter get me to where I need to go,” Rosenbluth said.
Lengthy international trips may “cause a person to lack focus after arrival” and Rosenbluth recommends travelers delay meetings for 24 hours to recover from the flight and adapt to time changes.
Whether someone is traveling domestically or abroad, work-life balance may take a hit. Especially for people with young families, the partner who remains at home with the children may feel overwhelmed, Rosenbluth said, and that communication is important.
Business professionals informally polled on LinkedIn by Workforce had several suggestions to stay healthy while traveling for work and how employers can help.
- Find quick, healthy grab-and-go options near the hotel to resist the urge to eat fast food.
- Join a gym with multiple locations to use the membership while traveling.
- Employers can maintain a company culture that stresses positive health behaviors like getting enough sleep and allowing people time to eat.
- Reimburse reasonable wellness expenses for fitness classes in travel destinations.
Rosenbluth suggests that travelers exercise, which may be difficult if there’s no fitness center or if the destination poses a safety hazard for walks offsite. Business travelers also should be careful about what they eat and should carefully consider food safety.