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MENTAL HEALTH


UNDER W buyingbusinesstravel.com


PRESSURE WORDS MEGAN TATUM


Countless studies and anecdotes highlight the risks of frequent business travel, so what can travel managers do to mitigate them?


E KNOW BUSINESS TRAVEL CAN BE BAD FOR MENTAL HEALTH and it isn’t hard to see why. Frequent business travellers are often grappling with irregular sleep, unfamiliar surroundings and multiple time zones, all of which can add up to a toxic mix that leads them to be more susceptible to both anxiety and depression than their peers.


Simon Worrell, global medical director at Collinson,


says: “I have travelled all over the world on medical repa- triations, visiting 40 long-distance countries a year and taking thousands of flights. Even travelling to countries such as Spain means getting up at two in the morning to catch a plane. And you can’t plan for emergencies, which means a lot of the time I don’t know exactly where or when I need to go until the last minute.” Appreciating the stress involved in frequent travel is not revelatory. Countless studies have driven home the vulnerabilities of business travellers and it’s something travel managers are painfully aware of, too. In a recent survey by BCD Travel, looking after traveller wellness was cited as one of the top priorities, with only cost control and duty-of-care taking precedence. The pertinent ques- tion is, what can travel managers do about it? The short answer is nothing without proper monitor- ing. Managers can tweak travel policies, upgrade flights and suggest the use of meditation apps, but without a system that tracks what’s working for employees and what isn’t, any wellbeing initiative is likely to flounder. “It’s easy to make changes to travel policies, like


‘don’t book flights at 5am’ so people aren’t getting up at midnight and going to the airport in the dark; that’s


obvious – but what you should be doing first is finding out what level of wellbeing you’ve already got in a company,” suggests Josh Gunn, head of UK marketing at Travel and Transport Statesman.


TRACKING MENTAL HEALTH Assessing levels of wellbeing enables companies to flag up vulnerable staff members and track the success of changes they’re putting in place. “The assessment and tracking of traveller wellbeing


is important as it enables people to monitor objectively the extent of improvement and identify what’s causing the improvement,” explains Dr Lucy Rattrie, a chartered psychologist with an expertise in business travel. “In an ideal scenario we want to know that A predicts B, where B is an improvement in wellbeing and A is something the individual or company is doing.


“Likewise, if we can identify the driving forces


behind behaviour and mindset change that are specific to different groups of travellers, we can implement effective initiatives and programmes. Unfortunately, at the moment, there’s a little bit of a scatter-gun approach without enough solid evidence-based policy and strategic decision-making behind it,” she adds. In some ways that’s understandable, says Gunn. Not only is tracking mental health and wellbeing an emerging area, but travel managers are often concerned that they’re stepping into the domain of HR teams in doing so. Then there is the fear of bad news. “One of the big barriers is a concern from senior management: what happens if we learn something really bad and discover some people are really suffering? What we say is,


2019 MAY/JUNE 73


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