How to reduce business travel stress

work life balance word cloudFrequent business travellers report higher¬†levels of stress and poorer psychological health than non-frequent business travellers. ¬†It’s hardly surprising when you add travel strain on top of typical work pressures.

What’s more, there‚Äôs little escaping negative work carry over, the spillover of work into your personal time¬†when you‚Äôre travelling on business.¬† It‚Äôs little wonder the strain of a business trip can become all-pervading, and for a significant number of us business travellers, it can lead to burn-out where we are no longer able to cope with the demands of travelling on business effectively.

The combination of longer working hours, taking your job with you to your hotel room, business meetings planned over dinner to avert the effects of jet-lag, interrupting family commitments and not having sufficient personal time to relax or pursue leisure activities can all add up.

Even though the pressures of business travel might be unavoidable, there are ways to relieve some of the strain and reduce the overall impact. Finding time to relax is vital in helping to manage stress and travel stress is no different, if not even more consuming.

By putting your body and mind back to a state of rest, you will lower your heart rate, lessen blood pressure, increase blood flow to major muscles, reduce muscle tension, lower fatigue, be less irritable, frustrated, improve concentration and mood.

So here are our top tips on how to lessen anxiety, reduce travel strain and create some more time to relaxation.

Plan your schedule wisely: create buffer time

Nearly half of business travellers are anxious over delays and cancellations, and the second top stress factor is poor or no internet connections to catch up on work emails.¬† So, make sure your schedule allows for ‚Äėbuffer time‚Äô to cope with delays in travel, longer meetings than expected, and poor internet connections to meet deadlines.¬† This way you‚Äôll have time to cope without feeling you are under undue strain. ¬†It might also create some unscheduled time for a quick break in between planned activities to relax or to catch up on emails before you head to your next flight or appointment.

Plan for downtime

Scalp massagePlan to relax and unwind.  While it is tempting to pack in as much business or as many working dinner meetings as possible, the consequence of trying to do too much without time to relax will not make it more rewarding or effectual.  Work-life balance is key to combating travel stress and fatigue.  Strain intensifies from the lack of relaxation, negative work carryover and poor sleep leaving you feeling less productive when you travel or when you eventually return to the office.   So plan to take time out.

Build in rest days

When business travellers were recently asked to rank potential improvements to travel policies, they cited the ability to work from home the day before or the day after a trip in their top five changes.¬† If having a rest day means you‚Äôre not ‚Äėhitting the wall‚Äô around two in the afternoon in the office after a return flight the day before, then you‚Äôre doing the right thing by taking a rest day.¬† Presenteeism increases for frequent business travellers, particularly when suffering from jet lag and travel fatigue.¬† At the very least, ask your employer to adapt their travel policies to include the option of working from home the day after you return or book return flights on a Friday when you‚Äôre rest day is at the weekend.

Build in flexibility for flight connections

Make sure you allow sufficient time for any connecting flights, particularly if you are boarding at one terminal but flying out of another.  You may need to walk through arrivals, airport security, catch an airport shuttle and back through security if your connection is at another terminal.  Allow at least two hours for transfers, so you have time to grab a drink or a snack, a toilet break, relax or time to catch up on a few emails before your next connection.

At the airportKnow your terminal and departure areas

Knowing what facilities are at your terminal in advance is a good approach to reducing the strain when travelling.  Finding out before you leave for the airport where to find a quiet place, connection points for electronic devices, water fountains for water bottle refills, showers and massage chairs is quintessential for reducing strain when in an airport for the first time.

Utilise speedy boarding options

Travel options such as speedy boarding, premium security and passport control, where you pay a little extra might also be advantageous when flying on business.  This will enable you to get seated and organised before everyone else has boarded.  There is less waiting, so you can spend more time relaxing or if need be, checking your emails before switching over to flight mode.

Many airports now offer premium security, where you can ‚Äėbreeze through with ease‚Äô, and premium passport control to reduce the time through passport control.¬† Both are worthwhile late at night when those queues can appear endless and add at least another half an hour to your landing time.

Whatever you do, the key to reducing travel stress is to remove the stressors and by doing so, making time for you to relax and unwind. Taking this approach will enable you to be at your most productive when travelling, increasing the satisfaction that the trip was worth the investment and the outcome will subsequently feel more successful.

Kathy Lewis, R.Nutr, BCApSc, MSc, MBA,
Author: Kathy Lewis, R.Nutr, BCApSc, MSc, MBA,
Kathy Lewis, Consultancy Director, enjoys a multidisciplinary career based on a portfolio of achievement.  Kathy is a Management Consultant for Executive Travel Wellbeing and Stress, Health Promotion Specialist, Consultant Nutritionist (Registered Nutritionist and World Public Health Nutritionist) and a Chartered Marketer with over 25 years of experience.   Her specialist areas include executive stress and wellbeing (including jet-lag and travel wellness),  travel nutrition, travel policies, corporate vitality, employee engagement, marketing and internal communications. Kathy holds several relevant degrees, Masters in Applied Psychology (MSc) with distinction for her research in Executive stress and maladaptive coping behaviours looking specifically at clinical work-based stress and the impact on healthy lifestyles, Masters in Business Administration (MBA), with distinctions achieved in Management Accounts, Statistics and Project Management, completed with a research-based dissertation in the marketing of healthy options in catering establishments, and a Bachelor degree in Nutrition and Food Science.Over the last 25 years, Kathy has worked as a consultant and advised in various industries, from travel, health and food to financial services and telecommunications, on nutrition, executive wellbeing, workplace health, change management, internal communications and employee engagement. She has worked with a variety of clients across local government, NHS, educational institutes, NGO’s, national and multinational companies. As a Management Consultant (post-MBA) Kathy was required to travel to several locations each week and in 2002 began her masters in Applied Psychology (& Health Promotion) as a result of observing the stress in senior managers.  She was awarded a distinction for both her research on work-related stress and maladaptive behaviours and her course work.  Prior to this, Kathy spent many years working with catering establishments to provide healthy options, and prior to this working in diet and fitness centres, following her degree in Human Nutrition and Food Science in 1989.   Combining all areas of experience and expertise was the obvious way forward, and subsequently founded the concept of business travel vitality and wellbeing. Kathy is a former Consulting Editor for Readers Digest Association Inc (USA) and Readers’ Digest UK (Vivat), as well as the former founding Non-Executive Editor for the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) Food, Drink and Agriculture group. As an author, she has written a number of publications and a variety of articles in consumer publications and professional journals, with guest media appearances on a number of radio shows, including the BBC, London and regional radio.  She enjoys public speaking on a range of topics and is a regular speaker at professional events. Kathy is also the Vice Chair of The Caroline Walker Trust, Founder of the International Forum for Health Promotion and Education, a board advisor for the Tessa Sanderson Foundation and Academy, the Vice-Chair/former Chair for the Financial Services Board at the Chartered Institute of Marketing, former Trustee/Non-Executive Director for the Association of MBA’s (where she chaired the Governance Committee and was a member of the HR Committee and Strategic Working Party), former Honorary Secretary for the Institute of Health Promotion and Education, a founding Council Member of the Association for Nutrition. Kathy was also a committee member for the Food, Drink and Agriculture group at the Chartered Insitute of Marketing and a current Non-Executive Director at NZ Engineering. She is a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, Association of MBAs, Institute for Travel Management, Association for Woman Travel Executives, Nutrition Society, SENSE, World Public Health Nutrition Association, Association for Nutrition (UK) and International Travel Writers Alliance.  She is a former member of the Institute Institute of Directors, Royal Society of Arts and Institute of Health Promotion and Education.

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