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42 flights, 11 cities, 7 countries. That’s how much I’ve traveled for work in 2019 – and the year hasn’t even ended yet! Indeed, if you add it up that is a lot of travel spend, but every time I get to my destination and meet a new customer, partner or colleague face-to-face, I know it’s worth it, because every trip adds up to a new connection, a new insight, and a new opportunity.
And I’m not the only one crisscrossing the sky in search of new horizons. Business travel spend is boomingand it shows no signs of slowing down. If corporations keep spending on travel, it’s because they’re seeing a real return on investment. Real life meetings aren´t just great for closing deals, they’re also great for employee satisfaction; at least two-thirds of young professionals say business travel is a marker of status1.
But as my wife and family doctor will attest, spending too much time on the road and in the sky can impact our diet, sleep habits, and exercise routine, and in some cases, create stress at home. When health and wellness suffer, even the most dedicated employees may see an impact on their work, which can ultimately trigger costs for employers.
So how can corporations and employees continue to benefit from business travel, while keeping travelers healthy, happy and productive? That’s what we wanted to find out with our latest white paper: ‘Business traveler well-being: How to keep your employees healthy, happy and productive when they travel for work’.
Thanks to a survey run in collaboration with the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), we analyzed business travel and its impact on stress, productivity and health. We felt it was important to get input from both sides of the spectrum, so first, we asked corporate travelers how they feel about business travel, then we asked travel managers how traveler well-being is managed.
We found that although 91% of travel managers think that business travelers experience high level of stress sometimes or most of the time, a total of 44% of travel managers don’t have duty of care as part of their responsibilities.
In addition, there are as many companies taking no action to manage traveler well-being (39%), as those that do. And in 22% of cases, the travel manager doesn’t even know if any actions are being taken.
The good news is, there is actually quite a lot we can do, and it won’t necessarily cost that much either. Here are the top five corporate best practices we’ve identified to reduce traveler stress and improve health and well-being.
1 – Organizational remit
Our research found that the biggest challenge travel managers face in proposing well-being initiatives is the lack of organizational remit to flex their skills, and the internal network willing to put their ideas to action. If your duty of care champion is going to make an impact, they will need C-suite buy-in, as well as the participation of HR, Finance, and Risk & Security departments.
2 – Travel Policy
This is where the buy-in from the Finance department will come in handy. It might be time to reconsider travel policies and find options that help minimize discomfort to maximize travelers’ productivity and well-being. Flying business class could be an option, but it’s definitely not the only one. Companies could consider allowing travelers to extend their trip over the weekend, giving them an incentive to enjoy the city they are visiting but also offsetting the cost of the early Monday morning or later Friday afternoon flight. Additional costs can be offset by incentivizing employees to book trips well ahead of time; encouraging the option of staying with family or friends and allow trip recovery time.
3 – Trip discipline (to travel or not travel?)
Despite all the upsides of business travel, sometimes it’s just worth it to stay home. A better automated trip approval process, possibly linked to return on investment (ROI) indicators like revenue potential, could help determine if a trip is worth making or not.
4 – Health management
Considering the amount of apps and mobile technology that are currently available, it’s never been easier for travel managers to share tools and resources that can help employees maintain healthy travel habits. For example, booking tools can be set up to prioritize hotels with sport facilities, healthy restaurants nearby can be suggested, and employers could even subsidize exercise, meditation or eating apps that support healthy habits while on the road.
5 – Disruption management
Delayed baggage, disrupted flights and poor network coverage were the top travel stress factors ranked by business travelers in our survey. Mitigating these disturbances should be a top priority. Some ideas include being informed of the most punctual airlines and airports as well as contemplating other transportation options like rail, and ensuring proper mobile connectivity from suppliers, especially on routes and in locations that are most frequented by business travelers.
I love my job, and I think a big part of that is because it allows me to travel the world. But if I’m going to keep traveling on a regular basis, I know I have to focus on staying happy, healthy and productive, not just for me, but for my family and my team as well.
We already know that these strategies really work. Previous research by the London School of Economics (commissioned by Amadeus2), supports this claim: taking a more holistic and strategic attitude towards managing business travel and traveler well-being is an investment that yields returns. In industries where corporations struggle to attract and retain talent, a thoughtful travel wellbeing strategy could even transform into a competitive advantage.
So, has your organization tried any of these five strategies? Or maybe you have another one you would like to share? Get in touch and let us know! For more information about how to keep your travelers happy and productive, visit www.amadeus.com/well-being
 Nearly two-thirds of Young Professionals consider business travel a status marker, Dawit Habtermariam
 Managing every mile. How to deliver greater ROI from travel and expense, Dr Alexander Grous, The London School of Economics and Political Science, August 2017.