Take the word “business” out of “business travel” and what’s left? Travel.
Whether you call it corporate travel, a work trip, or an offsite, business travel is still travel at its core—a powerful experience that brings people together and supercharges work performances. Yet despite its many benefits, travel can serve as a source of stress and anxiety, particularly after the disruption and changes created by COVID-19.
Fortunately, just like travel managers have the power to own and control their travel programs in a constantly evolving environment, travelers can adopt habits and tools to help alleviate stress and foster wellness on the road. The techniques may vary depending on travel frequency, mode of travel, and destinations visited, but travelers and travel managers alike should take note of these tips as business travel continues to pick up at a rapid pace.
Plan Ahead and Build in Extra Time
While the idea of planning a business trip (and the perceived work involved) may fill some spontaneous travelers with dread, it doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, advanced planning is one of the most effective ways to prevent future stressors from occurring. This is especially the case in a post-COVID world, where the rules of travel and what road warriors should expect have changed significantly.
Before you plan your trip, take a minute to quickly review your company’s travel policy and note whether any rules or expectations have changed. Areas to look for include COVID-19 vaccination and testing requirements, trip approval processes, and health & wellness initiatives. For international trips, you can also use Direct Travel’s Travel Intelligence portal to plan for international restrictions. Knowing the new expectations in advance will save you time on the road and prevent unexpected surprises from causing stress.
Once you hit the road, give yourself extra time to both account for changes to the travel journey and to provide downtime as needed. From TSA lines and café wait times at the airport, to car rental counter delays and hotel staffing shortages, be patient and expect minor inconveniences along the way as travel suppliers ramp back up their teams and offerings.
Also, make note of your anxiety triggers and any steps you can take to prevent placing yourself in an uncomfortable situation. Prepare in advance with a worst case/best case scenario, knowing that the most realistic outcome will likely fall somewhere in between.
Make Technology Work for You, Not Against You
If a stream of alerts and notifications on your phone instills panic in your chest, it’s time to make technology work for you rather than against you. When used properly, technology is a busy traveler’s greatest friend.
Start with the basics and ensure you have the necessary apps downloaded, such as your Travel Management Company’s mobile platform for managing your travel itinerary and any destination risks. Rather than searching through your inbox at the check-in counter for the proper documentation, you will have all your relevant itinerary information in one place. You can also download travel supplier apps for touchless check-in and virtual payment options, which will keep you on schedule and reduce the potential exchange of unwanted germs.
In addition to using travel apps to create a streamlined and more hygienic experience, consider using a mobile app to practice mindfulness or meditation. There is a wide range of both free and paid platforms that can help relieve stress and guide you through easy-to-follow mental and physical exercises. Some of these include meditation soundtracks, mindfulness notices, deep breathing exercises, and calming activities. Depending on your company’s polices and benefits, some of the paid versions of these apps may be considered a reimbursable expense or even covered by health insurance.
Reminder: If alerts on your device become overwhelming, start from scratch by going into your notification settings and turning off push notifications for any apps you’re not regularly using. Instead, only turn on the notifications you need for communication throughout your travel journey.
Stick to a Healthy Routine
Perhaps the most important component of any traveler wellness plan is a commitment to sticking to a healthy routine. A recent Harvard Business Review study found that frequent business travelers were more likely to have serious health issues and higher levels of anxiety and depression, especially when not following health regimens and implementing stress management techniques.
Because travel is inherently disruptive to daily schedules, you need a plan that is both manageable and flexible. Rather than thinking of a routine in terms of schedule, think of routine in terms of acquired habits that you regularly stick to in order to stay healthy—physically and mentally.
Here are a few pillars of wellness that every traveler should incorporate into their routine:
- Bring a large, reusable water bottle to stay hydrated on the go. This counteracts the physiological changes of air travel and helps prevent headaches, exhaustion, dryness, and high blood pressure.
- Arrange your meetings and departure times to prioritize sleeping a minimum of 6-7 hours a night. This will help you not only be more focused and less prone to anxiety, but also appear more alert and engaged when interacting with clients and colleagues.
- Bring your favorite healthy snacks with you. Since the pandemic has upset supply chain logistics, it is best to be prepared with foods you enjoy that are rich in nutrients and may not be readily accessible when traveling.
- Research restaurants near your hotel to pre-identify options that will be open and offer healthy choices since hours and staffing may have changed. Few things are more stress-inducing than arriving late on an empty stomach and finding no food available.
- Exercise, even if it’s just a 20-minute walk around your hotel. Physical activities can stimulate muscles made tense by driving/flying and release endorphins that counteract stress and anxiety.
Talk about Travel with Your Team
Employee wellness and the traveler experience have never been as important to businesses and travel providers as they are now. Just as you do with any well-laid plan, practice mindfulness and perform a pulse check on how things are going.
If you’re feeling stressed or anxious regarding upcoming travel, your supervisor or travel manager may be able to identify or creates provisions within your travel policy that will alleviate future concerns. This could be something as simple as selecting a hotel provider with an onsite fitness center or prioritizing more direct airline routes. Additionally, your TMC can provide a traveler wellness report with metrics for pinpointing potential signs of burnout.
Most plans require continual reevaluation and improvement, and traveler wellness is no exception. If you haven’t already, download our guide to the New Traveler Journey to help prepare for getting back on the road.