Frequent business travel can be bad for your health

Many roles require frequent business travel. Perhaps a trip interstate or even long haul international travel. But as revealed in research published in The Harvard Business Review by Columbia University’s Professor Andrew Rundle, frequent business travel can be bad for your health.

Rundle and his colleagues used data from corporate health screening programs and found a strong correlation between the frequency of business travel and a wide range of physical and behavioural health risks. The more nights spent away from home on average in a month, the more serious he found the problems to be.

Compared to those who spent one to six nights a month away from home for business travel, those who spent fourteen or more nights away had significantly higher body mass index scores and were significantly more likely to report poor self-rated health; clinical symptoms of anxiety, depression and alcohol dependence; no physical activity or exercise; smoking; and trouble sleeping.

The research found that more intensive travel schedules led to even worse outcomes. The odds of being obese were 92% higher for those who travelled twenty-one or more nights per month compared to those who travelled only one to six nights per month.

These health conditions are worrying not just for the individuals but also for the organisations they work for. They can lead to higher costs for employers through higher medical claims, reduced employee productivity, absenteeism and even short-term disability.

Rundle suggests that the effects of these issues also have the potential to strain relationships with clients and suppliers.

As noted in the article, even with the increasing sophistication of conference calls and video chat, business travel is a prominent feature of many occupations and is likely to remain so. Rundle therefore suggests that employers help employees with education and resources. He gives the example of booking only hotels with complimentary gym facilities, as well as training in stress management approaches and sleep hygiene techniques.

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