Business Travel Show Europe Kick Off, 23 February,
Global Travel Risk Summit Europe, May 2023,
3rd Annual Sustainable Business Travel Summit
If issues like corporate social responsibility, the duty of care and environmental concerns are getting a higher profile both from companies, travellers and their travel management companies, there is also another, allied, issue which is also attracting increasing attention: the work life balance.Most of us have seen the person who spends his or her whole time working. Fewer and fewer of us want to be that person. There is a growing trend for people to want to work fewer hours and to have more free time, often to spend with the family.One of the reasons Paul Tilstone switched his job from sales and marketing director of P&O Travel last year to executive director of the UK and Ireland Institute of Travel Management (ITM) was to change his work/life balance.The catalyst was the birth of his first child and after his, he and his wife were prepared "not to earn more money but to create a better life for ourselves." The result is that he works from an office at home and while he is away on average two nights a week, the rest is spent in the company of his wife and son.He emphasises the value of time spent with his family. "The one difference is that I have lunch with my family three times a week. I don't take it for granted. People forget the importance of little things. It is a near perfect balance," Mr Tilstone said.But getting that balance right is not easy and for many, weighed down with big mortgages or heavy financial commitments, it is an impossible dream.The sheer level of work can also intervene. Long hours, pressing deadlines, urgent meetings can conspire to keep a spouse away from home for much of the week. The balance can be further upset when frequent business trips take the husband or wife out of the country.The problems of stress - always likely to be present in our fast-moving world - can be exacerbated by loneliness and strained relationships with both the partner and the family.It is a cycle that only the few rather than the many can simply step out of. But too much work, too many long hours and too much travelling can have a negative impact both on family life and on the worker/traveller's health.Recent research suggests that frequent air travel causes stress and that 25% of frequent flyers are said to be in the high risk stress category.Dr George Kassianos, secretary of the British Travel Health Association, said there was a problem with people working long hours, even when away from the office.These are the people constantly reading or writing reports, picking up e-mails or text messages and making mobile calls on trains and planes and in airport lounges and hotels. Those who seem to work every spare moment."This is not very good for your health and people really do need to take a break," he said.One of the first results for people who work long hours is that health suffers. It is not just tiredness but bad eating habits which kick in."One of the things we have noted with business travellers is that they have a tendency to comfort eat. They eat food they would not get at home, usually more calorific, and they eat a lot more," Dr Kassianos said.Dr Fiona Jones, senior lecturer in psychological sciences at the University of Leeds in the UK, makes a similar point. "We have recently done research on work stress and there is a tendency for people who work long hours or are travelling to eat junk food. "They take something from the machine in the office or eat in a pub. They do not follow healthy eating behaviour.”A better diet and exercise â€“ taking brisk walks and using the hotel pool and gym â€“ will help and this is in the hands of the traveller. But there are other aspects of this where the traveller's company can help.Dr Kassianos also stressed that it was necessary to travel "as comfortably as possible." Sitting in cramped seats for several hours, especially if the flight is overnight and there is an important meeting to attend an arrival is neither good for the company in terms of employee performance nor good for the traveller in terms of stress and health. (These in turn are also likely to affect adversely an employee's performance.)But a better alternative might be more video- or web-conferencing in the cases where this style of meeting is appropriate.It could save on both the employees' health and the company's coffers.