Guest column
Safeguarding the mental wellbeing of corporate travellers

By Nikki Regan, head of commercial strategy, Direct ATPI

Nikki Regan, head of commercial strategy, Direct ATPI

Nikki Regan, head of commercial strategy, Direct ATPI

As mental health and wellbeing professionals report dramatic increases in the number of people reaching out to support services, the long term effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on mental health has not yet been fully realised.

While the topic of mental health has shifted front of mind and conversations and awareness in this area have increased, there remains a stigma and lack of support within some industries. Those travelling for business have found the increased complexity and uncertainty surrounding their trips have made the situation even more difficult.

There are simple steps that any business can take, alongside their travel management company (TMC), to reduce feelings of anxiety amongst travellers.

Clear and enhanced pre-trip information 
Highlight what to expect at airports and hotels and regularly ensure that this information is kept up to date. The situation in each destination can change quickly and no two cities - let alone countries - are the same. Be clear about what is a local requirement, and what are your organisation's recommendations for safe travel in a destination where restrictions may be more lax.

Safe travel guidance, beyond the obvious
Travellers are aware of the need to wear masks and use hand sanitiser, but think about what else is useful when keeping people safe. For example, consider advising people to travel with their own cutlery, and even cups, and to use antibacterial wipes to clean luggage after airport transit, as well as of course any surfaces they may use. Steps like this can help travellers to feel more in control of their own health.

Review information sharing 
Avoid information overload and ensure that what you are supplying is relevant and targeted. Government websites are helpful, but check they are available in the right languages and don't just provide links if your travellers may have limited connectivity. Consider how travellers may need to be updated mid-journey when situations change in the destinations they are travelling through. Having a single source of reliable and relevant information is important during uncertain times and can help to put minds at ease.

Provide 24/7 support 
Being stranded is a major concern for almost all travellers during the pandemic, and this is especially heightened for those who travel internationally to conduct business during this time. Highlight to travellers where they can access 24/7 travel and safety support if they need it, and ensure they are clear on how to use this assistance before they travel so they are confident about the resources available to them. 

Outline quarantine support 
Share all the plans your organisation has around quarantines and what is in place to support travellers should they need to enter quarantine. Knowing what is available ahead of undertaking quarantine in a foreign country can provide much needed reassurance. Simple things like knowing other members of their team will be quarantining in the same hotel, or what facilities and services will be available to them, can really help. The fewer surprises there are, the less anxious travellers are likely to be.

Consider new approaches to travel 
A large obstacle and frustration when it comes to travelling in this new landscape is convenience, or lack thereof. Whatever you can do to make travel and transit as simple as possible will make the experience and overall wellbeing of your travellers far more positive. With ever-changing airline schedules, some routes are seeing only complicated flight connections available that may involve multiple quarantines or complex testing requirements. Where it is a feasible option, private charters have allowed some businesses to move people around the world with greater ease and safety. 

Post-trip meaningful follow up
Give travellers an opportunity to talk about their experience, what has changed and how well they felt supported. Not only will this provide valuable learnings for what can be improved, it may also bring understanding and reassurance to other travellers. Work with your TMC to take meaningful action and follow up with travellers on what has changed and why.