Travelling for business?? It’s bad for your health!

Okay, let’s be honest here, we all know that treating a work trip like an ‘all-expenses paid junket’ is not great for our health and wellness. But according to new research out of the Harvard Business School, it is not just the unhealthy eating and drinking that contributes to poor health outcomes for regular business travellers, there is a lot more at play…. And the more you travel for work, the worse the outcomes!

According to the findings, there is a strong correlation between the frequency of business travel and a wide range of physical and behavioural health risks.1

When compared to those who spend 1 to 6 nights away per month, those who travel for business more frequently had significantly higher body mass index scores, and were more likely to report the following;

  • Poor self-rated health
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Alcohol dependence
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Smoking
  • Trouble sleeping1

These health risks have a cumulative effect over time and contribute significantly to chronic disease and poor health outcomes. This in turn can increase costs to businesses through reduced employee productivity and performance, absenteeism, presenteeism (the cost of employees who are at work, but not fully functioning because they are unwell), and short-term disability.1

The research identified that most workplace wellness programs for business travellers tend to focus on international travel by providing immunisations, information about food-borne illness and alerts about political or civil unrest. Few workplace wellness programs focused on the more common threats to health; the stress of business travel, interruptions to sleep, unhealthy eating and drinking and the lack of physical activity.1

In 2017, 2.2 million Australians reported travelling by air for business purposes.2 When we consider the aforementioned side effects of business travel and the number of Australian’s who travel for business, this becomes quite concerning on a number of levels. It is concerning for the health of the individual who travels for work, concerning for the health of the organisation they work for and concerning for the Australian health system.

So what can companies do to help their employees develop healthy habits while traveling? The research has made a number of suggestions…..

Implementing a Corporate Wellness Plan that combines; employee education on the health risks associated with business travel, supportive policies around business travel, and partnering with Hoteliers who recognise Corporate Wellness as important were cited. Businesses can partner with Hoteliers as preferred accommodation providers who make wellness easy and safe for their employees. Some suggestions include complementary in-room wellness channels offering a variety of workouts and meditation, in-room workout equipment and a well-equipped gym.1 The research recognised that hotel gyms can be minimalist and a bit depressing, but they can also be a barrier for some people. Consider the female traveller who does not feel comfortable or safe to go to the hotel gym on her own, or the man who is new to physical activity and does not know what exercises to do or how to use the gym equipment.

For Hoteliers, offering Wellness Content with a focus on business travellers, that is easy, convenient and safe will be ‘The Next Big Thing’ that will set Hotel Chains apart from their competitors. And this may just be the ‘tick’ in the ‘Corporate Wellness box’ that results in a successful tender as an accommodation provider for one of the 79% of the largest Corporates in the world who have a Corporate Wellness Plan.3

So what about non-business travellers?

In Australia, the Wellness Industry is booming! Demand has been growing in recent years and remains high.4 According to research carried out by Global Health and Wellness, the next big growth opportunity in the Australian market: Wellness Tourism with the industry growing almost 50 percent faster than conventional travel.4 This research suggests that Hoteliers who invest in innovative ways to leverage of the current Wellness Trend in Australia will reap the rewards.

So what is the take home message?

The time is now for Hoteliers to invest in their guests Wellness and their Wellness Experience while staying in their hotel, and if they do they will see large return on investment from business travellers as well as non-business travellers!


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