Mental health is more widely discussed and acknowledged in the workplace than ever before – and rightly so. Employers have a legal and moral duty to protect the health and well-being of their employees while at work and some go further in supporting employees in their personal lives.
One aspect of professional life that often gets secluded is business travel, when in fact, employees that regularly travel away from the office can be among the most vulnerable to mental and physical health concerns.
Here’s how and why travelling employees are sometimes at greater risk and how employers can mitigate these risks as effectively as possible.
One of the most common risks associated with solo business travellers is isolation. Spending the majority of your working week on the road or in unfamiliar environments can be a lonely place and this can have detrimental impacts on mental health and well-being.
Business travellers themselves should ensure they establish the necessary communication measures to stay in touch with friends and family, whilst employers should keep regular contact with employees while they are away and encourage discussions around wellbeing.
Business travellers are also more likely to eat poorer diets while away from home. A lack of a proper and balanced diet can increase the risks of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, whilst your physical health can suffer greatly too. This can become a vicious circle which can put your long-term health at risk.
Employers can help their employees to eat more healthy diets by providing greater food allowances or booking accommodation such as serviced apartments with cooking facilities so they can make their own food. Reducing the reliance on fast food outlets is a significant step in making business travel a more healthy process – though it is the choice of the employee.
Sleep is as significant as anything when it comes to mental health. However, business travellers can commonly suffer from disrupted sleeping patterns caused by jet lag, elevated stress levels or unfamiliar routines.
Not only is sleep a critical factor in mental well-being, but it also directly impacts employee performance and output. As such, getting enough sleep every night is as important for the business as it is for the individual. Employees should make every effort to sleep as much as they need to function effectively.
Elevated stress levels
Business trips typically cause elevated stress levels for employees. This can be from safety and security concerns in an unfamiliar environment or project and professional worries.
Consistently high levels of stress can have several impacts on your physical and mental health including high blood pressure, anxiety, depression and many more potentially debilitating issues. Employers should be careful to monitor an employee’s mental well-being and employees should be encouraged to talk openly about any concerns they may have.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.
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