Man looking out over water.
Man looking out over water.
23rd Feb 2023

Worried about travelling? You’re not alone, according to the latest research from Bupa Global

The benefits of business travel are plentiful – from building relationships with colleagues and customers through face-to-face meetings, to helping foster collaboration and innovation bringing together team members from different locations and departments.

But, with business travel largely put on hold in recent years, it’s perhaps no surprise that even now – as the world opens up again – there is lingering anxiety for many. In addition to fears of contracting COVID-19, Bupa Global’s latest Executive Wellbeing Index1, shows that 12 per cent of executives are more anxious about leaving their families than before the pandemic hit, and 14 per cent have environmental concerns related to international travel.

While executives plan to spend an average of 54 days away from home this year travelling for business, 10 per cent have not travelled in the last 12 months. One in five (20 per cent) say that they’ve cut down the number of trips they’ve taken in the last year – and the same number wants to reduce their travel to alleviate their impact on the environment. Indeed, it has been estimated that if every business traveller were able to reduce their carbon footprint by just one-quarter, this would result in a 12 per cent reduction in global emissions.2

One in seven (15 per cent) say that the ramifications of COVID-19 are still causing travel anxiety, with this felt most strongly in China (19 per cent). While in France, executives worry most about the impact on the environment (19 per cent) and being away from home (15 per cent).

Some executives may not need to travel, but for many, business travel is an unavoidable exercise. So, what can executives do to alleviate travel worries and ensure the trips they’re required to take are as smooth and hassle-free as possible? We spoke to Naomi Humber, Head of Wellbeing at Bupa Global & UK for tips on making business travel anxiety-free, and ensuring your health is protected while away from home.

Preparedness makes perfect

Being prepared is often the key to reassuring the mind. From getting a great night’s sleep before you leave, to ensuring you know where to turn if you’re taken ill abroad, the good news is there’s plenty you can do to get ready for your trip.

Dr Naomi Humber says: “They key is to focus on what’s in your control and not out of it. Rather than anxiously ruminating on ‘what if’s’ about the travel experience, plan as much as possible in advance to help to reassure the mind. From logistics of the trip to practicing relaxation techniques before you leave so you can use them the minute you start to feel anxious. Focusing on the positives of the trip, challenging negative thoughts, and reminding yourself of previous trips that have gone well can also help."

Don’t forget healthy habits while you’re away from home

With a busy schedule of meetings, many business travellers are less likely to exercise on a work trip compared to when they are at home and in their normal routine. They may also choose less healthy food when on the road – or find that their sleep is disturbed when in an unfamiliar place.

Dr Humber comments: “Setting up a healthy routine whilst away is important, especially for frequent or longer-stay business trips – from visiting the hotel gym or scoping out local exercise options, to finding healthy food venue alternatives.

“All work and no play is no good for energy and performance, and more likely to lead to healthy habits being broken, so maintaining social contact is crucial too – whether that be connecting remotely with friends and family, or socialising with others also away on business.”

Battle homesickness and prioritise wellbeing

Suitcase room is precious, but so is your mental health. Some executives find it helps to bring familiar comfort items on trips – photos of family members or a comfy jumper that reminds them of home, for example. Fortunately, technology has made it far easier to stay connected with those back home – and setting designated times to video chat with family members can help boost wellbeing.

Dr Humber says: “It’s about staying mentally and physically resilient with a combination of biological, social and psychological techniques and strategies – for example, ensuring you have the right food, enough sleep/rest, social time and a mindset for work when away from home comforts.

“But of course, you can bring some of those home comforts with you, including taking items you know will help you to remain calm such as your favourite music, pillow or your favourite TV show to stream. Try to plan for your wellbeing away as much as you do for your business work away, otherwise it may creep up on you and affect your performance and resilience.”

1 Bupa Global Executive Wellbeing Index 2022

What is the environmental impact of business travel? • NEL Fund Managers Limited