The cost of traveler stress

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By Lesley O’Bryan,  Senior Vice President

While business travel may sound glamorous to some, ask any road warrior and you’ll find there is a negative side to life on the road.  Much discussion around business travel stress has been anecdotal, until last year, when researchers at the University of Surrey and Linnaeus University published their study, A darker side of hypermobility.  The study examined previous research done on business and leisure travel, transport and network capital.  The researchers set out to understand how hypermobility is made to seem exciting and appealing and then contrasted that with an examination of the darker side of hypermobility—in terms of its physiological, psychological and social consequences.

This study was one of the first to provide scientific evidence that business travel may be damaging to employees.  Travel managers cannot and should not ignore the negative effects of frequent travel.  Not only will your employee burnout be high, but ineffective employees can have major costs that lead to low meeting ROI.   In this blog post we will walk through some of the findings in A darker side of hypermobility to better understand the stressors travelers face, and offer potential solutions to offset that stress and ensure their business trips are cost effective.

Psychological stressors of business travel

The problem:  Business trips start long before the plane actually takes off.  Travelers must plan their meetings, get ahead of work they may miss while on the road, make arrangements that are in policy and then get organized, packed and ready to go.  Cohen and Gossling found that “Disorientation can occur before movement even begins, through the stress of anticipating, organizing and preparing for a trip.”

The solution: Make it easy for your traveler to plan ahead.  Consider creating a one-page, visually appealing and easily digestible travel policy document that can be used as a quick reference guide by travelers on the go.   To get more in-depth, develop a series of quarterly educational webinars or lunch-n-learns that revolve around travel topics and goals.  Help your traveler save time and reduce stress when booking, so they have more time for their other pre-trip tasks.

Physiological stressors of business travel

The problem: Business travelers are incredibly busy.   Traveling for business often means long days of meetings and little time for anything non-work related. This often leads to “fewer opportunities for physical exercise, worse eating habits than when at home and sometimes the overconsumption of alcohol.” Over time, these unhealthy choices take a toll on your travelers’ physiological state and can end in a mired of problems that have the potential to interrupt your employees’ workflow.

The solution: Use mobile technology to send push notifications and reminders to your travelers when they need it most.  Consider the impact of messaging your traveler about a healthy restaurant near their hotel that is also in policy.   By providing travelers with relevant, targeted messaging—the right information at the right time—you can give them the tools to increase productivity and satisfaction and to drive and even beat policy compliance.

Social stressors of business travel

The problem:  Despite what their calendars may lead you to believe, business travelers do have lives outside of their jobs and lives on the road.  Long or frequent business trips often have a negative effect on an employee’s home life.  According to Cohen and Gossling “this reduced ability to participate fully in family life is often exasperated by the limited time in between trips being largely spent recovering from fatigue.”

The solution: Make it easy for travelers to stay.  A comprehensive global collaboration program can include phone, video conferencing and telepresence in addition to live travel. It gives employees more and better alternatives, making it easy for them to decide whether they should stay or go.  With the right program and technology in place, teams can work together from anywhere at a fraction of the cost, without having to leave their families.

Read more about our traveler engagement practice, or Total Collaboration Management to find out how you can begin reducing traveler stress today.


Cohen, S.A. & Gössling, S. (2015). A darker side of hypermobility. Environment and Planning A (In press).

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