Business travel survival guide

Although most people equate business travel to a rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, those who live it on a regular basis tend to have a rather different experience. Indeed, few unpleasant things are as glamorised as frequent business travel, particularly in light of the overwhelming evidence for its detrimental psychological, social, and physical effects. And as scale-ups look at expanding their business overseas to Japan, UK or Europe, long-haul traveling is to become the standard for them.

Or can all this be avoided, to start with only traveling when deemed imperative for business, or generally by adopting a healthier life-style to counter the negative aspects of traveling?

As a recent review in the Journal of Travel Medecine noted, frequent long-haul business travel accelerates aging and increases the likelihood of suffering a stroke, heart attack, and deep-vein thrombosis. It also exposes travellers to pathological levels of germs and radiation. If you fly over 85,000 miles per year, you are absorbing radiation levels above the regulatory limit of most countries.

As if all this weren’t enough, frequent travel leads to unhealthy lifestyles—e.g., poor diet, lack of exercise, excess drinking—while jet lag causes stress, mood swings, disorientation, sleep problems, and gastrointestinal problems, all of which impair job performance. Over 70% of business travellers report some of these symptoms even when they travel across only one time zone, and it has been estimated that jet lag recovery time may take one day for every time zone crossed.

So, let’s try to see how to avoid all this. A first question should be: does business travels make sense? In a technologically mediated and digital world, our dependence on long-haul business travel seems quite irrational. Throughout the industrialised and developing worlds, professionals of any industry communicate more online than offline, and there is no shortage of free and reliable video call applications. So does face-to-face meetings add value? Yes — at least according to the science, in-person meetings have been found to increase rapport and empathy, facilitating cooperation and enhancing bonds between conversing and collaborating parties.

About the author

Yves Delongie, founder Xantopia

Yves loves to write about his passion in developing and leading start-up/scale-up businesses towards sustainable growth.

So, since business travelling has its apparent scientific use, let’s try to find out what frequent travellers can do to stay in a healthy shape:

  • Plan your trip well and don’t pack your days with meetings. Time management is crucial during business travel. There’s a lot to fit in during a condensed period of time—by planning these items out on a calendar, you can better prioritise what’s most important to you.
  • Work out in between customer obligations. Either before your first meeting, either in between meetings, there’s always some time to be found for some exercise, even if as little as 15-20 minutes. Exercise makes your heart beat faster and stimulates blood flow, mitigating the effects of fatigue and even jetlag.
  • Eat healthy. While your brain might require more calories during these intense periods of travel and want to reward itself with airport junk food, you have to feed it the right kind of sustenance. That means consuming healthy snacks, and not the salty, sugary ones that we usually find on the road.
  • Know your environment. It helps to know what’s near the place you’ll be staying, not only for potential safety reasons, but to properly plan healthy meals and short out-side exercises. Once planned in your agenda, you’re less likely to skip on these ‘internal meetings’.
  • Get enough sleep. Some people just don’t sleep well in hotels. This is the result of the “first night effect,” which results from sleeping with just one half of their brains at a time, while the other half stays awake and alert. Go to bed early, sober, and preferably after some light exercise or reading might help to sleep better…

It might seem like way too much to take care of when your time is already limited. But taking care of your health during travels is part of your executive role—you do need to stay on top of your game and be able to set the example for your local colleagues. And It’s very unlikely you’ll be exemplary if falling asleep from one meeting to another… Happy travels!!

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