As with all things, the global pandemic even affected the concern! As a symptom of stress, it has become more common in the workplace, wherever in the hybrid model many of us operate. In fact, more than half of workers reported feeling stressed on a daily basis over the past year, largely due to busier work schedules.
Part of the concern stems from employees’ concern that unless they increase their business travel, their professional and personal lives will suffer. They are concerned about the ability to develop and maintain business connections, earn less money, and not advance in their career.
But even when companies have restarted corporate travel programs, business travel can be tough. There’s the preparation, travel, and subsequent expense reporting, not to mention ever-changing health regulatory requirements, flight cancellations/delays, and time away from home and family. Nearly two in five business travelers rate the trip itself as the most stressful part of business travel.
While employers can help employees get back on the road, they should also help relieve stress. Here are four ways to preserve the mental health of employees in business travel programs, which have the added benefit of helping attract and retain talent during a crucial time for business.
Prioritize security and flexibility over sales
Health and safety are key values for Gen Z, who are projected to make up nearly a quarter of the workforce by 2030. A recent survey found that Gen Z business travelers (94%) consider some options Flexible travel and booking options are essential for your company to allow them to protect your health and safety when traveling for business.
With Generation Z representing a growing portion of the workforce, companies must look for opportunities to meet their needs, including more travel. Thirty-five percent of Gen Z business travelers say they will look for a new position if their travel schedules don’t improve.
Regardless of generation, all travelers want flexibility to feel secure. Ninety-one percent consider some flexible travel and booking options essential for their company to protect their health and safety when traveling for business.
Companies should consider looser travel policies where possible, allowing employees to select their preferred accommodation or mode of transport, book travel directly on supplier websites, and determine the length of their trip.
Extend diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) efforts to travel
Mental health and DE&I go hand in hand, because inclusive work cultures make employees of all backgrounds feel welcome and present.
The travel industry has inclusion issues that are important for employers to address. For example, LGBTQ+ women and travelers have been harassed or have had to hide their sexual identity while on a business trip. Additionally, 73% of business travelers have seen, or know someone who has seen, discriminatory practices during their business trips, such as travelers avoiding sitting near certain people (35%) or service workers ignoring to people (33%).
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Employers can create change by engaging diversity leaders in the corporate travel program and collaborating on travel policies and resources. Travel programs must have tools that educate employees about the potential risks at their destination and provide immediate assistance if something happens along the way.
Additionally, employers should prioritize hotels and other travel providers that act inclusively toward diverse populations, for example, hotels that accommodate people with disabilities or have increased security to protect women and LGBTQ+ travelers.
Set wellness checks
Companies need to establish more routine communications to verify and collect feedback. “In addition to professional mental health services, employers can engage with simple interventions like monitoring employees, treating them with respect and compassion, encouraging regular daily exercise and meditation practices,” according to Dr. Thomas Plante, professor of psychology. at Santa Clara University and clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine.
“Paying attention to the well-being of your workforce goes a long way. Remembering that people are important, sacred, fully human, and that they want to thrive, flourish, and contribute to a better world is also important,” she says.
When companies offer health and wellness services to support business travelers, employees use them. Nearly all travel managers (93%) report that the majority of employees take advantage of these services at least occasionally while traveling.
Integrate sustainability into your corporate social awareness program
Nearly all business travelers (94%) plan to take steps in the next 12 months to reduce the environmental impact of their business travel, especially Gen Z (98%) and millennials (96%). Gen Z (22%) and millennials (28%) would even consider turning down a business trip if it required the use of unsustainable travel options.
Companies can help employees achieve their sustainability goals by establishing company-wide policies. For example, set green travel parameters, such as prioritizing non-stop flights to reduce carbon emissions or hotel providers that commit to reducing waste and emissions. Empower employees to contribute to these initiatives by offering incentives, increasing training and education, and electing sustainability ambassadors.
Safety, DE&I, wellness and sustainability should be at the core of all business travel programs – and workplaces themselves – to help employees focus on their mental health.
Hear from CWT and others at The Phocuswright Conference 2022 in November