Business travel tips to stay healthy

Health tips for business travellers frequently away from home

Business travel can be an exciting perk for employees. It’s a wonderful opportunity to explore new countries and make connections with businesspeople from all over the world. While it’s important to ensure your business travellers have what they need when they travel – great accommodation, comprehensive insurance, access to their itinerary – there’s a part of business travel that is often overlooked.

Taking care of the physical and mental health of travellers who are frequently away on business is no easy feat. Between the grab-and-go food at the airport or client wining-and-dining, plus jet lag, different time zones, travel fatigue and frenetic schedules – sticking to healthy habits is almost impossible!

It’s part of the duty of care for a responsible employer to make sure employees have the knowledge and resources to take care of themselves while they travel. Instead of focusing on the negative impacts of travel on their health, prepare them with business-travel health tips they can use to stay physically and mentally healthy during their business trip. 

Eating right while on the road

Keeping track of your calorie intake and making healthy food choices is possibly the hardest part of frequent business travel. One survey reported that 44% of professionals are more likely to indulge in unhealthy foods while on a business trip than they would at home.

Eating well requires planning – you can support your business travellers to make healthier food choices by considering some of the following when preparing their itinerary.

Choosing accommodation that offers a free healthy breakfast – like any SmartSTAY hotel, exclusively available through Corporate Traveller – will make it easy for your traveller to get the day started well.

Research restaurant options near your business travellers’ accommodation and include a list of healthy eateries in their itinerary. That way, when they’re hungry, and more likely to make poor food choices, they don’t have to spend time finding somewhere to eat.

Encourage your travellers to pack their own snacks, for long-haul flights and to curb cravings between meals. Snacks which are fat-rich and high in protein, like almonds, are great options. Food for sale at airports and on flights is generally high in sugar and salt – not to mention extremely expensive.

When booking business travel accommodation, be sure to ask whether breakfast service is available and add this to your traveller’s room. An alternative is to reserve a room with simple kitchen facilities. If there’s a grocery store nearby, and a fridge, stovetop or microwave is available, your business travellers have the option of cooking their own simple, healthy meals.

Finally, your business travellers could use a food diary app to keep track of what they’re eating. It might help them to make more mindful decisions if they can see what they’ve already consumed during the day.

Drinking Habits during Business Trips

Remaining hydrated while away on a work trip is essential to both your health and productivity. Enjoying a vino or two in celebration with a client or an ice-cold beer after a busy day’s work is totally normal, but too much can start causing other health problems, including dehydration.

Here are some tips your business travellers can use to stay hydrated while travelling:

  1. Air travel is dehydrating and can quickly cause fatigue, so avoid alcohol while flying, and opt for water instead. Always take a reusable water bottle with you and fill it up after you’ve passed through airport security. It’ll also come in handy at conferences and in your hotel if a purified water station is available. Add this to your traveller’s business travel checklist.
  2. In most developing countries, drinking tap water can be risky and should generally be avoided – even for brushing your teeth. Bottled, sealed water is recommended.
  3. Avoid too many sugary fizzy drinks as these do nothing for keeping you hydrated. Processed sugars can send your energy levels on a rollercoaster of crashes and cravings. Try natural pick-me-ups like cold herbal teas or vegetable juices power-packed with vitamins and minerals. Soda water and fresh lime also makes for a refreshing alternative to fizzy drinks.
  4. Make sure hot drinks like coffee and tea are served very hot, not lukewarm, and any milk or cream added is fresh to avoid tummy bugs.
  5. Other countries have different rules around what’s served in bars, so mixed drinks might be much stronger than you’d expect. Stick to beer and wine, which have known amounts of alcohol. If you’re after something a little fancier, try a mocktail or especially ask for a ‘single’.

Sleeping tips for Business Travels

One of the best things you can do for your health and performance when travelling for business is getting enough sleep – often easier said than done! Again, planning is key – here are some top tips.

Sleeping on the plane

Air travel and sleep aren’t always synonymous, but there’s a good chance your business travellers will get some shut-eye with a bit of pre-planning on your part.

  • Reserve them window seats.
  • Add headphones and a good-quality U-shaped travel pillow to their packing lists.
  • Advise your travellers to ask to switch seats if there is an empty row after everyone has boarded.
  • Get your business travellers to consult with a medical professional before they fly, to see if pharmaceutical or natural sleep aids could work for them.
  • Avoid booking your business travellers on early-morning or late-night flights. Assuming they’ll then be ready for full day’s work doesn’t take into consideration any jetlag.

Getting enough z’s once you’ve arrived

  • Be considerate when planning your business travellers’ work itinerary: don’t schedule any meetings straight after they land, add extra time to rest in the mornings and longer breaks between appointments.
  • Advise your travellers on steps they can take to get as much rest as possible: reading a book, taking magnesium, drinking a cup of chamomile tea – whatever helps them to relax at home, make sure they have the same things with them when they travel.
Male and female spending time with their children after a work trip

Keeping up with the family

Often the most difficult part of frequent business travel is the time spent away from one’s family. Business travel is part of the job – your travellers understand that – but it’s important for their mental health and job satisfaction that you do as much as you can to support family and personal time.

Give your business travellers time to call their families while they’re away – and don’t forget about the different time zones. This might mean not scheduling too many morning or evening engagements.

Look for business travel accommodation options that have recreational activities for your traveller to enjoy. That might be a gym or swimming pool, a café or bar where they can be around other people, or at the very least, a room with a TV.

When your business travellers arrive home, don’t send them straight back to work. Give them a day or so to unwind and spend time with their families.

Even better, your business travellers might want to consider turning their trip into a ‘bleisure trip, and have their families join them.

Avoiding injury, illness and disease

There is nothing worse than falling ill while overseas, away from the comfort of your own home.

While it’s imperative your business travellers have good business travel insurance, including adequate health insurance for emergencies or serious illness or injury, here’s what you can do to make sure they’re in good health before they step on the plane.

Get vaccinations

Research what vaccinations are recommended for each destination or any planned activities and book your business traveller a doctor’s appointment to have them administered well in advance of leaving.

Take vitamins

Suggest taking a multi-vitamin and probiotic to keep the immune system in check. Vitamin C is also a good option.

Wash your hands

While it might seem a little overboard to remind your business travellers about the importance of washing their hands, it is the single best thing they can do to reduce the risk of sickness. Add hand sanitiser to their packing lists.

Dress and pack appropriately

There’s no need to wear business attire while flying. Instead, tell your travellers to wear comfortable clothes they can relax in, and make sure to pack an extra layer and socks in their carry-on luggage for when it gets cold.

Get a health check

Ask your travellers to check in with their doctors before any travel – they can talk them through any precautions and health advice based on the destination and circumstances.

If your travellers are prone to altitude sickness, they can pick up something to help manage that too.

Traveller’s diarrhoea

Not the most pleasant of topics but probably the most common travel-related illness. The best steps to avoid an upset stomach:

  • Choose food and drinks carefully – cooked foods are best and should be served hot.
  • Any raw fruit and vegetables must be washed in clean, uncontaminated water.
  • Avoid ice in your drinks and choose only bottled, sealed water.
Female staying active while travelling

Exercises and Business Trips

After unhealthy food choices and drinking too much alcohol, the third most common mistake for a business traveller is not making the time for exercise. That’s not to say your travellers need to be running 5km per day (unless they want to). Even the smallest amount of movement will do wonders for their physical and mental health.

Staying active

Where your business travel accommodation is located has a big influence on how easy it is to stay active.

  • Find accommodation with a gym or a pool – even a yoga mat in your business traveller’s room can be useful for a quick stretch session. Some hotels offer free exercises classes.
  • At least make sure the room is big enough for a quick 15-minute bodyweight workout – that’s all that’s needed.
  • Book appointments within walking or biking distance to your travellers’ accommodation. Even better, pick a scenic area where they can safely go for a morning jog.  
  • Lacking workout inspiration? There are several health and fitness apps travellers can use on the go to stay on track with their exercise.
  • Encourage travellers to take some activewear with them on their travels.

Relieving stress

Business travellers are frequently under a lot of stress – from both work and travelling. Making good food choices, exercising regularly, limiting alcohol intake and prioritising sleep will help to minimise the health effects of stress.

A couple of other tips for helping your business travellers reduce business travel-related stress:

  • Be clear on what is expected of them from the trip – both work outcomes and social expectations.
  • Help them plan, pack smartly and prioritise their wellbeing – they’ll perform better if you do.
  • Do your best to help them travel comfortably.
  • Schedule down-time – and encourage them to use it.

The impact of Jetlag

No one is immune to the effects of jetlag and while it doesn’t last forever, it can take a few days for your body to find its natural rhythm again. 

The symptoms of jetlag are different for everyone. The most visible sign is being tired or your body feeling fatigued. Some will experience insomnia, difficulty concentrating, irritable or depressive moods, nausea, fevers – everything that generally makes you feel bad!

There are ways you can help your frequent business travellers to recover quickly and safely from the effects of jetlag – and it’s all in the planning.

  • Avoid packing their schedule full before a big trip – give them time to sort their luggage, get a good night’s sleep and make it to airport with time to spare.
  • During their flight, encourage them to rest and relax instead of opening their laptops or phones and finishing those last few pesky emails. They need to sleep if they can.
  • Then, once they’ve landed give your business travellers enough time to adjust to their new time zone. A jam-packed itinerary will do nothing but cause more tiredness and fatigue.

Healthy business travellers are good for business

Ross Larsen

The key to keeping your business travellers healthy while they travel comes down to good preparation. While there’s only so much you can do (you can’t force someone to eat a chicken salad!), you can influence healthier choices – as part of your duty of care.

Healthwise New Zealand Business Leader Ross Larsen shares his top five tips for keeping healthy while travelling:

  1. Avoid engaging in too much screen time the night before a flight – to ensure a good night’s sleep and manage energy levels.
  2. Start the day off right – a simple, nutrient rich breakfast will leave you with lasting energy all morning.
  3. Moderation – just because you’re on a work trip, doesn’t mean you need to eat twice as much as you would normally. Plan ahead, eat small amounts often and stay well hydrated.
  4. Stretch and move – regularly get out of your seat when flying to ensure optimal circulation along with releasing any tight muscles.
  5. You’ve landed, it doesn’t stop yet - moisturise your face and wash your eyes after your flight. When you get the chance, try a daytime walk. This will help you adjust to any time zone changes and refresh your body.

If your business travellers have the tips and tools to look after their health while travelling, you’ll find they’re more productive and all-round good representatives of your business.

Remember, if you’re unsure whether something will be available, take it with you – healthy snacks, bottled water, resistance bands, sleep masks, earplugs and hand sanitiser.

All of this does add to an already long list of tasks for anyone planning and managing business travel. If your time is limited, a travel management company can support you where help is needed – giving you confidence your business travellers are well prepared.

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