We often think about road warriors as a stoic bunch, but it's important for companies not to overlook the toll of fear on travelers and their families — especially if they want those employees to stay on the road.
Business travelers have a reputation for resilience, but that doesn’t mean they — and their families — aren’t worried about safety.
According to results of a new survey from the Association of Corporate Travel Executives, 67 percent of travelers said there was a psychological effect on them or their families when they went to a region where they didn’t feel safe.
Of that group, 16 percent said travel was psychologically taxing on them, while 77 percent said the impact was on their family and friends.
The survey was planned after the terror attacks in Paris last year; the association had held a global conference there just a couple weeks earlier. Results were released Monday during the ACTE Global Corporate Travel Conference in Dallas.
ACTE executive director Greeley Koch said he started thinking about how travelers were affected while talking to association members, including one who confessed he was lying to his children about where he was going on business so they wouldn’t worry.
“It’s giving them pause, it’s kind of top of mind,” he said.
The survey showed that 65 percent of respondents said they had some kind of fears while traveling.
Those concerns included being stranded in a security lockdown, caught up in an in-flight terrorist attack, or becoming ill while on the road, but a majority of those who responded feared mugging and traffic accidents more than an attack.
While 20 percent of travelers said they felt that fear started to subside after a week following a terror strike, 65 percent said it lingered for up to three months and 5 percent said they thought concerns lasted for more than a year.
Compared to a year ago, 18 percent of respondents said they were much more anxious, while 42 percent said they were a little more anxious. More than a third said there was no change in their anxiety level.
The survey also showed that a third of travelers said they are less sensitive about privacy as terror threats increase.
“That was a big shift,” Koch said. “I want somebody to know where I am. That was an ‘aha.'”
Koch said one question he thought was important was whether road warriors continued traveling because they wanted to or because they had to. Results showed that 31 percent of travelers worried that their career could be hurt if they were reluctant to travel, and 6 percent would not be comfortable expressing concerns about travel to upper management.
“When we saw that statistic, I was like: ‘OK, there is a worry about career,'” Koch said.
The joint ACTE/Business Traveller survey of 606 business travelers and 270 travel managers was conducted in association with American Express Global Business Travel. The study took place between March 16 and April 12, a window that included the attacks in Brussels.
After the Brussels bombings in late March, the Global Business Travel Association and partner groups in Europe released results of a poll that showed 53 percent of respondents were limiting travel to or within Europe to some degree. Very few were halting travel altogether.
Koch said he wanted to dig down on questions of how travelers feel — rather than just how companies act — to make sure employers and suppliers were considering the reality of fear when making policies.
“We know people want to carry on,” he said. “How do we help them? What should we do differently?…That I don’t know; we just want to start the discussion about it.”
Photo credit: Armed French soldiers patrol at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris late last year. Charles Platiau / Reuters