Skift Take

I'm tired, you're tired, we're all tired when we travel for work. It's leading employees to burn out and quit, causing problems for travel managers and companies that push their workers too hard. Some sleep and nicer flights can help.

Business travel burnout is real, and those who travel the most tend to have the highest risk of negative health effects and inevitably quitting their job for something involving fewer treks away from home.

New data from Airline Reporting Corporation and consulting group tClara show that health concerns should be a larger part of travel policy to boost both personal and economic outcomes of business trips.

The Achieving Better Business Travel Results: Insights from U.S. Road Warriors report polled 742 U.S.-based road warriors on their experience with burnout, staying healthy, and attitudes toward their employers.

The research found that the quality of a trip, whether in cabin class and hotel type or the types of meals a traveler scarfs down, correlates strongly with whether a work trip is viewed as successful afterward.

“Road warriors, those who spent at least 35 nights away from home and took at least four trips by airplane in the last 12 months, say there is a 24 percent chance that they will voluntarily leave their employer in the next two years,” notes the report. “The two top-rated ways to reduce this attrition risk are to allow business class seating on flights longer than six hours and to use less of the road warrior’s personal time for travel. An alarming 48 percent of road warriors say they hope to travel much less in two years.”

The qualities of a trip that increase success are actually quite simple and predictable, according to the data.

Getting better sleep before and during trips 34%
Getting or keeping business class seating on flights over six hours 30%
Having more exercise and/or healthier meals while traveling 27%
Getting or keeping premium economy seating on flights under six hours 26%
Getting higher quality or more convenient hotels 25%
Using less personal time on work trips 22%
Having more positive attitudes and emotions while traveling 18%
Getting more non-monetary appreciation from manager for travel 17%
Source: ARC, tClara

One of the side effects of increased business travel is burnout followed by attrition when an employees leaves for another role where less travel is involved. The road warriors polled said that business class seats and increased personal time make them more likely to stick around.

Business Class seating on flights over six hours 31%
Personal time needed for business trips 30%
Higher quality or more convenient hotels 26%
Premium economy seating on flights under six hours 25%
Help getting more exercise and/or healthier meals while traveling 25%
Help getting better sleep before and during trips 24%
More non-monetary appreciation from managers for travel 21%
Help generating more positive attitudes and emotions while traveling 18%
Source: ARC, tClara

“A more strategic approach to managing road warriors should lead to significantly better business results. Senior management should track new travel-related metrics; especially road warrior attrition and trip success rates,” proposes the report. “Companies should invest in wellness programs tailored for road warriors. The expected benefits are better trip success rates, lower attrition risks and lower rates of traveler burnout.”

The report also focuses on the different outcomes between cost-focused and traveler-oriented programs that may end up being more expensive for companies. Correlation isn’t causation, but the evidence shows that having a nicer travel experience encourages workers to not just stick around but become more productive on their trips.

Cost-focused Travel Policies are Bad for Business and for Travelers
Self-reported two-year attrition risk 33% 17% Nearly twice the attrition risk
Trips rated worthwhile 57% 66% Lower trip success rate
Travelers who desire much less travel in two years 57% 47% More reluctance to travel
Travelers are burned out or nearly burned out on travel 20% 14% More burned out on travel
Source: ARC, tClara

Looking at the dynamic from the other side, 91 percent of those with a traveler-focused program were satisfied with their travel policy while just 59 percent of those in a cost-focused program were. On the same note, 17 percent in a traveler-focused program reported a negative impact on their health, compared to 35 percent in a cost-focused program.

“Road warriors managed under cost-focused travel policies, compared to those managed under traveler-focused policies, are much less satisfied with their company’s travel policy and report nearly twice the rates of negative impacts on their physical, mental and emotional health, as well as on relationships with their families,” concludes the report.

Check out the full report below:

Download (PDF, 2.59MB)


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Tags: business travel, ctir

Photo credit: Qantas Boeing 787 Business Class. Qantas

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