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Business Travel and Health

Recent studies linking frequent business travel to health-related problems have important implications for corporate travel managers and their companies.

By Donna Carter

In a perfect world travelling employees would all be fit and healthy individuals never succumbing to illness. But the real world is less than perfect. Current studies, including one by Dr. James Aw, medical director of the Medcan Clinic, a leading private health clinic in Toronto, confirm that constant travel indeed elevates the risk of suffering health issues—more today than ever with globalization extending the range and frequency of business trips.

Why are the study results important to corporate travel managers (CTMs) and their companies? “For every single organization, the most important asset is its human capital,” says Suzanne Garber, chief operating officer for Trevose, PA-based International SOS Assistance Inc., a leading healthcare and medical assistance company.

“Consequently it makes sense for a company’s Duty of Care plan to include a strategy for promoting and supporting the health of its employees. A program targeting illness prevention is less costly and more sustainable than dealing with the potential moral, legal and financial ramifications of a do-nothing approach.”

Prevention is indeed the cornerstone of any Duty of Care plan. And as such, an ideal plan would contain a broad strategy that includes encouraging business travellers to follow good health practices. But it doesn’t end there.

A CTM requesting anonymity agrees that plans with positive health strategies are well and good but argues that its ultimate success depends on the endeavor being a two-way street between employee and employer. “For instance, a CTM might select preferred hotel suppliers with onsite workout facilities but the business traveller cannot be made to use them,” he explains. “Some degree of personal responsibility has to come into play.” 

An Apple A Day
“The health and well-being of employees can directly impact on how they perform on the job,” says Dr. Mark Wise, a Toronto-based family physician specializing in travel health. Wise offers basic measures that CTMs and their companies can employ to minimize the risk of road warrior illness.   

-Annual physical examinations

-Complimentary gym memberships

-Fitness coaching

-Dietary advice

-Spa days

-Stress-relieving yoga sessions

FYI: Recent studies found that frequent travellers are 260% more likely to rate their health fair to poor. Columbia University study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, April 2011.

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