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On the Road Again

Regular travel can stress even the most seasoned road warriors

By Anicka Quin

Vitold Horodecki has a few rituals for his regular overseas journeys: drink lots of water, wear noise-cancelling headphones, avoid the unappetizing meals on the plane and get up early the next day to hit the gym. “My biggest goal is to reset my routine,” explains the global travel director of Capgemini. “You can be a zombie at a meeting if you’re not careful.”

For road warriors like Horodecki, frequent travel can take its toll: sleep difficulties, jet lag, poor diet and lack of exercise are commonplace. That stress has personal costs, and as a recent survey of 6000 business travellers by the CWT Solutions Group demonstrates, it can cost the company too.

The results of the survey, says Joel Wartgow, senior director of the CWT Solutions Group, were both surprising and validating. Lost or delayed baggage was a top stress driver, as was flying economy on medium or long haul flights. But more surprising was the second-greatest stressor: a poor Internet connection at the traveller’s destination.

Those stressors can be quantified into time and money, says Wartgow. “From the point when you book your trip to when you return, there’s an average of 6.9 hours that is unproductive, or lost time,” he explains, with that lost time coming from both perceived stress, the result of inefficient travel choices (like sitting in economy vs. business class on a long-haul flight) and general lost time in travel (getting to the airport). For someone who’s managing business travel costs, says Wartgow, that 6.9 hours is the equivalent of about $662—an average calculated from the cost of employment of over 8000 travellers. Of that lost time, about 32 per cent of it can be reclaimed, says Wartgow. CWT has launched a consulting program to help corporate travel managers find out where those lost hours are, but the answers can be complex.

Dr. Kathleen Hall of the Stress Institute in Atlanta, Georgia, says that travel stress needs to be tackled before a traveller even boards a plane. Her acronym for stress-free travel is the “SELF” care method:

Serenity: Listening to soothing music or nature sounds before you board.

Exercise: Walking the airport, or finding a quiet corner to go through a few yoga stretches.

Love: Being compassionate toward fellow travellers. “We know that people who are in a group, or in communities, have a much lower risk of all disease, especially heart attacks,” says Hall. “So don’t think of yourself alone. Everybody you travel with is mutually responsible and caring for each other.”

Food: Anything that nourishes you, from healthy food to carrying things you love. “Travel with your favourite shoes, a jacket or a shirt in your favourite colour,” says Hall. “Even photographs on your smartphone—something you can laugh or smile about.”

But how can a corporate travel manager translate those ideas into effective programs? At least part of the solution comes from providing employees with the tools to work efficiently when they’re travelling: ensuring the company’s preferred hotels are in convenient locations and well equipped with WiFi—factors given as much weight as the cost of the room. Dennis Swane, strategic sourcing manager at Ericsson in Montreal, also directs employees to time-saving, stress-reducing mobile apps—like SeatGuru, which helps users avoid the uncomfortable seat that won’t recline, or the CWT To Go app, which alerts users if their connecting flight is delayed or if there are gate changes.

Read our 10 Tips to Stay Healthy On the Road.

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