The Unforeseen Risks of a Hypermobile Workforce
In a time when organisations’ global footprints are ever expanding, it is becoming more important that travellers understand the risks they face when outside the office.
While the possibility of seeing the world and meeting new people on a regular basis makes travelling for work sound very attractive, mobile employees actually face a wide range of unforeseen risks when travelling for work.
In our new ‘Future of Risk’ white paper, we asked Prof. Scott Cohen – Professor of Tourism and Transport at the University of Surrey – to discuss these challenges. We’ve summarised his findings below, but for a full overview, download your copy of the ‘Future of Risk’ today.
While we all know that flying can cause jet lag, Prof. Cohen explains in our Future of Risk white paper how chronic jet lag, exhaustion and increased exposure to radiation from frequent long-haul flights can be more serious than you might think.
Scott highlights how an accumulation of early mornings, late evenings and intense working days can often result in ‘frequent traveller exhaustion’ and lead to a reduction in productivity and concentration levels, while chronic jet lag can raise the risk of heart attack, stroke and memory impairment.
The potential impact on your physical health from these problems cannot be taken lightly and should be accounted for when you are asked to travel for work. This means making time to rest and recharge your batteries after a long flight or busy day of travel.
Potentially even more surprising is the fact that making an excessive amount of long-haul flights can result in you exceeding the regulatory limit for public exposure to radiation. This is because while flying, travellers are exposed to a higher level of background radiation, which has been linked with an increased chance of developing certain cancers.
Consequently, this has even lead to calls for business travellers to be classified as radiation workers due to an increased exposure to ionising radiation when flying at higher altitudes and latitudes.
Having an awareness of the physical impacts excessive global travel, particularly flying, can have on the body is extremely important, as an accumulation of these physical effects can lead to extended absences from work and long term problems with your health.
Besides from the long-term physical impacts of jet lag, exhaustion and radiation, business travel can also affect a traveller’s mental health.
Whilst business travel offers you some great opportunities to see the world and explore far flung destinations, over time frequent travellers may begin to develop feelings of isolation and loneliness. This can stem from spending too much time living in a different culture, where both language barriers and cultural differences minimise your engagement with other people.
Constantly feeling isolated and lonely can then lead to dependency issues, as Cohen explains how an excessive consumption of alcohol is a common consequence of frequent business travel. An over reliance on alcohol when travelling could easily transfer into your day-to-day life when back at home, meaning struggles with addiction may arise and result in problems both at work and in your personal life.
Furthermore, when frequently spending long periods of time away from loved ones and your home environment, a weakening of local ties and detachment from a sense of home are common issues. However, more worryingly, these problems often lead to poor mental health and illnesses such as anxiety and depression.
With serious mental health illnesses including depression being a possibility, it cannot be stressed enough that having somebody to talk to, and feeling comfortable to do so, is essential as a traveller.
Consequently, with the risks of hypermobility demanding more attention from employers and employees alike, Prof. Scott Cohen suggests several recommendations you as a traveller can request be put in place to help minimise the potential impacts of excessive or frequent travel.
Asking for improved video conferencing tools means you won’t need to travel the globe for a meeting that could have taken place in the comfort of your own office. Also, requesting a cap on the number of trips taken per month/annum, as well as ensuring a minimum rest period in between trips is implemented will help prevent exhaustion from taking a hold.
Above are just a few of the additional steps employers should be carrying out in order to protect the wellbeing of their travellers, all of which you as the traveller should ensure are put into practise.
If you would like additional information about the mental health effects of business travel and the technologies changing the future of risk mitigation, download our full ‘Future of Risk’ white paper today.