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Business travellers more likely to engage in risky behaviour while abroad

Over a third of international business travellers are more likely to engage in a number of risky behaviours when travelling, with only 15 per cent more concerned about their safety while away.

Despite an increase in risky behaviour, 67 per cent of respondents also reported increased engagement in their jobs due to business travel.

Professor Robert Quigley, Senior Vice President and Regional Medical Director at International SOS commented: “Travellers will act differently, dependent on a huge range of factors. But organisations must bridge a risk awareness gap by educating traveling staff about the potential health and safety risks they face when abroad, before it has an impact. This can play a critical role in helping international business travellers better protect themselves and, importantly, to keep business aims on track.”

The research ‘Keeping International Business Travellers Happy & Healthy at Home and Away’ by International SOS Foundation in partnership with Kingston University and Affinity Health at Work also found that younger, less experienced employees are especially likely to partake in risky behaviour while on a business trip.

The study shows that this may be the result of lowered inhibitions as the majority agree that they see business travel as an opportunity for adventure and exploration. 59% also report that it’s an opportunity to enjoy freedom from home life.

Risky Behaviours Uncovered
• 46 per cent admit to consuming more alcohol when away on business
• 35 per cent are more likely to visit bars and nightclubs
• 35 per cent more likely to eat in unhygienic places
• 33 per cent will travel to areas they don’t know are safe
• 32 per cent are more likely to travel in vehicles without adequate protection
• Nearly one in ten travellers also reported that they would be more likely to start a sexual relationship with a new sexual partner(s)
• 2 per cent are more likely to have unprotected sex and 2 per cent are more likely to use drugs than they are at home

As employee mental health and its impact on business outcomes is increasingly scrutinised, as well as risk behaviour, the new research looks at burn out, and exhaustion, alongside a sense of adventure, freedom and heightened engagement that comes with business travel.

Rachel Lewis, Associate Professor in Occupational Psychology and Programme Director for the MSc and Professional Doctorate Programme in Occupational and Business Psychology, at Kingston Business School, added: “By starting to look into the causes as well as the impacts on business travellers, the research and paper provides practical support for employers and employees as well as valuable insights. Awareness is the first step in tackling these issues that are inevitably only going to become more prevalent as an increasing workforce population partake in international travel.”

Mental & Physical Health

The report also uncovers the impact on mental health and physical wellbeing, including an increase in stress levels and emotional exhaustion.
mood suffers when on business
• 45 per cent experience an increase in stress levels while on a business trip
• 41 per cent of respondents report that their mood suffers when on business trips
• Nearly a third experience emotional exhaustion, a core feature of burnout, on a weekly basis (particularly prevalent in IBTs with children voiced higher levels of emotional exhaustion)

• A quarter of respondents report their mental health issues are more prevalent

Mental health issues are consolidated with physical health demands and issues, including working more hours, are less likely to have a balanced diet, less likely to exercise, and suffer from reduced quality sleep.

Kai Boschmann, Director, International SOS Foundation, comments: “The business opportunities associated with international travel are undisputed, but research suggests that frequent travellers make three times as many claims for psychological treatment compared to those who don’t travel on business regularly. To safeguard business continuity, as well as fulfilling Duty of Care obligations, organisations need to better understand how they can protect the mental health and physical wellbeing of their employees while travelling.”

Rachel Lewis continued: “The combination of the physical demands and restrictions of international business travel, including the ability to eat moderately as well as keep a regular exercise routine, can have a major impact. Many people rely on this kind of activity to keep a balance both physically and psychologically, whether they are at home or away. This may be why only 40% of international business travellers reported a sufficient work/life balance.”

Professor Robert Quigley MD, commented: “Organisations can be doing a lot more to support and protect their business travellers. The logistics of business travel are a well-trodden path, but the mental wellbeing of employees who travel regularly is being overlooked, and could be having a major impact on both personnel and the health of a business. Appropriate support and advice, encompassing behavioural, physical and psychological health, can be the difference between a successful business trip and a costly failed one.”

The new study ‘Keeping International Business Travellers Happy & Healthy at Home and Away’ and supporting materials will be presented in a webinar at 4pm GMT on Thursday 8 November. To register for the webinar, click here.