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Business Travel Could Do With A Wellness Injection

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Business travel is on the rise and so too is the strain on our health and well-being.

As 2018 draws to a close, many businesses are wrapping up plans for the new year. And while workplace wellness is a lot higher on the agenda than it has been in the past, there is one aspect of it that may not be getting the attention it deserves.

What was once considered an opportunity only executives and directors got to take, business travel has become much more common across all levels and businesses are spending more money than ever on it.

While traveling for work can be appealing for many employees, it can take its toll on health and well-being.

While travel itself can be a drawcard, it can also take a toll on health and well-being.

The stress, sleep interruption, unhealthy eating and drinking, and lack of exercise that are common side effects of being on the road. Over the long-term, these issues can add up to chronic disease risks. Andrew Rundle, Associate Professor of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health

A World Bank study showed that almost 75% of those traveling for business reported high or very high stress.

The business travel industry accounts for $1.3 million of global spending annually (£39bn in the UK) and is expected to continue to rise, at 3.7% every year over the next ten years.

There’s more workplace wellness policies could do to incorporate business travel.

Given this continued expected growth, it would seem the opportunity for emerging markets to fill the need for health and well-being improvements is ripe too. Making how business travel is conducted even more important for workplaces to be integrating into planning processes.

Airbnb may just be onto something with its Airbnb for Work platform. Launched four years ago now, the platform offers a certain quality standard and the comforts of a home ‘away from home’. This in itself can do a lot for personal wellbeing. And there is evidence that when your employees are more happy and comfortable, their productivity goes up too.

Bookings for Airbnb for Work’s platform have tripled as more people gravitate towards the comforts of home when traveling for business.

The platform has evolved over the years, however, its primary function remains to offer accommodation conducive to business needs – space for workstations, easy access to public transport, speedy WiFi, and the comforts of home to support the release of stress at the end of the day.

Demand for such needs is clearly evident, with bookings tripling from 2015 to 2016 and tripling again from 2016 to 2017. (The latest data available). Although Airbnb has had more than 43,000 companies sign up and book in the UK alone, there are plenty of workplaces across private and public sectors that still use corporate travel booking agencies, or have more stringent rules around what employees are permitted to book.

There are signs that more businesses are using services such as Airbnb for Work, or considering it in their plans.

There is, of course, nothing stopping these companies from incorporating Airbnb for Work onto their approved supplier list. And perhaps there is some indication of this trend shifting already. According to a 2017 Engencia Survey, in that past year, 25% of UK business travelers used a ‘shared economy’ type service (e.g. Airbnb) and a further 44% were ‘considering it’.

While Airbnb for Work may be paving the way for a more enhanced business travel experience, accommodation is just one element of business travel that could take a toll on health. The availability of meals, sleep deprivation and the mode of transport itself all impacting.

The average work traveler is on a departmental budget, likely to navigate towards a hotel stay, with little more than the customary menu available and basic gym equipment. While the wellness offerings will vary by city, it’s less likely these travelers are accessing the full extent of the new wellness tourism offerings.

Studies have shown that improvements to employee well-being boost productivity.

Ensuring employees are taken care of just as much outside the office as within could have significant benefits to the business too. A CWT study, including data from over 15 million business trips, found that:

Traveller-focused policies which take into account the impact of trip-related stress, could help companies improve traveler well-being while also improving corporate productivity by up to 32%.

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