To many outsiders—and even plenty of insiders—there’s a certain allure to a life of business travel.
For the uninitiated, a superficial view of business-travel lifestyle might encompass lots of legroom, and a hot towel in first class, enticing snapshots of exotic locales on a traveler’s Instagram™ page, and a range of glimpses into an apparent life that’s part luxury and jet setting, part important business. Just about any frequent traveler would contest such a misconception however, citing the obstacles that can come in the forms of travel fatigue and burnout.
A realistic look at the life of a frequent business traveler reveals that there’s another side to the story: For each of its perks—from seeing new places to the regular absence of routine—business travel can have corresponding challenges.
One form that travel fatigue can take is chronic jet lag. Even those who love being on the road can come up against an inescapable level of fatigue. In addition to reducing your mental acuity, chronic jet lag can actually compromise your immune system—leaving you more likely to get sick while away from home.
There’s really no silver bullet to defeat jet lag during a long trip, but certain tactics can mitigate its worst effects. Evan Konwiser, a frequent international traveler and VP of Technologies for American Express Global Business Travel, recommends that you ”stay hydrated and don’t drink too much alcohol.” He advises that you ”use caffeine strategically.” A cup of coffee at the wrong time can go a long way towards jeopardizing the good night’s sleep that will help relieve you from jet lag. Save your caffeine intake for when you need it most—an important meeting or a fast-approaching deadline.
Konwiser also points out that light exposure is critical in adjusting to your new location’s schedule. ”Use light, especially sunlight, to wake you up and keep you up,” he says. Sunlight naturally regulates your body’s circadian rhythms, the biological processes that determine when we sleep, eat, and do other activities.
Once it’s time to get some sleep, you can also find an app to help you out. One of our favorites is Sleep Pillow Sounds™. Available for free on the Apple® App Store, this app plays the soothing sounds of rain or plain white noise to block out distractions and help you get the rest you need.
A body in motion stays in motion
Another potential physical toll that can affect frequent travelers is just generally being in worse physical shape. This is because when business travelers are short on time or feeling the effects of travel fatigue, it can be easy to skip the gym. On top of this, relying heavily on airline-provided meals will leave you more at risk to put on weight.
Gabrielle Novacek of Boston Consulting Group and a triathlon competitor told the New York Times that she brings her own meals from home and supplements them with what she can find in the airport. “She carries couscous or rice, mixed with some fresh vegetables or protein, which can be eaten cold.” But if Gabriele’s stuck without a homemade meal, “…she stocks her pantry — a Built black neoprene lunch bag — with Greek yogurt, low-fat cheese, and sandwiches with seitan or other vegan ingredients. She also carries organic MacroBars.” Consider what you can bring with vs. what you can find at the airport convenient stores.
Stay on top of the food that you’re putting in your body and how much exercise you’re getting with a fitness tracking app like MyFitnessPal™. With this simple application, you can log how many calories you are eating and drinking throughout your travels. MyFitnessPal™ also allows you to calculate how many calories you’re burning with your daily exercise, whether you’re walking home or a lifting weights.
The possible physical consequences of travel fatigue are quite daunting. Add to these the potential psychological pitfalls of traveling all the time—homesickness, and job-related pressure—and you have a recipe for travel burnout. With the right approach, even constant travelers can fight back against travel burnout and help ensure that their travel works well for both them and their business.
Keep in touch—or keep them with you
Being away from your home, friends, and family can put a lot of strain on your relationships. Family time, even if it’s a phone call or a video call from your hotel room, can go a long way towards restoring your energy and boosting your morale. Turn to free apps like Skype™ or FaceTime™ for easy voice or video calls from either your computer or your smart phone.
When possible you can even bring your family or significant other on the road with you. Change things up every so often, and extend your business trip into an enjoyable vacation. There may be no better way to beat travel burnout than by turning trying travel for business into a short vacation.
Make the most of your time
Of course it won’t be possible to do this for all trips, though. That’s why it’s important to make the most of each trip to a new locale even when you’re on your own. Just spending an hour in a museum that piques your interest or having a taste at a local brewery can be a boost to your outlook. In addition to tacking on a new personal memory from your business trips, you can also swing by local shops and take a bit of each place back with you, whether it’s to be proudly placed on your desk or shared with your loved ones.
While the business traveler certainly bears the brunt of the fight against travel fatigue and burnout, never forget that the travel management team can also help support travelers and ensure best possible experiences.