To quote singer Warren Zevon, "I've been to Paris and it ain't that pretty at all." Many people often think of business travel as a "free vacation" or that it's all champagne and caviar (and if it is for you, I want to know where you work), but the reality is that it's often very stressful. An article titled "Six Tips to Reduce Stress While Traveling for Business" on Forbes' website details the common causes of travel-related stress and what you can do about them.
Basically, according to the article, there are three main areas that can cause stress -- lost time, unforeseen events, and a new routine. The first one, lost time, is one that most likely affects people the most. I don't care how efficient you may be, whether you are the best multitasker in the world, or if you are constantly connected via mobile device, there is always work that needs to be caught up when you return from a business trip. Some things just can't be accomplished when you're away from the office.
The next stressor, unforeseen events, rarely happens, but when it does, it's definitely a major issue. You're trying to get somewhere and then a flight is delayed, your rental car breaks down, your luggage is lost, or you miss a connection. All these affect your well-planned schedule causing you to freak out.
Finally, there's a disruption from your normal day-to-day routine. If you're a creature of habit, then be prepared to have your world turned upside down. Obviously, your diet, exercise, and sleep regimens will be difficult, if not impossible, to maintain. This added stress, combined with the potential lack of sleep and unhealthy diet, has now affected your immune system, making you more susceptible to the awful germs that are lurking in airplanes and hotel rooms.
Want to throw a wrench into these three main areas of stress? Travel internationally. Besides the added effect of jet lag, research has found that it takes anywhere from six to 11 days for a person's body to return completely back to the way it was before leaving on the trip. Oh, and you can also add the risk of deep vein thrombosis, which can develop from sitting for long amounts of time on those international flights.
Now that you know the most likely culprits that trigger stress on a business trip, what can you do about them? Like any good Boy Scout will tell you, be prepared. When you're running down your packing checklist (you do have a checklist, right?), make sure you include things that won't be at your destination. For example, computer files, mobile Wi-Fi access, phone chargers, batteries, etc.
Speaking of packing, try to pack smart. That means bringing only carry-on bags if you're able so you won't have lost luggage and wasted time hanging around the baggage claim area. Remember to check the weather and bring appropriate clothing. Travel light and efficient by packing travel-sized bathroom items and only the clothes you'll need, but your wardrobe should be versatile in case you get a stain or there's no iron at the hotel.
When you book your flight, rental car, hotel, etc., try and make your itinerary as stress-free as possible. That means to confirm the location of your hotel, fly into the best airport, which may or may not be the closest, and fly nonstop if possible to eliminate the possibility of missed connections and lost luggage. If you have to take a connecting flight, give yourself a reasonable amount of layover time. Nobody likes to wait longer than they have to at an airport, but would you rather schedule an extra hour of layover, or risk missing your next flight due to delays?
This almost goes without saying, but be comfortable when you travel. This includes clothing, bringing your favorite book, magazine, music, and snacks, and even taking a travel pillow if you're so inclined. Try to exercise by walking briskly and stretching, and eat sensibly. Finally, file that expense report immediately so you're not worried about any out-of-pocket costs.
Whew! You're back home, all is well, and you can relax and unwind. Time to take a vacation!
This article is from the HR Elements Newsletter. Click here to sign up.