The top five stress factors for Australian business travellers

November 2, 2017

SYDNEY – New research by International SOS identifies the impact of business travel on mental health and the need for Australian companies to improve emotional support for travelling staff.

Close to one million Australians travel overseas for work each year, but in doing so they potentially face an increased risk of stress, depression and anxiety that can have far-reaching consequences, International SOS says.

Travelling through different time zones (‘jetlag’), poor sleep and diet, a lack of work/life balance and social isolation from friends and family have been identified as the top stress factors for business travellers, along with having to contend with different organisational cultures or structures.

The survey of almost 100 companies from Australia and New Zealand, part of a cross-regional study, found 44% do not provide mental health support to their business travellers. Less than half of the companies who do provide support proactively communicate the emotional support offered to their business travellers.

“As links between the mental well-being of staff and business productivity become increasingly evident, executives and managers need to take into account the emotional well-being of their mobile workforce,” said Andrew Ebringer, Regional Medical Director of SOS International.

“Failed international business assignments cost companies, on average, $950,000. Companies invest in the success of their mobile workforce’s business trips and overseas assignments but often overlook emotional support systems that can decrease the likelihood of a failed assignment.”

It is not just people who are away for long periods who need emotional support, he said. Those who have shorter but frequent trips rarely see their workload reduced to offset the time away from their desk.

“This can produce anxiety as work continues to accumulate, while the impact on life at home through the loss of a family role and an imbalance in domestic responsibility can be significant.

“Organisations sending employees on short or long-term assignments abroad need to consider pre-trip emotional support that is appropriate for the destination and reactive response support systems that can be implemented quickly in times of an unexpected incident or accident,” said Ebringer.

The top incidents having most impact on business travellers in the past are:

- Working in a high-risk environment (country or workplace at risk), 50%;

- Personal incident (sexual assault, theft and robbery, road traffic accident, workplace injury), 45%;

- Terrorist or environmental incident (earthquake), 33%; and

- Death or severe injuries of a colleague, 21%. (ATI).