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Tuesday, July 5, 2022

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Yes, business travel can be glamorous too

There are ways to cope and enjoy a business trip, where you can create a routine where work is done, deadlines are met, business goals are achieved. Picture: Reuters

There are ways to cope and enjoy a business trip, where you can create a routine where work is done, deadlines are met, business goals are achieved. Picture: Reuters

Published Mar 29, 2022


Business travel looks glamorous, with images of briefcase-swinging jet-setters tapping away on keyboards in exotic locations.

And now that PCR tests for vaccinated travellers have been scrapped, most road warriors are in the travel starting blocks – ready to take off.

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After two years of no travel, it's easy to forget the downsides of corporate travel: long hours, flight delays, disrupted routines, fatigue, unhealthy eating and lack of exercise.

Work-life balance was always difficult to achieve, but with these accelerated pressures, the time-honoured business trip can become a chore instead of an opportunity. For small and medium businesses, travel is not a luxury but a necessity, built around the need for maximum productivity and focus.

"Small-to-medium businesses are leading the way in returning to pre-Covid levels of business travel," says Oz Desai, GM of Corporate Traveller South Africa.

"They are travelling because they can't afford not to. SMEs don't have time to waste in getting back on board with their clients, suppliers and partners, and the quickest way to do that is to knock on their door."

Even large companies are reconsidering their attitude to executive travel. Companies realise that a happy employee is also a useful employee – sharper, more productive, fewer sick days and less likely to job hop.

Anxiety and stress come in various forms and can be caused due to things such as health concerns, grief, family issues, as well as business travel.

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According to the World Travel Protection Medical Team Leader, Emma-Louise Robertson, in a Managing Business Travel Anxiety report, travel can put us in unknown situations and places, hence the cause of increased stress or anxiety.

“High expectations of the journey and its impact on other parts of life can be a stressor for business travellers. Being away often means other work-related activities will be pushed back, which increases the workload on return,” adds Robertson.

However, there are ways to cope and enjoy a business trip, where you can create a routine where work is done, deadlines are met, business goals are achieved - but without any of the stress. Desai shares five ways to turn a business trip from a burden to a well-earned getaway.

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Travel management

Use a different approach right from the planning stages: skip that red-eye flight, make provision for some downtime and book the lounge at the airport ahead of time. If there is a possibility to do so, explore the option of adding a few bleisure days to your trip.

A Travel Management Company can design a policy that sets guidelines about who pays for what, preferred airlines and accommodations, integrating leave into the travel times, and booking requirements. Having a set of formal rules will raise staff morale, as staff will realise that the company means business when it comes to leisure.

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Beat the admin burnout

Business travellers spend 108 hours a year on admin work related to corporate travel; researching, booking, adjusting, cancelling and expensing travel.

Beat the admin burnout and rather hand the bookings, flights, visas, admin and all those devilish details over to a TMC. If cost is a factor, note that TMCs can negotiate special offers and discounts to offset their fees.

“Not only does a TMC source the best deals," says Desai, “but they also stay on top of booking changes, Covid restrictions, entry regulations and red tape. With their supplier connections and buying power, they can also arrange early or late check-in, flexible flights and excursions, shuttles, lounges, hotel perks, and more. They can identify areas for savings, such as using serviced apartments instead of hotels, travelling off-peak, or identifying loyalty programmes with airlines, hotels and restaurants."

A healthy mind, healthy body

The disruption of travel makes it easy to indulge your inner couch potato. But you can counter the excuses even before you leave: choose hotels with exercise opportunities like a gym, golf course, pool or jogging trails. Pack your exercise gear like running shoes and leisurewear.

To prevent meeting overruns and deadlines from interfering with your personal time, implement your exercise sessions and family excursions into the itinerary.

Stick to a healthy sleep routine, drink plenty of water, make time for breakfast with the family (great for bonding) and ask the hotel for packed lunches.

It's a go to say No

Professionals find it hard to say no, but if you want to beat business travel stress, you'll need to stand up.

Right from the booking phase, schedule your personal or family time, ensuring that you get the balance right between your work and your holiday, with plenty of buffers between work commitments for recharging the batteries.

During your downtime, switch off the phone and the internet, and connect with your family instead of the world. Checking devices last thing at night leads to sleeplessness and a lack of focus. Rather relax with a good book, a good companion, or a long bath – or maybe all three together.

These factors can help you have a better business experience, “when it comes to reducing business travel anxiety and stress, knowledge is power for both employers and employees,” Robertson adds.

Have you read the latest IOL Travel digital magazine? It’s filled with great Easter travel and weekend break ideas. You can read it here