While travelling for work may sound cool to recent graduates, frequent business travellers know just how painful business trips can be. In fact, a recent study conducted by Columbia University found that people who travel for work more than 21 days per month are more likely to become obese and depressed than those sho travel less than 6 days per month. To ease the detrimental effects of business travel on people's physical and mental health, the study states that people need to take "responsibility for the decisions they make around diet, exercise, alcohol consumption, and sleep." However, from personal experience, I know some of these are much harder to control than others. Below are a few things I learned that have been immensely effective in making business trips more bearable.
How to Minimise the Impact of Jet Lag by Managing Your Sleep
One of the biggest pain points of work related travel is the jet lag. Especially when you have to travel far, waking up in the middle of the night and feeling dreadful around early evening can be very tiring, both physically and mentally. While relying on coffee and alcohol could sound both tempting and effective, they are actually not very helpful over the course of a few days. For instance, coffee can dehydrate your body and increase jet lag recovery time, while alcohol is known to prevent REM sleep, which is essential for your brain to rest and recover. Therefore, replacing coffee and alcohol with more natural substitues like water, tea and even melatonin can be much more effective in regulating your sleep cycle in a way that's sustainable and productive. Arriving during the day is also known to be more effective in adjusting to a different time zone than arriving at night.
Use the Jet Lag to Your Advantage to Exercise
Another bad part of business trip is gaining weight. Work trips tend to be filled with a lot of time sitting down in airplanes and cars, while stress and lack of options also tend to induce very unhealthy diet. Not only that, it could be rather difficult to exercise after a full day of meetings while being in a different time zone. The best way to fight this problem, however, is to turn the problem upside down and attack it directly. More likely than not, business travellers will be waking up very early due to the jet lag, which gives them at least an hour or two to spend at their hotels' exercise facilities. Even if your hotel doesn't have a gym, you can use the morning hours to go for a jog around the neighborhood or to simply do some yoga, pushups, situps and squats in your hotel room. Doing so also has the benefit of increasing your energy level throughout the day and helping you fall asleep better at night.
Avoid Being Alone to Fight Anxiety and Depression
Many business trips are done solo, and it could be difficult to find familiar faces in the city you are visiting for work. This fact hits the hardest when you have to eat alone in between meetings or after the day is over (worst, spending a weekend alone in a hotel can be quite brutal). Given this, there's no surprise that the aforementioned Columbia study found a heightened likelihood of anxiety and depressions in people who travel frequently for work. Even if you are unlucky enough to have no friends at your business trip destination, there are still ways to alleviate this painful part of your work trip.
First, scheduling lunch, dinner and happy hour meetings with your counterparts could actually be productive from both professional and personal standpoints. These meetings can be longer and personable than a typical 30 to 60 minute meetings, giving you a better opportunity to achieve your goals. Not only that, they keep you engaged socially for a more significant part of the day, reducing the time that you may be left to feel lonely and isolated. Another trick is to have a business trip partner who is a colleague or an industry friend. While this may not apply to all types of work trips (i.e. salespeople may not want to travel with their competition), but it could be a great way to attend conferences.
Use Your Credit Card Perks like an Oasis in the Desert to Reduce Stress
While the previous 3 issues of business trips are all about once you've arrived at your destination, some of the worst parts are in the travel itself. For example, spending an extended length of time at airports due to layovers or delays can be a great source of stress, which could easily multiply if you are going on long haul flights or flying after a day of meetings. In this sense, credit card travel benefits can feel like an oasis that can make your travel much more pleasant.
First, there actually are many credit cards that provide complimentary airport lounge access. Lounges are extremely valuable for business travellers because they serve free snacks and beverages, provide comfortable and quiet places to rest, which sometimes even include places for you to shower to freshen yourself up. When you are constantly hoping from flight to flight, getting to enjoy a little bit of pampering can go a long way in improving your mood. While their entrance fees can generally cost around S$50, you can easily enjoy these venues for free with a proper credit card.
Furthermore, most of these credit cards also provide complimentary travel insurance, which can be superbly helpful if and when you have an emergency. For example, what if your luggage was lost and delayed for a significant amount of time, but you have no professional clothes to wear to your meeting? In such a case, you could purchase new clothes confidently knowing that you will receive some compensations from your insurer. If you don't have such a card, it may be worth purchasing a separate travel insurance policy to make sure you are covered for various things like trip delays and medical emergencies (if you travel more than 4-5 times per year, consider getting an annual travel insurance policy).
Lastly, one of the most effective ways of reducing stress is having something to look forward to. In this sense, putting all of your business expenses on your miles credit card and getting reimbursed by your company could be a great way for you to "earn" a free vacation for yourself. Especially if you travel frequently, all of the hotel bookings and flight costs can add up to a significant amount of miles quite quickly. Each time you travel for work, you can imagine all of the places you can visit on your next vacation for free and temporarily escape the stress of a long and gruesome business trip.