HR Management & Compliance

Q&A: Business Travel Doesn’t Have to Be a Major Source of Employee Burnout

As an HR professional, you’ve likely had to tackle employee burnout. There are many approaches for preventing and addressing this issue. Today, we’re focusing on business travel’s contribution to employee burnout.

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We recently had a chance to speak with the CEO and Founder of NexTravel, Wen-Wen Lam, about some research the company has completed concerning burnout.

HR Daily Advisor: I understand you conducted some research into employee burnout. What was the takeaway?

Lam: Business travel isn’t the only path toward employee burnout, but it’s often overlooked as a source of employee stress. The biggest takeaway here was just how much of an impact business travel can have on employees’ mental health and, in turn, how that could affect a company’s recruitment and retention.

In fact, one in five business travelers said they’d actually change jobs if another company offered something like bleisure travel—the blending of business and leisure travel. The way employees think about traveling for work is changing, and if companies don’t change with it, they risk losing top talent.

HR Daily Advisor: Were you surprised by any of the findings?

Lam: I was surprised at just how much business travel affected employees’ lives. The impact this has on them points to the need for newer travel tools, like ours, that offer more flexibility, which many companies we work with have asked for early on.

The path to burnout isn’t a singular experience, and business travelers reported they felt a significant impact on their physical health, mental health, personal relationships, and even personal expenses.

That said, nearly a third of them said they wanted companies to make business travel feel like a perk, which is good news for employers that have employees out on the road—as long as they can start mitigating some of those signs of burnout before they become too much.  Due to the strong job market, these types of “perks” are an increasingly important part of recruitment.

HR Daily Advisor: Shocking information about employee burnout has been around for a little while now: Are employers powerless to address it?

Lam: Employers certainly have the power to address burnout, and the goal of our research was to help them do exactly that by identifying some of the root causes. At the end of the day, mitigating burnout starts at the top, and for many companies, this only happens when there is a cultural change in the office.

As generations that are often thought of as young and inexperienced (Millennials and even Gen Z) become the dominant workforce, their needs have to be taken into consideration. New workforces have different expectations for their business travel, and companies need to adjust accordingly, primarily by bringing more flexibility and empowerment into the traveler’s experience.

HR Daily Advisor: Your report focused on business travel. Isn’t business travel something that can help with burnout? You know, a change of scenery, breaking up the week—that kind of thing?

Lam: Absolutely. As I mentioned before, many respondents said they want business travel to feel like a perk. Not only is a good business travel experience helpful for retention and recruitment, but it’s also an underappreciated opportunity to strengthen relationships within your team. Offering your employees an extra day or 2 in the city they are visiting to spend time with that team and explore a new city—this is a positive experience that can help avoid burnout.

HR Daily Advisor: Should employers simply scale back on business travel if it’s so damaging?

Lam: Face-to-face interactions are extremely important, so it’s more about rethinking business travel rather than replacing it altogether. Today’s travelers want to see the places they are visiting, have the option to spend more on the flight they want, and perhaps stay somewhere less fancy to balance the budget. There are a number of ways to meet the needs of today’s traveling employees to support and empower them.

HR Daily Advisor: What other options are there?

Lam: As I alluded to previously, flexibility and empowerment are the biggest factors companies need to consider when looking for options that can better business travel. For instance, one in five business travelers said companies that offer flexible travel are more appealing to work for. This can be something as simple as using a booking platform that lets them stay within budget but choose their hotels, flights, etc., and gives them the option to extend their visit through the weekend if they want to pay to stay (and not locking them into a predetermined return flight), for example.

HR Daily Advisor: Why do companies resist solutions like bleisure?

Lam: Generally, for most companies, implementing perks like bleisure comes with a broader cultural shift that has to happen. A start-up has the opportunity to build that into its culture from the start, but for more established companies, they may have preestablished processes that are difficult to shift or even that feel scary to implement.

HR Daily Advisor: What is something you wish every manager knew before he or she sent someone on business travel?

Lam: The main thing I hope every manager takes the time to understand before he or she sends someone on a business trip is the employee’s basic preferences. Something as small as communicating with an employee on the best airports, flights, and preferred hotels can make a huge difference in an employee’s feeling comfortable and taken care of on the road (and, in turn, the employee’s wanting to stay or come onboard with your company), which is also the easiest way to keep him or her off the path to burnout.