The buzz around corporate wellness programmes is well founded as the organisational benefits of these programmes begin to be realised. The challenge is, frequent flyers tend to be left out of corporate wellness programme provisions by default. As mobile workers, their needs and lifestyle can make it difficult for them to make use of such provisions. On the flip side, frequent flyers need the benefits of these programmes now more than ever. The disruptive economy we find ourselves in dictates that stress and change are the new norm. Business and frequent flyers need to rise above these disruptors by performing better.

Research from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) suggests the old paradigm of superior performance is outdated. The old paradigm suggested performance, health and happiness influenced each other mutually. The new paradigm says health and happiness are the pre-eminent drivers of performance. As such companies and frequent flyers wanting superior performance need solutions for the sake of performance, productivity and personal health.

Corporations with frequent flyers are aware of the drain business travel exacts on their employees but there seems to be a disconnect when it comes to mitigating these costs through sufficient corporate wellness programmes for this section of the workforce. Carlson Wagonlit Solutions Group, a global consulting company specialised in travel programme optimization, puts it more starkly, its Travel Stress Index metric (TSi) estimates the equivalent of 6.9 hours $662 is lost in productivity per trip from the stresses of business travel. It goes on to estimate that 32% of this cost is mitigable.

Besides the challenges of life on the road, we have to acknowledge a new friend and foe in the battle to balance productivity, wellbeing, employee health and happiness. I am talking about Technology. Technology is an enabler and a disruptor in good and bad ways. The good we already know about, technology has heralded better standards of living worldwide, as well as being an accelerator of free trade and globalization. The bad is a mixed bag depending on your point of view. For instance the Travel Stress Index names poor or no internet access as one of its top 4 stress triggers for 77% of business travellers. An infographic by PC Housing titled Mobile Dependence: A Growing Trend in Business Travel shows how addictive the relationship to technology has become for business travellers. Technology is also the medium used to carry content. Content can be disruptive or neutral, sometimes it’s the sentiment that follows from the content that can lead to stress and disruption.

Striking the balance between productivity, wellbeing and employee happiness is a collaborative effort. The costs of not tackling the challenge have consequences for all concerned. Corporations should address their shortcomings through a travel policy that goes beyond just looking at expenses and budgets. If the travel wellness of the mobile workers is invested in returns of lower healthcare premiums and costs will benefit the corporation.

Frequent flyers have to start seeing the business travel aspect of their job description as a call to action. A call to make some lifestyle choices that benefit them personally and enable them to make the best contribution to the corporations they work for. The starting point is to look for a comprehensive solution to the challenges presented on the road instead of taking a trip-by-trip punt. Business travel is a lifestyle challenge if you are on the road often and should be treated as such. When frequent flyers take charge of their health it is empowering for them as much as it is a benefit to the corporations they serve.

Once the frequent flyer has the mindset that business travel deserves a long term solution, it becomes a matter of what adjustments can they make that give them the optimum mix of results and efficiency. Within that mindset they can begin to get used to the 3 principles of flying well, which are

  • Mastering the flying environment
  • Acclimatizing deftly once they arrive
  • Entraining their physiology
From these principles we can introduce the P.H.A.R.E Well system of healthy flying, which stands for Protection, Hydration, Acclimatization, Rhythms, Environments and Wellness lifestyle tools. The 6 steps of the programme offer a system based solution frequent flyers can make suit their lifestyle. Moreover if used often enough it builds vitality the frequent flyer will find useful in other areas of a busy lifestyle.

While it may be in the hands of the frequent flyer to take responsibility for his or her own health the push to realize corporate wellness gains in business underlines the fact that decent provision and travel policies would help all parties involved.

By Christopher Babayode, flight attendant, nutritional therapist, frequent flyer and author of ‘Farewell Jet Lag’