Frequent business travel takes a mental health toll

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Many Australians feel homesick and exhausted on business trips, with a higher proportion of women than men being affected, according to a new survey by World Travel Protection.

The survey of 500 Australian business travellers finds despite half reporting a positive influence of work travel on their mental well-being, many feel frequent travel adds to stress and burnout (47%) and gets worse for those who travel at least once every two months (56%).

The data also shows that many travellers struggle with mental health due to work travel, especially those who travel frequently. At least one in four travellers (27%) has sought mental health support to address the challenges of work travel, with the number increasing to more than one third (36%) for frequent flyers travelling at least once every two months.

The survey shows the most common feeling experienced by Australians on business trips is homesickness/missing their family (38%), followed by feeling exhausted (37%), anxious (34%), stressed (32%), and lonely (26%), with a higher proportion of women reporting these feelings.

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Dr Neil Slabbert, orld Travel Protection’s APAC Regional Chief Medical Officer, says although many Australians enjoy business travel and see the importance and benefit it can have, this survey reveals gaps in support for employees.

More than a third (35%) feel their organisation does not take their well-being seriously when travelling for business; while experiencing depression, high anxiety and a panic attack are also a concern for many travellers (48%), especially younger travellers between 18-34 years (58%). The survey also finds only about a quarter (26%) of travellers receive a full briefing about their destination from their employer prior to or during a business trip.

“Organisations have an obligation to ensure their employees feel supported when they’re away from home and their loved ones, both from a physical safety and mental health perspective,” said Slabbert.

“The outcome not only ensures employee well-being but also maximises the benefits of business travel for both staff and the company.”

The survey also found nearly three quarters (73%) of Australians believe in-person meetings are critical for building positive, long-term relationships. Meanwhile, almost half (47%) say business travel has become more important for them since they started working from home.

Almost a third (28%) say they feel less burnt out and stressed if a work trip allows for a personal day around or during a trip, with 27% saying they would be more likely to stay at a company that allowed for this.

Psychologist Patrea O’Donoghue says blending business with leisure travel allows employees to decompress and recharge, leading to greater overall well-being and improved productivity.

“Whether it’s exploring local cuisine, enjoying quiet moments or engaging in conversations with locals, these experiences enrich your journey and foster a deeper connection to the present moment, especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed or homesick,” said O’Donoghue.