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Prioritizing Wellness in Your Corporate Travel Program

Posted January 3, 2017

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Companies continue to invest in health and corporate wellness programs, helping their workforce get and stay healthy. Employees who travel for work, however, face particular challenges in this arena and could likely use additional support from their employers. Company road warriors are often out of their regular routines, away from their homes, health clubs and family dinner tables. They risk dehydration and airborne bugs from airplane travel, they’re confronted with less-than-healthy food options at almost every turn and they grapple with time zone changes that wreck havoc on sleep.

Travel managers, take note: all-of-the-above takes a toll on employee productivity and that hurts the bottom-line of your business. Let’s take a closer look at why—and how—today’s corporate travel managers are including wellness initiatives into their travel programs.

Healthy ROI = Healthy (and Happy) Employees

Most studies show a connection between workforce health and benefits costs. The US CDC’s discussion of workplace health initiatives highlights how maintaining a healthier workforce can lower direct costs and positively impact many indirect costs, citing research findings that well-implemented workplace health programs can lead to 25% savings each on absenteeism, health care costs, and workers’ compensation and disability management claims costs.

Among the most compelling arguments in favor of wellness in the travel program? ROI. Company travel budgets can be large and making an investment in travelers’ well-being can help maximize budgets and ultimately show that healthier employees equals more profitable travel spending. For more on budget issues, see Service Reigns For Tomorrow’s Corporate Travel Managers

Employees’ productivity while out of town on company business is critical to travel program success—in fact, the company’s success probably depends on it, too. So when you consider how important it is for an employee to perform at the top of their game while visiting with new or potential customers or partners, it makes sense to ensure they have what they need to stay rested, energized and ready-to-produce. That means travel managers and employees should work together (with suppliers, if necessary) to identify opportunities to make healthier choices while traveling: selecting a more convenient flight time, choosing a hotel with gym facilities, or increasing the per diem to accommodate a healthy room service breakfast (versus a donut and coffee from the hotel lobby).

Employee satisfaction is another important piece of the wellness puzzle. A well-crafted travel program that supports employees’ work/life balance can help enhance a worker’s experience and company loyalty. Aflac’s 2016 Workforces Report revealed that “eat healthier” topped the list of New Year’s Resolutions for 61% of employees, followed by “exercise more frequently” (55%)—it’s not a stretch to suggest that helping employees achieve their goals while traveling for business is a way to build their satisfaction. The study found that employees who participate in wellness programs offered at their workplaces have higher satisfaction levels. Moreover, 61% of employees agree that they’ve made healthier lifestyle choices because of their company’s wellness program.

Learn more about keeping business travelers happy in Hotel Procurement: Travel Managers Balance Administration, Costs, and the Employee Experience and Meeting the Needs of Your Company’s Business Travelers Starts with Communication and Feedback.

Travel Program Tips

Carson Wagonlit Travel’s research report, Travel Stress Index: The Hidden Costs of Business Travel, concluded that business travelers lose an average of 6.9 hours due to stress and that the financial cost of such loss of time amounts to $662 per trip. The best way for companies to optimize traveler well-being and productivity is through adjusting their travel policies. Here are some ideas from CorporateWellnessMagazine.com to help you address the health and wellness issues that impact most business travelers:

  • Cover the Gamut. Corporate travel programs should take a comprehensive approach to wellness, building programs and policies around eating right on the road, exercise, increasing energy, healthy flying, sleep, stress management, self-care and immune system strengthening.
  • Communicate and Empower Employees. Before each trip, provide travelers with a list of recommended or preferred restaurants, hotels, or airlines that support travel wellness objectives and meet company expectations and travel wellness criteria for healthy food, exercise, and stress and sleep management.
  • Build analytics into the program so you’re measuring data points specific to travelers and their ability to manage travel-related stress and stay healthy, such as an employee’s
    • antioxidant score, which measures immune system strength
    • body alkalinity, which measures an employee’s ability to neutralize the physical effects of a dehydrated aircraft environment
    • heart rate, which measures physical stress load and ability to recover from travel-related stress
  • Incentify. Reward employees for participating in a healthy traveler program and for hitting various targets. Incentives, including gift cards and the like, can be modeled after those used for traditional workplace wellness programs. And get creative.com suggests forbidding employees from looking at emails six hours after arriving, letting employees lightly work from home or implementing a full post-trip duvet day that helps employees feel well-rested for upcoming challenges.

Health matters to the company’s bottom line and it certainly matters to employees. Incorporating a wellness component to your travel program makes sense—it’s a win-win. For more on travel policies and wellness, see 3 Duty of Care Best Practices for Today’s Corporate Travel Managers.

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