Travelling for work: bring your employees back safe and healthy

Jul 04, 2014

travelling for workDespite our increasingly wired world, most business people will take a handshake over a phone call or videoconference any day. A handshake makes creating new business opportunities, smoothing troubled transactions, and closing deals much easier.

Consequently, many business people are travelling more frequently, farther and for longer than ever before: the Global Business Travel Association predicts a 7.2% rise in business travel spending next year, to US$288.8 billion. Here's how to protect your road warriors and air ninjas from the potential consequences of travel.

Understand the hazards

Terrorist attacks may make the headlines, but in our travels most of us are more likely to encounter a slippery floor than a submachine gun. Other common travel hazards include:

  • strains and sprains
  • exhaustion
  • traffic incidents
  • illnesses transmitted through food, water and insect bites
  • stress from tight schedules, line-ups, delays, and having to achieve key goals within narrow timeframes
  • cumulative health effects from disrupted exercise routines, long hours spent seated while driving or flying, and high-sodium and high-calorie food.

Once you have a grasp of the hazards your people may face, assess how likely are they to occur and how they could affect your travellers and your business. How often are the same people travelling? Where are they going? Under what conditions are they working and travelling?

Implement preventive measures

You can't clean up someone else's slippery floor, but you can still keep your people safe and healthy by adopting sound travel practices. For example:

  • inform and prepare people so that they can manage exposure to hazards, including how to eat and drink safely, avoid insect bites, and take personal safety precautions. A general understanding of safety principles and practices can keep people safe and productive at work, on the road and at home
  • promote vaccinations against illnesses your people could encounter at home or away
  • devise a corporate travel policy that includes provisions for insurance, vaccinations, access to medications and medical care, 24-hour help lines, and personal security. If travellers regularly use their own vehicles, add a vehicle maintenance program
  • ensure travellers understand what is and isn’t covered by employee benefit programs and workers compensation. (Watch for more on this in the August issue of WSPS Network News.)
  • expand your emergency preparedness planning to include travelling employees. How can you maintain communication or track travellers' whereabouts? Should you limit how many members of the management team travel on the same flight?
  • give travellers lots of time to get from A to B (e.g., no last-minute meetings as they walk out the door, foot-to-the floor driving itineraries, or down-to-the-wire dashes to the airport).
  • build recovery time into travel schedules so that your people can adapt more quickly
  • for overnight and long haul flights, consider the health risks for sleep deprived employees and productivity expectations when booking seats. Getting some sleep before an important sales call or meeting will increase productivity and positive outcomes
In our next issue: what employers are responsible for when employees travel, and precautions to take.