Isolation & loneliness: Challenges of work travel #5

Blogs about the challenges of work travel

This week’s blog is the fifth in my series about the challenges of work travel. My previous blogs in the series included the impact of work travel on physical and mental health, the difficulties for children and high stress for both the travelling employee and their partner. I’ve written this series in advance of an upcoming workshop I’ll be facilitating for regional managers who frequently travel for work.

Isolation & Loneliness for both partners

When couples are asked about the challenges of one person travelling for work, one frequent issue which crops up is feelings of isolation and loneliness. These feelings exist for both the traveller and the spouse or partner who stays at home.

One article, Traveling for Work and the High Costs to Family, highlights the danger of emotional isolation for travellers:

After spending enough days of the month away from home, it becomes very easy to live two lives: one on the road and the other at home. Even with regular phone, text, email, and Skype connections to those at home, the relationships that develop with those who share the travel with you can become more real to you than the ones you leave behind. Isolation, prestige, repetition, or intensity of the shared work adds to that other-worldliness. It’s at this level of isolation that I have seen long-term affairs, addictions, mood disorders, and health issues surface. These issues are not easily or often repaired.

The author emphasises that relationships have certain requirements to thrive, including physical proximity, regular conversation, shared patterns of caregiving, humour, health, and equality to thrive.

Espino et al (2002) draw attention to the negative impact the spouse or partner who stays at home in terms of loneliness. Loneliness tends to be more of an issue in the evenings and at weekends. Their interviewees pointed to several factors which contribute to this sense of loneliness:

  1. missing the traveller

  2. having to go for a long period of time without contact

  3. the sole burden of managing household and making decisions

  4. lack of support during crises

  5. worry about the traveller's safety

What can be done to help?

  1. Keep in regular contact when the traveller is away with work

  2. Arrange quality time together when you are in the same place where you spend time together as a couple

  3. Make sure you regularly communicate about the important stuff, such as your feelings when the travelling partner is away, as well as the mechanics and logistics of daily life

How I can help

In my work as a credentialed ICF coach, I often work with clients who are keen to gain more insight into a particular challenge they are facing. We then focus on the action they plan to take on addressing this challenge. If you would like to find out more about the benefits of coaching in tackling feelings of isolation and loneliness for either partner in the face of work travel, please get in touch to arrange a no-obligation chat.