Impact on mental health: Challenges of work travel #2

Blogs about the challenges of work travel

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be continuing my blog series about the challenges of work travel. The series started with last week’s post on physical health and travel. Each blog will focus on a different challenge. I’ve written this blog series in anticipation of an upcoming workshop I’ll be facilitating for regional managers who frequently travel for work.

How work travel can negatively impact your mental health

Research finds that those who travel more frequently for work(21 nights a month or more) are more likely to score above clinical thresholds for mild or moderate anxiety and symptoms of depression. One study found that the highest increase in health insurance claims among World Bank staff and consultants was for psychological disorders, particularly stress-related disorders (Espino et al., 2002). In the same study, travelling staff described their greatest psychological and emotional stress stemmed from social concerns, including perceived negative impact on their family and a sense of isolation while they were away from home. Other contributors to psychological stress were worries about health and safety and the heavy workload upon return. 

Researchers in this area note that mental health issues like depression and anxiety can result in immediate costs for organisations through reduced employee productivity and performance, absenteeism, short-term disability and possibly strained or severed relationships with clients and suppliers. 

How can organisations help?

As with improving physical health outcomes for travel, companies can take action at the policy level to promote mental health. Suggestions from the research include providing training in sleep hygiene and other stress management techniques, including mindful meditation. Workplace policies and practices can support the incorporation of physical activity into a stress reduction or stress management programme. For some people (but not all), exercise is effective for reducing symptoms of mild to moderate depression.

How I can help

For much of my coaching practice and the workshops I facilitate for organisations, I focus on emotional resilience However, for anyone experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, it is an absolute must that you see a psychologist before you try coaching or engaging any of my workshop strategies to ensure you are receiving the specific mental health support you need.