While keeping employees physically healthy from Covid-19 is naturally a huge priority as travel resumes worldwide, it would be a mistake to deprioritize the mental health of your travelers. A study by Harvard Business Review similarly found a link between frequent work travel and incidences of anxiety and depression — and that research was done before Covid-19 added new anxieties and fears to travel.
We recently had a conversation with Megan Bearce, licensed therapist and mental health expert, in order to understand how employers can better meet their travelers needs in this new frontier. (Bearce is also the author of Super Commuter Couples: Staying Together When a Job Keeps You Apart.)
When it comes to building a positive culture around mental health, Bearce recommends that companies first get comfortable with the term. “When you say the term wellness or wellbeing sometimes the idea of mental health gets lost,” she explains. “So coming up with a standard definition or even just discussing it as mental health when you’re referring to this idea of burnout and anxiety or feeling overwhelmed is the best place to start.”
And as business travel slowly resumes, Bearce recommends that organizations be just as upfront with their support of employees taking care of their mental health. To make it clear where they stand, companies should promote wellness programs and policies from the top down so travelers know what resources exist — whether they are lists of helpful apps like Calm or HR benefits that provide access to professional help like therapists for themselves and their families.
It’s also up to companies to make it clear who employees can turn to — be that HR, a supervisor, or senior leadership — when their mental health begins to feel strained. “You could have a great wellness plan, but if that culture isn’t promoted within or, as I like to add, accessible to business travelers then it doesn’t have a lot of teeth to it,” notes Bearce.
Ultimately, it comes down to clear and open communication. “Employers should just ask their travelers directly, ‘What is the biggest challenge you’re facing? What can we do to make your life a bit easier?’ then you have a starting point and conversation to make plans and strategize versus assuming you know what their challenges are and having it fall short,” Bearce advises. Employees’ needs will be different for different travelers. One woman Bearce spoke to [in a road warrior group] commented that she hates flying at night because of safety concerns whereas a man in the same group said he hates flying in the morning because his productivity is decreased when he has to go to the airport early.
That’s precisely why employers need to be flexible in creating plans and programs that meet the needs of their specific travelers. Adding technology like Rocketrip to a travel program helps ensure travelers feel appreciated and in control of their choices, versus feeling restricted to only travel decisions that are beneficial for the company.
And now’s the time to start prioritizing the mental health of your travelers. As Bearce observes, “Travelers will remember how you cared for them during these difficult times.”
Click here to watch Rocketrip discuss mental health with Megan Bearce, LMFT, LLC:
Christine Butchko leads content marketing at Rocketrip.