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Is Too Much Work Travel Wrecking Your Health?

By Maurie Backman – May 10, 2018 at 7:18AM

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Employees who travel frequently for their jobs are more likely to experience health issues. And that's reason enough to stay local.

Traveling for work is often a necessity, and it can be a good way to not only explore new places but also get to know different people within your company or industry. In 2016, an estimated 503 million employees traveled for work, according to the Global Business Travel Association Foundation. 

But there comes a point when all that travel can really catch up with you. In fact, a new Columbia University study finds that employees who travel for work two weeks or more per month are more likely to display symptoms of anxiety and depression than employees who travel just one to six nights a month for work purposes. They're also more likely to smoke and have trouble sleeping.

Man wheeling a suitcase through an airport

Image source: Getty Images.

If you tend to travel frequently in the course of your job, you may want to think about either scaling back or taking steps to minimize the impact of all that travel on your health. Otherwise, you might land in a situation where you're too unwell to travel at all.

Exploring alternatives to travel

Maybe you do a lot of traveling because your company has multiple offices overseas and it's the only way to get face time with your colleagues abroad. But while traveling can help from a relationship-building standpoint, if it hurts you physically, you're not doing yourself any favors by running yourself ragged.

Before you book your next flight, think about the different ways you might collaborate with coworkers in other parts of the world that don't require you to jump time zones. You might, for example, ask your firm to invest in updated video conferencing equipment so you can better interact with your peers who don't share an office with you. Furthermore, if you're in a position where you travel a lot to train employees in different offices, webinars might manage to take the place of those in-person meetings.

Of course, this isn't to say that you should never make an effort to see different colleagues face to face. Rather, establish some viable alternatives so that if you have a month where you're already taking one long trip, you don't necessarily need to schedule a second.

Traveling strategically

If your travel is relatively local, you don't have to worry about time zone adjustments and the like. But if your work tends to bring you cross-country or overseas, it pays to schedule your travel strategically. This could mean booking your flights in a manner that allows for the most sleep, or combining trips to not only minimize your total number of travel days in a given month but also limit the extent to which you're hopping from one time zone to the next. For example, if your primary office is in New York and you know you need to visit San Francisco and Seattle within the same month, doing a single extended trip where you fly from one to the other makes sense.

While it's nice to get a change of scenery every so often, too much job-related travel can not only hurt your health but also destroy your work-life balance. If you find that the traveling you're doing is physically draining and causes you to walk around in a perpetually sleep-deprived state, it's time to scale back and find other ways to get your job done effectively. It's a far better bet than compromising your well-being and performance, and all for a few extra frequent flyer miles.

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