How to Prevent Business Traveler Burnout

By Jessica Sillers

Burnout can sabotage your business by increasing employee turnover and damaging productivity. A 2018 Gallup study found that two out of three employees feel burned out at least part of the time at work. Employees who felt strong support from their manager, however, were 70% less likely to experience burnout. As a manager, you can make a critical difference in how well your employees, and road warriors in particular, shoulder the demands of the job.

Let Employees Handle Booking

You might think that giving an employee at risk of burnout more tasks to complete would make the problem worse. But studies indicate that autonomy, or a sense of control over their own working life, improves engagement and lowers burnout.

To ensure that traveler priorities align with company policy, set parameters for flight and hotel booking. You set the flight price cap and airfare class, the employee chooses a flight time (and possibly airport) that’s most convenient, and everyone’s needs are met.

Consider Airbnb

Restaurant food gets old quick. Having access to a kitchen, which can be easier and cheaper to find in a sharing economy accommodation, lets employees prepare meals as they would at home.

Some businesses are wary about allowing Airbnb bookings because, let’s face it, the listings aren’t regulated the same way a hotel room would be. Mitigate risks by choosing from listings marked business travel-friendly. You can often find private, safely located options with all the business amenities (or more!) than you’d get at a hotel.

Reimburse Expenses Promptly

One of the most tangible ways you can support business travelers is being mindful of their money. If employees feel that there’s excessive delay in travel reimbursement—or worse, they have to remind accounting to process the expense—this disconnect quickly turns into resentment and distrust. You can even end up with employees refusing to go on a business trip if they’re afraid they’ll have to pay out of pocket for costs the company should cover.

First, create a clear travel policy so all employees understand what’s covered and what isn’t. Then, get on a system where employees and the finance team can work together fast to submit, review, approve, and reimburse qualifying trip expenses. By doing so, you’re respecting employees’ resources and assuring them that they’re not out of sight, out of mind.

Embrace Bleisure Travel

It turns out The Shining offers some surprisingly applicable career advice. Not the part about taking a job in a haunted hotel, but remembering the value of both work and play. Letting employees add a few days of sightseeing to turn a business trip into “bleisure” can make work travel more fun.

Most costs for the business and leisure portions of a trip are easy to separate. The main exception is airfare. Plan ahead for how you’ll handle a situation where flights cost more on the employee’s final “leisure” day than if they returned immediately after completing their work obligations. Following a general maximum plane ticket cost guideline for all flights is one option. Approving tickets costing up to a set amount over the cost of flying out on the last working day of the trip is another way to handle a potential price discrepancy.

Allow Schedule Flexibility

You know your road warriors work well independently. You trust them to represent the company from a distance, hit deadlines despite jet lag, and check in from anywhere. So why keep a tight rein on them when they’re local?

While there’s no substitute for a face-to-face check-in, it’s considerate to remember that frequent travelers are catching up at home, too. Any additional flexibility you can extend helps create a supportive work environment.

Schedule a Recovery Day

Jet lag or a weakened immune system from long travel is physically tiring. If possible, recommend employees take a day off after a trip to reset.

Offer Remote Work

Flexible arrival times or a telecommuting day can enable travelers to catch up on errands or other priorities at home, while still meeting work goals.

Communicate Clearly

Help road warriors catch up on anything they’ve missed. You don’t want to bog them down with every meeting’s minutes, but make sure employees get caught up on important project developments and aren’t missing important calendar items that were added while they were away.

Employees who can be the face of the business on work trips are an important asset to the company. While business travel can be tiring, especially if it’s a frequent part of the job, supportive management goes a long way to keep your road warriors refreshed and engaged.

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