A cheery tale on the darker side of business travel

London view sky above aeroplane

Travelling for work can certainly be fun as you jet off to cities you might not otherwise visit, but it’s not always quite as glamorous as friends and family believe.

It can also be a bit of a slog, particularly when you find yourself on a day trip to from London to Frankfurt, Geneva, Basel or Paris (delete as appropriate). And that’s before flights are delayed, luggage gets lost and so on.

None of this will be news to those that travel frequently for business. Neither perhaps will be the personal and social consequences, as illustrated by the University of Surrey’s 2015 study A Darker Side of Hypermobility.

Its conclusions of higher exposure to radiation, increased ageing and a number of other harmful effects are probably best not read in the departure lounge.

After that study sparked public and media interest in the topic the authors analysed the reaction to their work and they’ve recently published the findings.

In The Dark Side of Business Travel they explain how they saw a stark split in responses among regular travellers, who gravitated towards one of two key identities: the ‘flourishing hypermobile’ or the ‘floundering hypermobile’.

“The former either deny the health implications of frequent business travel, or present strategies to actively overcome them, while the latter seek solace in the public dissemination of the health warnings: they highlight their passivity in the construction of their identity as hypermobile and its associated health implications,” the authors said.

Their findings also reveal a segment of business travellers who want to reduce travel, but think it’s out of their control to do so.

Lead study author Dr Scott Cohen from the University of Surrey said: “As more and more people are required to travel frequently for work, the impacts of travel on the workforce is an issue of rising importance on the public agenda.

“In the next 10-15 years it is very possible that we will see lawsuits being brought against companies who don’t take actions to help reduce their employee’s business travel.”

Whether or not that happens will depend on it being driven by an HR department “with a clearly defined wellbeing strategy for corporate travel”.

The difficulty of adequately replacing face-to-face interaction makes it hard to see widespread reductions happening, but perhaps now would be a good time to for a quick ‘jet lag tips’ search.


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