Travelling for business

By Alex Sargent

We’ve all been there – your eyes begin to roll as you sarcastically think “Here we go again!” during one of your precious (and limited) weekends off as you face another barrage of enthusiastic questioning from well-oiled party guests who, upon hearing that you travel for business, automatically (and incorrectly) presume that your working life must be filled with expensive hotels and extravagant business meetings with the high fliers of international business.

Upon reflection, only in the past year, you have visited almost every continent, some more than twice, crossed multiple time zones and passed through in a blur, a multitude of hectic airports, filled to the brim with excited holiday-makers, heading for laid-back, beach-filled adventure while you hurriedly search for your boarding pass among your heaving luggage, packed full with the essentials you will need for your next week of work. What these people at said party will never come to comprehend about your line of work is the overwhelming and all-consuming jet lag, the painful early mornings, never-ending transatlantic flights, swollen ankles and yet another bland and uninteresting hotel room which is seemingly always far too hot…or alternatively, freezing cold! And of course you must be dining in the world’s best restaurants, in the grandest of cities – Paris, Singapore…VEGAS? But no – instead you settle for the dried cereal bar hidden at the bottom of your rucksack, eaten on the run before a long day at an exhibition hall you’ve visited probably twice already that year, spending more than 12 hours on your feet, answering questions fired at you from left, right and centre, all the while keeping an eye on your e-mail inbox and trying to catch up on administration before eventually, much later on, retiring to bed, too tired even to call for room service. The epitome of glamour? Think again… The events industry is hard work.

Ranked among the world’s most stressful jobs, events are tiring; the hours are long and the travel is exhausting. But deep down, the adrenaline, the people and the potential for success are what keep you going – but, how often do you take the opportunity to sit back and really consider your own health and wellbeing while on the road? Do you take time to look after your physical health? Your diet and nutrition?

While working away from home, putting in long hours, it’s easy to forget about these things. It’s easy to end up swept up in your schedule, the endless phone calls and long hours, but putting yourself first is essential. Your wellness should take the priority of your employer and importantly, take precedence at the top of your own ‘to do’ list.

I’ve thought about my own history in the events industry, one that has spanned almost 20 years, and considered what I would note as the best ways to influence health and wellbeing while on the road – try to see if you can implement some of these, if you don’t already, to ensure a happy, healthy and prosperous 2016.

1. Hydrate

The first may seem obvious but my primary suggestion shall always be for you to try and maintain adequate hydration at all times, particularly while travelling. Appropriate hydration of the human body is a key requirement for good health as water sustains the body’s many vital chemical reactions and maintains healthy bodily functions. Each and every cell within your body requires water to survive and your hydration is central to regulating blood pressure, body temperature and digestion.

Knowing how much water to drink is sometimes a challenge, particularly when it’s warm or you’re doing more exercise than usual. The European Food Safety Authority has previously suggested that the minimum levels of water consumption should be 2 litres for men and 1.6 litres for women, or between eight and ten glasses. That’s perfectly manageable!

2. Plan

Most business travellers have a system for packing, refined from years of life on the road. The idea is to pack lightly while covering every possible contingency. The same is true with eating. Assume that you’ll be stuck on a runway for hours, miss lunch when meetings overlap, and have limited options for breakfast. That means that you need to plan ahead and stockpile a selection of healthy, non-perishable goods for ‘emergencies’. Keep some nuts, dried fruit or crackers (for example) with you at all times to help avoid those desperate moments of weakness when only carbohydrates will do!

Eating in airports or exhibition halls is near always impossible without encountering some sort of heavily processed or deep fried meal. Avoid heavy carbs and excess sugar where possible and instead, opt for something grilled, with salad, rice or boiled potatoes. If this isn’t possible, plan ahead and pack something healthier for the trip, something which you can eat on-site or in-between business meetings.

3. Sanitise

Aeroplanes, hotels and crowded event halls are the ideal breeding space for germs and bacteria, not at all helpful while you’re travelling for business. Air conditioning or warm, unsanitary environments are inevitable while travelling but think smartly, use antibacterial hand gel or where possible, wash your hands regularly, after using the bathroom, before eating and always after using public transport.

4. Exercise

By now, we all recognise that travel is exhausting and your days are tiring, particularly if your role involves standing or walking for long periods of time. While on the road for business (or otherwise) although you are perhaps tired, it is recommended that you try to find a workout routine that is easy and adaptable to a small hotel room or gym and commit to completing it every time you travel.

Keeping active, as we all realise, is vital to your physical health and fitness but evidence goes further to suggest that regular exercise, at least 150 minutes per week for adults, can also have an extremely positive impact upon your mental wellbeing. Research has shown that exercise releases chemicals in your brain that make you feel good – boosting your self-esteem, helping you to concentrate as well as sleep, look and feel better. Not bad for something we can quite easily do for free!

5. Rest

Most travellers will try to make the most of their limited time overseas, yet fail to take into account the leap in time zones they make in just a matter of hours. It can take your body’s internal clock several days to catch up on the leap, and in the meantime you’re likely to experience the disruption of your sleeping and waking cycle we all know as ‘jet lag’. Symptoms of jet lag include sleepiness during the day, insomnia at night, poor concentration, confusion, hunger at inappropriate times or lack of appetite, and general malaise and irritability – what fun!

To help ease these hideous symptoms, keep hydrated and avoid, or limit your alcohol intake while flying. After your arrival, try to spend time out in the sunlight, allow your body to reset its natural time clock to coincide with your new surroundings. Minimise sleep distractions, turn off your mobile phone, read a book rather than watch television – try to adjust quickly to the new time zone you have entered and go to bed at a time you would normally. Plan ahead and begin to adjust your habits as you go! Occasionally I will even change my watch to the correct time of my destination while I’m travelling, just to prepare myself ahead of landing. These little habits, once you nail them, will help to ensure that your jet lag symptoms are minimal and your time, more productive.

For your sanity and to your own benefit, these small but significant changes could better allow you to complete your work more productively while allowing you to feel happier, healthier and better equipped to tackle life head on.