Health-related issues and incidents have been identified as a top area where travel risk is expected to increase in the next year. This was the message at the Travel Risk Map 2018 outlook briefing by Alliance partners, International SOS and Control Risks in Johannesburg last week.
Especially air pollution and wellness are two major health considerations for corporate travel for the year ahead.
Travel Risk: Air Pollution
About 92% of the world’s population lives in areas where the World Health Organization (WHO) air quality guidelines levels are not met. Whether travellers are in Manila, Sao Paolo, London or in a remote area, air pollution can affect your health, says International SOS.
International SOS stipulates that in healthy people, air pollution can cause minor symptoms like wheezing, coughing, and irritation of eyes and nose. However, people with underlying health issues, such as heart problems and respiratory diseases, can suffer aggravation of their illnesses, which make it a definite risk for corporate travellers.
International SOS provides the following tips for minimising exposure:
- Know your risks: Look at the destination: Is business travel essential to that destination, during that specific time? Also look at your travellers: Do they have any underlying medical conditions or diseases?
- Monitor air quality in the destination: During periods of high pollution, advise travellers in the affected destination to stay indoors, to reduce physical activity and to consider using a mask when stepping outdoors.
- For areas that are regularly subject to high levels of air pollution, consider technology which can improve indoor air quality, such as air filters in hotels and office buildings.
Travel Risk: Wellness
The topic of corporate wellness is nothing new. Most companies have a corporate wellness programme for their travellers, offering countless benefits such as improving staff productivity, employee morale and job satisfaction.
However, a trend that is emerging and has gained quite a lot of media exposure recently, is the mental health and wellness of modern day road warriors.
According to International SOS, around 12% of the global population can be expected to be diagnosed with major depression. To be even more specific, mental ill-health affects around three in five employees.
How does this relate to business travel?
With frequent travel, mental health issues are more prominent. Travelling through different time zones (‘jetlag’), poor sleep and diet, a lack of work/life balance and social isolation from friends and family have been identified as the top stress factors for business travellers, along with having to contend with different organisational cultures or structures.
For this reason, International SOS is urging corporations to destigmatise mental health by creating a corporate environment where mental health is recognised as a serious medical condition like a heart defect or lung condition.
Organisations sending employees on short or long-term assignments abroad also need to consider pre-trip emotional support that is appropriate for the destination and reactive response support systems that can be implemented quickly in times of an unexpected incident or accident.
The top incidents that have had the most impact on business travellers in the past are:
– Working in a high-risk environment (country or workplace at risk…) at 50%
– Personal incident (sexual assault, theft and robbery, road traffic accident, workplace injury…) at 45%
– Terrorist or environmental incident (earthquake) at 33%
– Death or severe injuries of a colleague at 21%