In 2013, an estimated 6.8 million UK travellers travelled overseas for business. With the increasingly global economy, these numbers are expected to increase. Business travellers face different health risks to leisure travellers, as the focus is work not pleasure. Business travellers are often expected to travel long distances and start work on the day of arrival. However, this can be very challenging as without time to recover, jet lag can affect mood, ability to concentrate, and physical and mental performance.
Before you travel
You don't always get much advance notice before a business trip. Do some research on the destination to which you will be travelling, both on health and personal safety, even if just the basics. It is recommended to visit a GP 4–6 weeks before a trip, but even a last-minute visit can be useful as some vaccines can be given on shortened courses or may offer partial protection, even if you don't have time for all the doses. You can also talk to your doctor about health risks at your destination.
Adequate travel insurance is always needed for treatment and repatriation. You should be covered by your work’s travel insurance, if an employee, but ensure that you have the details with you in case of an emergency. It is advised to take a travel health kit which should include first-aid supplies, any prescription medicines you take, and over-the-counter medicine for diarrhoea, and some condoms.
In the air
Unlike leisure travellers, business travellers often have to hit the ground running and may have little time to adjust to the new time zone or recover from the effects of travelling. In preparation, it helps to shift your sleep cycle by a couple of hours closer to that of your intended destination, before you leave. It is important to stay hydrated while travelling, and it helps to avoid alcohol and caffeine. Try to sleep on long flights and try to rest, rather than working on the plane if possible.
On the ground
Business travellers are frequently under a lot of work-related stress, in addition to the stress of travelling. To minimize the negative health effects of stress, eat healthful meals, exercise regularly, avoid alcohol, and maximise sleep. On longer trips, it can help to stay in regular contact with your friends and family at home to keep your spirits up and avoid feeling isolated.
Your hosts may want to take you out to toast your new business relationship, but be careful about drinking too much when you are still jet lagged and in developing countries. It is important to be careful about what you eat and drink to avoid travellers’ diarrhoea and more serious disease, as this will not only have an impact on your work but can also seriously affect your health. Bottled water and food that is cooked and served hot are generally safe. Be careful about tap water, ice, and raw fruits and vegetables.
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