International business travellers are more likely to take risks when working overseas than they normally would at home, new research suggests, with surprisingly few having regard for their personal safety.
A joint study by UK-based Affinity at Work, International SOS Foundation and Kingston Business School polled 200 global jet-setters and found that while travel makes people more satisfied with their work, they are more likely to engage in risky behaviour abroad than at home.
The study also conducted desk research and interviews with industry experts in researching its findings.
Some two-thirds (67 per cent) of business travellers said they enjoy increased engagement in their work because of their business travel, and three-quarters see it as an opportunity for adventure.
But close to half (46 per cent) admitted to drinking more alcohol when they are away on business, 35 per cent are more likely to eat in unhygienic places and 33 per cent admit to travelling to areas they don’t necessarily know are safe.
Road travel is also riskier, with 32 per cent suggesting they are more likely to travel in vehicles without adequate protection when travelling for business than they otherwise would.
Nine per cent also admitted they are more likely to start a new sexual relationship while away on business.
Potentially most concerning was the finding that just 15 per cent express concern about their physical safety while travelling.
Such risk-taking is having a material impact on overall wellbeing, said International SOS Foundation director Kai Boschmann, who commissioned the study.
“The business opportunities associated with international travel are undisputed, but research suggests that frequent travellers make three times as many claims for psychological treatment compared to those who don’t travel on business regularly,” Ms Boschmann said.
The report also alerted business travellers to common stresses associated with business travel: working longer hours, sleep deprivation and a reduced focus on exercise and eating a balanced diet.
“The combination of the physical demands and restrictions of international business travel, including the ability to eat moderately as well as keep a regular exercise routine, can have a major impact,” said Dr Rachel Lewis, an associate professor at Kingston Business School.
“Many people rely on this kind of activity to keep a balance both physically and psychologically, whether they are at home or away. This may be why only 40 per cent of international business travellers reported a sufficient work-life balance.”
Other key findings from the research include:
- 59 per cent of people see business travel as “freedom from home life”
- 76 per cent are less likely to exercise or have a balanced diet while on a business trip
- 73 per cent have less quality sleep while away
- 2 per cent are more likely to use drugs on their travels
- Business travellers without kids were more likely than parents to report emotional exhaustion because of international travel.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.