New research from International SOS has identified jetlag, poor sleep and diet, a lack of work/life balance and social isolation from friends and family are the top stress factors for corporate travellers in Australia. These factors may then be having a negative impact on people’s mental health, owing to the need for Australian companies to improve emotional support for travelling staff.
ISOS’s survey of almost 100 companies from Australia and New Zealand, found 44% do not provide mental health support to their travellers, and less than half of the companies who do provide support, proactively communicate that it is available to their travellers.
ISOS Regional Medical Director Dr Andrew Ebringer, said: “As links between the mental well-being of staff and business productivity become increasingly evident, executives and managers need to take into account the emotional well-being of their mobile workforce.”
“Failed international business assignments cost companies, on average, AUD950,000. Companies invest in the success of their mobile workforce’s business trips and overseas assignments but often overlook emotional support systems that can decrease the likelihood of a failed assignment.”
ISOS acknowledged that it is not just people who are away for long periods who need emotional support. Those who have shorter but frequent trips rarely see their workload reduced to offset the time away from their desk. This can produce anxiety as work continues to accumulate, while the impact on life at home through the loss of a family role and an imbalance in domestic responsibility can be significant.
“Organisations sending employees on short or long-term assignments abroad 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,” said Dr Ebringer.
It is estimated that 45% of Australians will have some kind of mental disorder at some point in their lives, yet 87% of organisations surveyed do not have a mental health screening process for employees either pre- or post-travel.
Under Workplace Health and Safety legislation in both Australia and New Zealand, it is critical for employers to combine an immediate response approach with a proactive one when it comes to managing mental health issues. This responsibility integrates the topic of mental health under the ‘duty of care’ umbrella.
“Support for one’s overall well-being should include all three aspects of travel – medical, security and emotional support – as a holistic and integrated travel risk management service offered by organisations to their travellers,” Dr Ebringer said.