5 ways to combat loneliness on business trips

A business traveller sitting alone on a flight, ready for take off to his next destination. Picture: Unsplash

A business traveller sitting alone on a flight, ready for take off to his next destination. Picture: Unsplash

Published Jun 14, 2024


One challenge often overlooked when it comes to business travel is the significant toll loneliness can take on the mental health of the business traveller.

According to a recent study by insurance company World Travel Protection, feelings of anxiety, stress, exhaustion and loneliness are widespread on work trips, with one-third of survey respondents reporting they experienced anxiety, stress, homesickness and exhaustion while travelling for business.

The survey also found loneliness was especially prevalent among male business travellers, with 30% reporting feelings of loneliness compared to 25% of women.

General manager of travel company Corporate Traveller, Bonnie Smith, said that for a long time, frequent travel was considered an inherent sacrifice for the job.

However, companies are now realising they need to make mental health just as vital a priority as protecting physical safety.

The business travel expert explained that a few key factors contribute to the loneliness epidemic among business travellers.

“First, frequent travel disrupts routines and separates people from their primary support systems of family and friends back home. Losing these grounding forces can leave travellers feeling untethered and isolated, even surrounded by colleagues,” she said.

Smith also noted that intense work schedules only exacerbate the issue as over half of those surveyed revealed they are taking more business trips this year, with more meetings crammed into each one.

“The relentless pace leaves little time to foster social connections in their temporary surroundings,” added the business travel expert.

She also said the mental health fallout from loneliness should be a major concern for employers, who have a duty of care for their travelling staff.

“Prolonged loneliness is linked to increased risks of depression, anxiety, heart disease and cognitive decline. It quite literally poses a threat to employee well-being and organisational productivity,” she said.

With that being said, the business travel expert noted the survey showed many companies were failing to do their part, with 61% of business travellers feeling their employer could do more to keep them safe on the road, and 70% wishing their company would check in more often during travel to ensure their comfort and security.

To combat the woes of loneliness during business travel, here are some suggestions from the business travel expert.

The buddy system

Smith said forward-thinking firms are actually pairing up solo travellers headed to the same destination so they have a familiar face to connect with.

“Having a travelling work wife or husband to debrief the day’s events over a cocktail or meal can be huge,” she said.

The simple check-in

The business travel expert also noted that other companies are mandating that managers or travel teams regularly check in, whether by email, text or call, to ask how the traveller is feeling and if they need any support.

She said this low-effort gesture signals you’re seen and valued.

The personal allowance

“Over 25% of frequent travellers said having the flexibility to add personal time to explore a destination or connect with friends nearby significantly reduced burnout and stress.

“Travel management platforms can build this breathing room right into the itinerary,” said Smith.

The loved ones video chat

The business travel expert also noted the ability to video call spouses, kids or even just the family dog helps sustain those crucial bonds back home; ensuring your travellers have access to data to dial in is essential.

The experiential assist

Finally, she said risk management strategies can also relieve stress, with 24/7 medical guidance, security intelligence, emergency resources and even mental health support tailored to the singular stresses of road life.

Smith conceded that the emotional toll of business travel is real and a good way to counter loneliness is to be ready for it from the beginning.

“Having a plan makes loneliness much easier to deal with when it comes knocking. Be proactive about maintaining your normal routines as much as possible.

“Even squeezing in your usual workout can give you a glimpse of your home life, which can be very grounding,” she said.