Career Advice Aug 10 2011

Too Much Business Travel Bad For Your Health

By kelly eggers

Do you imagine business travel to be all room service and free frequent flier miles? If you think that's what your life will be like at a travel-heavy job, you may want to think again.

Of 726 respondents in FINS' informal online question forum, Sign or Decline, 52% said they'd accept their dream job if it required travel 90% of the year.

According to business travel consultant Chris McGinnis, that means slightly more than half of those readers need a reality check.

"Frequent travel for work sounds fun and sexy and international," McGinnis said. "There are a handful of jobs that are like that, but the reality is that 90% of them aren't like that. Many people have no understanding of how grueling it can be."

A travel-heavy job takes a toll, physically and emotionally, said McGinnis, who is the business travel expert who blogs for hotel chain Best Western, and spent the first few years of his career as a management consultant -- a profession notorious for rigorous travel schedules.

Few business travelers jet off to glamourous locations. "Most business travel is done by car," he said. A Columbia University study in April said that 81% of business travel is done in employees' own cars. Time on the road requires prolonged hours sitting still, staying awake, and eating lots of low-quality, drive-through meals, the report said.

The Columbia researchers also found that, when compared to lighter travelers, workers who spent at least 20 days each month on the road have higher body-mass indexes, cholesterol, and blood pressure, and believe they are in poor health.

"When you're flying, driving and staying in hotels, exercise gets thrown out the window," said McGinnis. "Also, think about the quality of food you can get while you're traveling. You're mostly eating road food from a drive-through or Chili's and TGI Friday's."

It can also be lonely on the road.

"It's extremely difficult to have relationships," said McGinnis. "Your best friends are flight attendants and gate agents, the people at hotel front desks." A February survey from CareerBuilder found that 19% of those who travel for work said their travel negatively impacts their home life.

Business travel does have its upsides. The Columbia study found that the only group with similar health problems to the heaviest of travelers were people who didn't travel at all. The CareerBuilder survey discovered that less travel can also lead to less effective internal communication at companies, fewer sales and decreased customer loyalty.

Make sure you know what you're getting into when you take a job with lots of travel. Will it end in a couple years or become an enduring lifestyle? "In order to make it mentally manageable, you need to know that there's an end to it," said McGinnis.

What Would You Do?

Answer the question and see how you match up with the rest of the FINS community.

You've just been offered your dream job, but... you will be required to travel for 90% of the year.

Sign ...or... Decline

Write to Kelly Eggers

Sign or Decline is a series of questions on that ask what you would do for your dream job. Since its launch late last year, over 100,000 answers have been received and compiled in our database. Participate in Sign or Decline here.

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