Today’s work environment is more global and connected than ever. But with the rise of hybrid workplaces and always-on communication, it’s hard to find work-life balance – especially if you’re frequently traveling for work.
To excel in your career while nurturing your mental health, there are a few strategies to find work-life balance as a business traveler.
What is work-life balance?
‘Work-life balance’ refers to your ability to maintain both a professional and personal life. By finding a work-life balance that works for you, you can grow your career while also maintaining the personal relationships and hobbies that bring you enrichment outside of your job.
Prioritizing work-life balance is key to maintaining your wellbeing, building resilience and having a fulfilling, well-rounded life alongside a sustainable career.
Why is work-life balance so hard for business travelers?
Work-life balance is important for everyone, but frequent business travelers face unique challenges. Constant travel can affect you both physically and mentally, and business travelers should be aware of the pitfalls in order to mitigate the negative effects.
Business travel can be particularly stressful – from navigating international airports to keeping up with packed itineraries, there’s often little time to relax on a busy business trip. Prolonged trips also mean less time at home with loved ones, which can take a toll on your personal relationships and cause further stress.
In terms of physical health, business travel can also leave a mark. You may find yourself more exhausted from disruptions to your routines or experience jet lag if you’re jumping between time zones. It can also be challenging to keep up with exercising and eating healthy while on the road.
Despite the challenges of business travel, it’s possible – and vital – to prioritize your work-life balance while on the go. Here are a few strategies for your next business trip.
Work-life balance tips for frequent business travelers
1. Stay in touch with friends and family
Create a routine to keep in touch with your loved ones, no matter where you are. It can be hard to align schedules across time zones and on busy days, so be sure to put your chats into a shared calendar to keep everyone on the same page. Whether you’re joining friends for a virtual ‘dinner’ or reading your kids a bedtime story, it’s important to prioritize these times to connect.
2. Embrace an exercise routine
It’s not easy to fit in a workout after a long day of working – and it can feel even harder when you’re on the road. But taking care of your physical health will help with everything from jet lag to stress management. You might be able to book a hotel with a gym or pool, but if not, consider packing resistance bands or even a foldable yoga mat so that you can get in a little bit of movement from your hotel room.
3. Practice good sleep hygiene
Getting a good sleep can make all the difference for your physical and mental health – but between jet lag, work stress and being in a new environment, it can be hard to get some quality shut eye while you travel. Practice good sleep hygiene by sticking to a nightly routine and avoiding screens for up to an hour before bed. Screens have a blue light that resembles daylight, which can confuse your circadian rhythm.
4. Consume food and beverages carefully
When it comes to staying healthy while you travel for work, regular exercise and sleep are just part of the equation. To feel and perform your best, be mindful of what you eat and aim for a balanced, varied diet and drink lots of water to avoid dehydration. Alcohol and nicotine can also impact your sleep and overall health, so try to avoid them or limit your intake as much as possible.
5. Take a bleisure trip
‘Bleisure’ – a portmanteau of ‘business’ and ‘leisure’ – is a trip that blends work and play. This can be set up in different ways, but most commonly involves extending your trip or taking friends or family on the trip with you. According to Statista, 54% of companies allow their employees to take bleisure trips and 50% allow them to take loved ones along for their trip. Work with your company to find a bleisure option that works for everyone and you can turn a work trip into a memorable experience.
6. Bring your hobbies on the road
It can be hard to fully unwind when you travel for business – and flipping on the hotel TV every evening isn’t always the best way to shut off. Bring your hobbies along with you, whether it’s finding travel versions of your favorite activities or picking up a new one. If you like art, bring a sketchbook or invest in a small travel paint set. If you’re a runner, bring your running shoes and explore the city. Whatever your interests, look for creative ways to continue pursuing them wherever you go.
7. Schedule in downtime
It may feel counterintuitive to put ‘nothing’ time in your calendar, but it’s important to be proactive about your downtime. When you book your trip, try to pick flights that arrive a day earlier than needed so that you can adjust to time zones and just have time to rest before any meetings or work. While you’re on your trip, don’t be shy about turning down invitations or blocking off time in your schedule to recharge – especially if you feel like you need a little time away from colleagues to unwind.
8. Upgrade strategically
It can be invaluable to find ways to relax while in transit. For frequent business travelers, it might be worth upgrading your flights to be more comfortable, jump ahead in the security line or get priority boarding. Access to an airport lounge gives you the ability to eat, shower and decompress – turning longer layovers into an opportunity to slow down.
9. Automate administrative tasks
Free up your attention by outsourcing some of your mental load to technology. Before leaving, download helpful business travel apps to manage your itinerary, navigate your destination, translate and track your expenses. As you travel, identify things that cause administrative burdens and look for ways to streamline your future trips.
10. Get out of your hotel
A change of scenery can help you connect with new people, gather inspiration and see more of your destination. Instead of working from your hotel room, why not head to a nearby café to catch up on your emails? Or, if you need a more dedicated work environment and reliable internet, book a desk for a day at a coworking space – which doubles as a great networking opportunity.
11. Set boundaries
It’s common to feel like you always have to be ‘on’ when you travel for work, and that’s why it’s extra important to take care of yourself and assert your boundaries. That could mean guaranteeing you’re home for holidays or only responding to emails during work hours, even while abroad. Communicate your boundaries proactively so that your teammates know what they can expect and when they’ll be able to contact you.
12. Be open with your manager and company
If you find yourself getting burnt out or losing touch with loved ones, take a step back and discuss with your manager to find solutions. Your employer owes you a duty of care to ensure your safety and health – both mental and physical. Remember, burning yourself out on a business trip can have long-term consequences for your company as well as yourself.
Travelling for work should be enriching, not exhausting. Before, during and after your trips, take time to reflect on your mental health and assess your work-life balance. With the right strategies and support, you’ll be ready to take on your next business trip and build a sustainable career for long-term impact.