Business travel can be fun, sure, but, between the uncertain travel schedule and nonstop meetings that it often brings, it can lead to plenty of additional work stress. And that’s the last thing anyone needs to have happen while traveling, especially when tasked with being productive for work.
For those who travel for work and find that work stress is more prominent from the time you leave your house till the time you return home, we’re here to offer support — because it doesn’t have to be that way. Instead of increasing anxiousness, take these travel tips on your next work trip to become less stressed and more efficient.
Prep The Night Before
Go through your clothing, personal hygiene, money and transportation needs shortly after dinner the night before you go on a business trip — and remember to pack your bags early. The last thing you want to have happen is be stuck with some last-minute tasks that can cut into your sleep that night. Lack of sleep, or poor sleep, increases cortisol levels (a nasty stress hormone) and are key stressors during business travel.
Double Check Your Tech Readiness
Work stress comes from lots of different things, but one of the most prominent one are tech issues. As much as we’d all like to disconnect from this digital world, when it comes to traveling for work, it’s not really an option.
Are you giving a presentation? If so, will you use your computer or their equipment? Will you need to use the Internet in your hotel room? Check with your company’s IT person, your hotel and any office or conference center you’ll be using to make sure everyone is on the same page regarding your technology needs.
Have a backup plan in case the PowerPoint presentation you sent gets lost or deleted, you don’t have an internet connection in your room or your computer battery dies before the meeting. When possible, book a hotel with a 24/7 business office.
Wake Up 15 Minutes Earlier
Much like a vacation, you don’t want to cut it close the morning of your travel. If you have a logistical hiccup as you’re getting ready (e.g., you can’t find your shoes or car keys, or your car is almost out of gas), you immediately start your day under increased stress. Give yourself 15 minutes more than you need to get ready to help you better handle small problems and prevent them from becoming big issues.
Get To The Airport Early And Don’t Work
If you cut it close on your airport arrival time, get stuck in traffic or have to stop for gas because you forgot to fill up the night before, you’ll be crazed the entire time you’re driving to the airport, only increasing the odds of added work stress.
Give yourself more time than you need to make your flight, and then relax in a café or at your gate. Don’t work. That extra 15 to 30 minutes of work that you think will help you reduce your workload might actually put you under more work stress as you prepare to board your plane and fly for the next hour or two.
Read the paper. People watch. Do a crossword. Relax.
Manage Your Flight Activity
Decide whether or not you’re going to sleep on your flight before you get to the airport. Whether or not you should sleep on your flight will depend on whether you’re arriving at a destination with a multi-hour time zone change and whether you’re arriving in the morning or evening. In some cases, extra sleep will help you make it through your workday and make it easier to fall asleep that night. In other cases, it can keep you awake your first night.
If you decide to sleep on the plane, there are some life hacks to remember — like covering your feet, not your body. When you sleep, your body lowers its core temperature except in your hands in feet. If you put a blanket over you and kick off your shoes, you might make it more difficult to sleep.
Think about whether you want to eat during the flight, too. Make sure to stay hydrated on a flight when you’re sealed into an airtight plane. Yes, it’s a pain to have to pee during a flight, but dehydration causes a variety of physiological problems that you don’t want to deal with during a business trip.
If possible, don’t work during the flight. Starting and stopping work activities in the airport, on the plane and in the taxi to the hotel can increase work stress, as you’ll feel like you’re missing out on something important at the office.
Eat Smart By Spreading Out Your Calories
Avoid heavy meals and only eating twice each day. Your brain needs fuel, so eat every four hours or so, eating about two-thirds carbs to get the glucose you need for fuel, then one-third protein to help release neurotransmitters that promote alertness. Snacking between meals helps prevent hunger pangs and craving that result in overeating at lunch or dinner.
If you’re going to have a protein-heavy meal (like a steak), eat that early in the afternoon to give it enough hours to digest. Eat more carbs the later at night you eat, avoid caffeine and spices and don’t eat a big meal less than three hour before you sleep.
Decompress At Night To Prohibit Increased Work Stress
Don’t work, have an intense phone call or watch stressful TV at least 30 to 60 minutes before you go to bed. You want your head to hit the pillow relaxed. If you think working up until you hit the sack makes you more productive, remember that a lack of restful sleep reduces your cognitive function the next day. The reason you might be working so many hours each day (and on weekends) is because it takes you longer to get your work done due to a lack of sleep.
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