Business Travel…Can you really stay healthy?

Tired Businessman Waiting on Flight

Here it is March, and for most of us our New Year’s resolutions have faded in the rearview mirror. Yet as we adjust to a post-Covid world, many would like to avoid returning to old bad habits. In particular, as business travel rebounds to near historic levels, fellow road warriors struggle to maintain a healthy balance.

No matter what your goals or resolutions are, having a healthy approach to business travel is key to ensuring it doesn’t negatively impact your health, stress and effectiveness at work.  At Amphora, we take the work we do seriously, but also believe that it is critical to invest time to take care of ourselves. 

After decades of travel, learning from our mistakes and listening to pointers from others, we have compiled a list of a few simple tips that might make your travel just a little bit less stressful and perhaps a bit more rewarding. 

  • Never turn on the TV in the hotel room.  Leave the remote exactly where you found it. We got this advice years ago from a full-time consultant who was also an age-group competitive triathlete – to keep up his training regimen, he had to use his time wisely. His tip is helpful for a few reasons.  It ensures you don’t get hooked on some marathon TV show and end up staying up too late.  Leaving the TV off gives you the gift of time to check in at home, take a few minutes to stretch or meditate but most importantly doing something that will rejuvenate you, not drain you. Save your binge watching for a weekend night when you don’t have to set your alarm clock.
  • No matter what your parents told you growing up, there is no glory in being a part of the clean plate club.  Typically, restaurant meal portions are meant for people eating out once per week. If you are eating out three meals a day for four or five days in a row, you are clearly consuming too many calories. Again, no one is watching you at that hotel restaurant – you don’t need to finish your meal. Order something you wouldn’t make at home, taste everything, but do not feel like you have to finish it.
  • Be especially wary of the business group dinner – you know what we mean, the whole team gathers at a steakhouse where the average portion size is already more calories than you should consume in an entire day. After a couple rounds of cocktails someone order ‘apps’ for the table – it should not surprise you that there is nothing redeeming about mozzarella sticks, potato skins of bacon-wrapped shrimp (except that they taste so good!). If this type of dinner is a once a year celebration, that is great – if you are doing this regularly, watch out. It will catch up with you!
  • Move your body.  Schedule time for your morning or evening exercise.  Even 20 minutes can get your blood flowing and just make you feel better about your day.  Even if your hotel does not have a gym, get out and walk or do yoga or core exercises in your room. It is important to not feel guilty about taking this time!  A regular fitness routine can make your more productive at work. There is increasing evidence that regular exercise supports healthy brain function! That time away from your desk can make you more productive behind it.
  • Watch the empty office calories. We continue to be surprised at the number of offices where doughnuts in meetings and birthday cake in the break room are common occurrences. Like any other treat, these are great once in a while, especially if you skipped breakfast. But if you are indulging in these treats in addition to three meals a day, don’t be surprised when your pants feel a bit tight.  Further, your productivity may be impacted by the energy highs and lows you feel throughout the day with these unhealthy sugar infusions.
  • On a related note, you might want to carry a couple of granola/protein bars, fruit, or other semi-healthy snacks in your backpack.  Inevitably, hunger will strike when you are running through an airport, and while their food choices have improved somewhat, it is still mainly fast-food quality (the word “quality” used loosely here 😊). Taking a snack from your own stash can save you the empty and unhealthy choices.
  • While it pains us to say it, be especially mindful of liquid calories; they can add up quickly.  Liquid calories come in so many forms, soda, specialty coffee, and alcohol are just a few areas to keep your eye on. More than one colleague has struggled to say ‘no’ to the question ‘one more round?’ Our advice is to leave the peer pressure in college and recognize that you won’t miss much by leaving others to close the bar. And speaking from personal experience, we guarantee that you will feel better the following morning!
  • Lastly, don’t let deliverables and deadlines turn you into a hermit. We recall an exit interview with a summer intern years ago. Offhandedly, we remarked on how team dinners and interaction with colleagues outside of work was one of the little joys of life on the road. For contrast, we said “if you just work 8am to 8pm and then have room service in your hotel room, this is the worst job in the world.” We could see the color leaving her face as we said that, so we weren’t totally surprised when she replied “you just described my entire summer.” We were not shocked to hear shortly thereafter that she had chosen not to come back to the firm full time. Humans are social beings.  All work and no play doesn’t just “make Jack a dull boy,” it leads to a dull and ultimately unfulfilling life. So, find time to socialize, meet people, talk about things besides work, it will make your time on the road more interesting and more bearable.

When people talk about work/life balance, it often conjures images of work-from-home, leave policies, free bagels and meditation rooms. For those of us who travel regularly for work it is more about consciously maintaining a healthy lifestyle while balancing the pressures and frustrations of life on the road. It starts with awareness of the choices you are making and then making small adjustments that make a big difference over time.

We know that many reading this are fellow road warriors.  Join the conversation. What other tips do you have for those returning to business travel?

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