The loneliness of the long-distance business traveller

Frequent travel comes with a number of physiological, psychological, emotional and social costs – here’s how to make it easier

To people who don’t have to travel on business, it can seem like a very exciting and glamorous alternative to spending time stuck behind a desk in an office. Admittedly it does give you a greater sense of freedom plus the chance to visit places that you’ve never seen before. However research carried out in a 2015 study found that frequent travel comes with a number of physiological, psychological, emotional and social costs to those who take part in it as well as those around them. In another study, 50% of the businesspeople interviewed said that the hardest part of being way was missing their family and friends.
But there are a number of ways that you can make being away from home on business easier both on yourself and on those around you so, while you may not actually relish the prospect of nights away from home and living out of a suitcase, it needn’t be as lonely as it could be. Here are some tips to help.
Avoid working in your room.
It may be tempting to cocoon yourself away working in your hotel room to fill in the hours between meetings but this will only add to the sense of isolation and disconnection from the rest of the world.
So it’s always better to find a communal area where you can set up your laptop instead. This could be the lobby or the hotel’s wifi zone. Better still, head for a nearby coffee shop where the steady flow of customers and others around you will make a welcoming and more socially engaging environment for working.
Seize the opportunities to keep in touch with people back home.
However hectic your schedule while you’re away there’s always going to be the odd five minutes to spare during the day. It could be when you’re waiting for the taxi to arrive or a gap between meetings.
So this is the ideal time to send a text or even to make a quick call to check in with loved ones and to let them know how your day’s doing too. In fact, you don’t even need to call. Sending pictures of where you are is also always going to be very well received by anyone who gets them.
Really use Skype or FaceTime.
It’s hard to remember a time when we couldn’t see as well as hear our loved ones via Skype, Facetime or any of the other video communication platforms available. But are you really using yours to its full potential? Instead of having a set time for a face to face chat why not leave it running all evening so even as your family go about their normal activities like eating dinner, relaxing and watching TV you can feel more a part of it, albeit remotely?
It may seem a bit odd at first but after a couple of evenings, you’ll all get used to it!
Start to savour your alone time.
Rather than focus on being alone it could be an idea to embrace it a little more. After all, it’s not often that we get the chance to enjoy genuine “me time” free from chores and other commitments. Maybe you like reading and this is the perfect chance to enjoy an uninterrupted hour or two getting into a good book. Or if you’re an online gaming fan, then why not enjoy some free spins on the slots – and it could even turn into a profitable evening for you!
Enjoy a little sightseeing.
Even if you have a packed timetable it’s always worth seeing if you can free up a little time to visit a tourist attraction or two while you’re there. For example if you’re down in central London there are lots of art galleries which are the perfect way to spend an hour or so and, best of all, entrance is free.
Wherever you go it’s also a great opportunity to pick up a souvenir or two because when you get back home it’s always nice to have a gift or two to show the people you love how much you’ve missed them.
Bring someone with you.
It might seem like a radical idea but if they have the time to spare then maybe you could also bring your partner with you. While you’re busy they could be enjoying the area’s tourist attractions so for them it would be almost as good as a mini-break. It will also help you feel less stressed, happier and more settled – and therefore able to work more productively. Often double hotel rooms aren’t that much more expensive than single ones so the extra costs, especially if you’ve travelled by car, shouldn’t be too prohibitive either.
Share a hotel room with a colleague.
Finally, if you’re travelling with a colleague and you’d both feel comfortable sharing a room together then give this some serious thought.
The chances are that they will also be feeling lonely and cut off from their family too and this could give you the opportunity to help support each other as well. It could be that you even find that you have more in common with one another than you’d ever realised and cement a friendship that will then also exist outside of work too.
Of course, with the advent of technology like video conferencing and even virtual reality business travel may become less and less necessary in the future but until then it looks like we’re stuck with it. But by following all or some of these tips it will hopefully feel less like a wrench – and that’s got to be good for you as well as everyone around you.