Expert insights

Are you taking traveller wellness as seriously as you should?

5 February 2018 by Sam Welch

Employee wellness, absenteeism and business travel are intrinsically linked, says Sam Welch – so make sure you know the facts.

With more and more businesses focusing on the wellness and wellbeing of their employees, organisations are becoming better at measuring absenteeism within the workforce. Yet many are still lagging behind when it comes to understanding the impact of travel on wellness and absence levels.

Interestingly, in the UK absenteeism levels vary significantly between employment sectors. Those working in communications clocked up just 3.7 days of absence on average per annum – the lowest rate in any industry, according to a 2016 study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). Meanwhile the food, drink and tobacco industries saw the highest annual rates of absenteeism, with 11.7 days lost on average per employee.CIPD employee absence Chart

While companies are all too aware of the financial implications of absenteeism – up to £835 per worker per year, according to the CIPD – they are often less clued up about the impact of travel on employee wellness. Yet recent analysis by Capita Travel and Events’ Smarter Working team revealed that super-frequent travel resulted in a 27% increase in absenteeism. This rate was even higher in travellers in their 40s and 50s. Typically, these employees were in customer-facing roles, and had an average of nine or 10 years’ service under their belts. 

How wellness affects employees

The concept of wellness can be tricky to define – but a recent paper produced by Capita’s Wellness team breaks down the term into three fundamental elements: financial, mental and physical.  

There’s been a wealth of research into the impacts of physical wellness on employee absence rates, but there’s been less research into the links between financial and mental wellness and absenteeism.

A recent report by the Money Advice Service found that financial stress was responsible for 18 million hours of absence in the UK workplace, while one in four workers have lost sleep over money worries.

It’s important to recognise that these seemingly different aspects of wellness are all interconnected – as shown by the diagram of the ‘wellness triangle’ from Capita's (below). For example, physical distress could lead to an employee having to take an extended period of absence. Without the right levels of support in place, this could give rise to financial worries, leading in turn to mental distress.

Capita Wellness Triangle

In the case of business travel, there are many pressures that could impact traveller wellness. These range from the psychological impacts of increased levels of travel to anxieties over global security risks. 

How can organisations tackle these issues?

Forward-thinking organisations are already starting to measure the impact of travel on absence levels, including the risk tipping points. If you aren’t already doing so, it’s time to consider the two side by side. 

Don’t panic if your company doesn’t hold extensive data on employee wellness already. You can still look at things such as the frequency of business trips, and get an understanding of which employees are most at risk of travel-related health issues. You can also review your travel policy and programmes, and consider whether they support wellness and promote a better work-life balance.

Finally, companies should consider the impact of their expense processes. Is it straightforward for employees to charge business travel to the company or claim back expenses? Or are these processes adding to the financial pressures felt by the workforce?

For more advice on how to optimise efficiency, productivity and employee wellness through smarter working, contact our experts at Capita Travel and Events.  

Interested? Let’s have a chat about your company’s travel, meetings and events objectives - from the stuff that keeps you awake at night, to the everyday experiences of your employees! Call us on 0330 390 0340, or submit the details below, with an idea of the times that suit you for a call.