Bubbly glamour life in an airport lounge or homesickness in a hotel room?
These days, business travel is rarely associated with a jet set lifestyle or opulent surroundings. The recent doctoral dissertation by Liisa Mäkelä* on the challenges of fitting together international work and private life also shows that travelling for a living is now more demanding than it used to be. International work that involves a lot of travel is taxing both physically and mentally. The amount of stress and its effects vary from person to person. Mäkelä’s research shows that when work is experienced as fulfilling, significant and rewarding, the efforts – and even sacrifices – involved are easier to withstand. And vice versa. Alongside this, psychotherapist Maaret Kallio emphasises the feeling of control and autonomy. This is an important factor that protects against stress:
“From the viewpoint of mental well-being and the stressfulness of work, it is central to preserve the feeling of autonomy. In work involving travel, this could mean that you have at least some say on the details of the travel, for instance. Often the traveller will not challenge the employer on matters such as the timing of a trip, preferring to suffer in silence.”
According to Kallio, looking at things in black and white does not further mental well-being either. Nothing about any job is ever completely good or completely bad. Both sides are always present, as are both rewarding and stressful factors. “I dislike the idea that a negative feeling should be forced to become positive or swept under the carpet entirely. For many people, their international work that involves a lot of travel is a source of negative feelings, such as loneliness, guilt and homesickness. Accepting this makes it easier to handle these emotions. It pays to think about how to boost the positive sides of the work and to make the negative things easier to stand.”
According to the dissertation by Liisa Mäkelä, the stressfulness of work-related travel is also affected by whether there is a family waiting at home. According to her research, the biggest mental strain is experienced by parents of families with children. This is explained by the difficulty in fitting together a job that requires travel and a private life that requires one’s physical presence.
Psychotherapist Maaret Kallio also thinks that jobs calling for travel are in many ways a challenge to parents of families with children. “The obligations of parenthood are in conflict with the physical absence. This causes feelings of guilt, homesickness and loneliness in many people. When homesickness conquers the mind, many react by toiling around the clock without breaks. As if punishing yourself for being absent from your family could ease the negative emotions. It’s easy to forget that the family members at home also benefit when the parent returning home has rested and is in a positive mood,” says Kallio.
Maaret Kallio emphasises that you can also affect your mental stress and the effects of your work-related travel on your social relations by yourself. The whole can be affected by even quite simple deeds and by more open communication. This matter was also examined by Liisa Mäkelä in her 2016 dissertation. Read more here.
More interviews with Maaret Kallio
Read also Maaret Kallio’s interview about well-being and its meaning and also her second interview on emotional skills.
Loneliness affects everyone sometimes - even business travellers
We are committed to combatting loneliness. A sense of community and taking others into consideration are part of our service philosophy. We, therefore, would like to share some tips for avoiding fatigue at work and during travel – for an easier and more comfortable living that also provides inspiration during everyday life. We aim at becoming the best service company in Finland.