…a study from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health confirms that people who travel for business two weeks or more a month are more likely to report symptoms of anxiety, depression and trouble sleeping than those who travel less than one week a month.
And if you drink, extensive travel is likely to lead to alcohol dependence, the study found.
Uh, yeah… the study “confirms that”, not “discovered that”. Though not mentioned in the article, the study also reports that smoking and being sedentary are far, far more likely. When a study confirms what everyone already knows, it’s just thinly veiled advertising.
I spent a big chunk of my life being one of those road warriors, which is the common term in the business vernacular for those being ground to shit by excessive business travel. I mostly flew Delta for domestic flights and most of their counter agents at the three airports nearest my home knew me by my first name. A handful of the airport limo drivers had been to my home often enough that they didn’t ask for the address when they picked me up at the airport — in the days before GPS. You know you travel too much when that happens at Los Angeles International Airport.
The study was of medical record data, which probably explains why there’s no mention of things like divorce and suicide rates or being victimized while on business travel.
At one place I worked, the salesdroids would say to customers touring the factory, if I was there at the time, that I “… travel[ed] more in a calendar quarter than the rest of the company combined travel[ed] in a year”. I never knew when I flew away if my itinerary was fantasy or reality — I quickly learned that the best way to get home was to place my daily check-in calls outside of normal business hours so I’d reach voicemail instead of a person, and to never answer the hotel room phone. This was in the era before cell phones, so it was a lot easier to go incommunicado. Getting away with it, then as now, is another matter entirely and requires being much, much harder to replace than to reach. I eventually got canned anyway. And was very, very hard to replace. The CEO was a man about it and gave me the last laugh when I dropped in about a year later: He admitted that he’d had to break my position into three and those three had proven incapable of generating the revenue that I had delivered.
It wasn’t without its perqs, though. I was scheduled to transit The Philippines on September 29th, 1989 on the way to another place that can only be reached by air from there; on the 27th a couple of guys from Ford Aerospace were murdered just for being American on the road I’d have to travel, and on the 28th Ferdinand Marcos died. So instead I went to Hawaii by air, from there by ship to San Diego, and then by air to Fremantle, Western Australia, where I snagged about a week of downtime after the job was done. I needed it, too — professional pub crawling is exhausting work.
My very last “real” job ended in 1994 when my employer’s stupidity sank the company. I had been a senior manager reporting solely to the CEO. Ostensibly reporting to him, anyway, but our agreement was that I would run my division and he could keep me or fire me but not tell me what to do. A stock fraudster took control and appointed his own management team when the company reached the neck of the spiral waterfall, and at our one and only meeting the dipshit who replaced me offered me a subordinate position. The dumb son of a bitch actually told me, when I said I wasn’t interested in moving to the new headquarters in Michigan, “It doesn’t matter to me where you live because I’m going to judge your new boss by how well he accomplishes the goal of 95% travel for his subordinates”.
Being long experienced and also long burned out, I didn’t let him get away from me until after I’d fully explained the proof that he was a dumb and completely unqualified son of a bitch. His response was to inform me that the offer remained on the table. I immediately ended our meeting with a warning that if he ever insulted me that way in person again I would put his teeth down his throat. He would have fallen over backward when I rose to leave the table if not for the wall behind him.
So I know a little bit about the subject. The irksome part, though, is at the end of the article:
Employers should provide employees who travel for business with accommodations that have access to physical activity facilities and healthy food options,” said Andrew Rundle, associate professor or epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health.
Oh fuck you, Mister Rundle.
Reality #1: The work happens wherever the hell it does, but the business happens around drinks, lots and lots of drinks.
That’s why three people couldn’t equal the revenue I’d generated by myself: they didn’t know the alchemy to turn quarts of alcohol into micrograms of ink that can be converted to money. I inherited it as a family recipe.
Most of the hotels I stayed in had something like a gym. The problem with that: you’re not only exhausted most of the time, it’s also really fucking stupid to risk injury by going to the gym drunk. Most of the hotels I stayed in offered something appearing to be healthful food, too. Only those leading pampered lives don’t already know that stress hormones cause our fat cells to prepare for food shortage. There’s no talking to a fat cell; it has no ear.
Reality #2: The social isolation of excessive business travel cannot be corrected by anything except being home.
While working for that outfit where the salesdroids always mentioned how much I traveled, my home life was a big bag of bloody shit and entrails. No one needs a picture of the bag’s contents… neither did I. Being away from home causes problems at home and exacerbates any it doesn’t cause. Even if you do those healthy things the (ignorant? self-interested?) academician recommends, you’re going to spend a lot more hours alone in hotel rooms than in gyms and that’s when your options are reduced to drinking the shooter or shooting the drinker.
Even if you don’t have a family at home with whom to have problems, the social isolation will get to you. When staying for a week in one place is a rare luxury, all of your social bonds are to some degree superficial. Home is different from a hotel only in that you don’t have to make reservations to stay there.
Pro Tip #1: If you’re paying for those business drinks, you’re giving your employer charity. Don’t.
Pro Tip #2: Reject any contract without concrete commission guarantees. Self medication, medical insurance deductibles, and divorce lawyers are all expensive, and if you’re just getting into the gig your entire wardrobe will soon need to be replaced due to shrinkage.
The problem isn’t that hotels don’t offer “access” to this or that. Most semi-decent or better hotels and their surrounding environments offer access to anything and everything you might want that’s not home time. The problem is the excessive travel itself and the solution is to stop demanding it. If you have to kill people to do your business, you do not deserve to profit by it. Period.
So fuck that academician dude trying to disguise advertisement as scholarly research. The only problem his recommendations solve is how to afford his own lifestyle.