I’m sure you can remember the time when the idea of traveling for work sounded like a paid vacation. A study by the University of Alabama shows that the stress of international business trips can reduce your job performance by up to 38%.
Researchers surveyed business travelers at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta international airport, which has over 95 million travelers every year go through it’s gates, making it the world’s busiest jet terminal. They found that workers heading to more exotic destinations experienced even more stress than people who were traveling to places that feel more familiar to them.
This concept is called “institutional distance” and it includes all the factors that make a new city feel foreign. Some of the reasons for this are different etiquette and social norms, unfamiliar laws and regulations, language barriers and even the food. Countries like Canada and other English-speaking former British colonies are considered to have a low institutional distance. In comparison, nations like Japan or anywhere in South America are high on the list for institutional distance, making those cultural differences 13 percent more stressful even for frequent travelers to these destinations.
This feeling of being a stranger in a strange environment adds to the extra pressure you are already facing. “The consequences of not performing well on a business trip are grave, thus anything that increases an already stressful environment is worth addressing,” says study author Jase Ramsey, Phd.
Here are a few tips to relieve this stress and help you get the most out of your business trip:
Add time to your stay
Ask if you can add an extra day both on the way to and from your destination, so you can adjust and prepare for the work you need to get done. For trips that are only scheduled to last a day or two, try to cut back your schedule so you aren’t rushing between meetings.
Stay at smaller hotels
If you are planning to go to a major, tourist-friendly city like Paris or Tokyo, choose a bed and breakfast near the business you are conducting. This will offer more personalized service. “Just talking to the hosts, they would immediately tell me everything that’s going on in the city,” says Becker.
Find a local guide
Ask business associates to recommend a local guide that will show you around and help you get your bearings beforehand. Doing this will serve two purposes to help relieve the stress of a business trip. First, it will give you an understanding of the lay of the land while letting you experience some of the culture that makes up the city. Second, your trip will seem like that paid vacation again and give you a chance to have some fun playing tourist.
Get to the airport early
Plan to arrive at the airport 2 to 3 hours before your flight’s scheduled departure. This practice can reduce a lot of the stress behind any business trip by making sure you have enough time to make it through security, making sure you won’t be rushing to make your flight. Today’s major airports are the place for great shopping destinations, excellent restaurants, relaxing spas and great bars. Take this time to relax and prepare for your business trip adding a much less stressful approach to your travels.