Your most productive corporate road warriors don’t tell you when they’re burning out. They’ll soldier through the cramped flights, the two-star airport hotels, the rental car lots, the fast-food meals between meetings and the hurried calls with loved ones until they can’t stand it anymore. And then they quit, leaving your company with the task of recruiting, hiring and training someone else to take their place.
What if your company had an early warning system?
Wearable technology, especially biometric devices like fitness trackers, may provide just such a solution. Right now, devices like those from Fitbit, Garmin and others track walking, sleeping, calorie intake, calories burned and other metrics. The Polar Loop 2 bracelet can even monitor heart rate when paired with a heart rate sensor.
Just having a fitness tracker along on a business trip can encourage executives to hit the gym or take a walk, and maintaining an exercise routine on the road can, by itself, help to manage travel stress. And a better-rested, less-stressed and fit employee is a more productive employee. As these devices become more sophisticated, monitoring health indicators like pulse rate and blood pressure, they can flag stress levels that threaten users’ health, motivation and willingness to travel.
For instance, say your corporate human resources department had a link to traveling employees’ data on pulse rates. Software flags a sudden surge, and a representative checks in with the employee. Maybe the flight was delayed, or noise at the hotel made it hard to sleep. Maybe the employee was just worried about an upcoming presentation.
Wearables are early-warning systems for #roadwarrior burnout, helping travelers and managersShare
By understanding the causes of travel stress your staff can make adjustments and spot patterns. For instance, you might learn that back-to-back trips are especially draining, or that flights during nonworking hours (before 8 a.m. or after 6 p.m.) affect employees’ health more than workday flights. Slight tweaks in your travel policy may pay big dividends in worker well-being and turnover. You can also identify employees at greater risk of burnout, talk to them and, if necessary, adjust their travel schedule.
Addressing privacy concerns and offering incentives
Many of your employees may be concerned about privacy and reluctant to share biometric data — and, to be fair, standards in this area continue to evolve. However, if you can make the case that employees benefit, whether indirectly through improved travel policies or directly through incentives like upgrades or monetary benefits, more of them will participate.
As the technology evolves, we expect to see not just corporate travel offices but also travel providers offering incentives for linking biometric data. For instance, gold members of frequent flyer or hotel loyalty programs may offer service upgrades like extra legroom or breakfast to travelers who have experienced stress during their journey. Imagine waking up after a restless night to find that the hotel has awarded you a coupon for $50 off on your next stay because you couldn’t sleep well.
In addition, the real-time messaging capabilities of wearables could also provide some natural incentives from suppliers, boosting traveler participation.
Integrating wearables into corporate culture
Many major companies are already integrating fitness trackers into their health and wellness programs. Autodesk, for instance, has been issuing Fitbit trackers to employees since 2011. More than half the company’s workforce in the United States opted to get one when they started offering them. BP purchases the devices for its employees as well, using Fitbit data to track the BP Million Step Challenge to increase physical activity. At Sabre, we encourage employees to link a wearable to their health profile in order to qualify for reduced health care premiums.
As these devices become more ingrained into corporate culture, using them for travel wellness management will become a natural next step.
Managing travel burnout creates challenges for many companies because they simply don’t know about it until it’s too late. Fitness devices and biometric tracking can keep them one step ahead of the curve in keeping their globe-hopping executives well and healthy.