For those who are booking travel and those who are are taking the trip, health and wellness is a huge factor many need to consider. PA Life’s Recommended Supplier, Capita Travel & Events’ Matthew Holman, head of travel well-being and Jonti Dala-Small, head of behavioural science, reveal how employees can monitor their health and why a beach with no phone signal is the ideal spot for one’s well-being.
Why is it crucial for assistants to monitor their health and wellness?
It is crucial for all employees to be aware of their health and wellness – not least assistants. It’s easy to overlook how challenging this work can be. Managing competing, changing demands can be really stressful. Plus, sitting down for much of the day is not great for health and well-being.
While there are unique challenges for assistants, I’d add that fundamentally we all want to live positive, thriving and stress-free lives, but at times we are all challenged with many different impacts that we cannot foresee. If we look after our bodies and minds, we are better placed to lead healthy lives, and help those who are struggling.
What tips and advice would you give assistants to ensure they are on top of their health?
There are three key areas for maintaining good health in life and the workplace.
Mental health – If things are getting too stressful make sure you have the opportunity to step back, take a breath, talk to someone and find those things that help you relax.
Physical health – Even though you are busy, try to take time to keep active. When we are working hard, we often park physical activities as we don’t have time. Even a 20 to 30 minute walk each day can help, get up and move. Why not have your next meeting walking and talking with your colleague?
Nutrition – Make sure you are hydrated well, drink eight glasses of water a day and go easy on caffeine. Also ensure to eat well and try to eat fruit and vegetables every day.
“First and foremost we need to all understand that every single person has mental health. It is part of our overall health and we have to look after this as we look after our physical health.”
How can travel impact health and wellness?
This is an important, timely question – really relevant to assistants who both arrange travel and sometimes travel too for work. Business travel can be very tiring, leading to irregular sleeping challenges, developing bad habits (drinking and eating unhealthily), and spending long periods away from your family and social groups, increasing loneliness and isolation. In 2019 health and wellness has moved up the corporate travel agenda as travellers expect more support from their organisations when being asked to travel for business. Assistants will have a crucial role to play in this.
How is Capita focusing more on wellness? Why is it so important to the company?
It is important to us because it is – or should be – important to everyone.
For too long the business travel industry has driven up more and more travel, which contributes to poor mental and physical health. We want to change that: we challenge unnecessary travel and make sure wellbeing is central thinking about necessary travel. We call it ‘smarter working’ – but we can’t do it alone. We’re already working with PA and EAs to help bring about this revolutionary change in business travel.
We want to be trusted advocates – raising awareness and support to the travellers through the whole process or planning, pre-trip, on-trip and post-trip. We are looking at how travellers make decisions through behavioural science, and how we can help improve the overall traveller experience.
We are also practicing what we preach. We have invested internally to train staff in mental health first aid, providing managers with training and awareness to support staff, promoting health and well-being days, and working hard to ensure we are taking care of our greatest assets, our people.
Are there any destinations you would say are particular great spots for health and well-being?
I’m tempted to say, anywhere with a good beach with no mobile signal! Good spots for well-being would be those spaces where travellers can really switch off from the daily challenges that they would face at home or work.
When travelling for work, a secluded beach isn’t normally an option (though we do promote outdoor meetings). To promote well-being for business travel we help people make better decisions and encourage good behaviours for travellers, for example options that will enable people to take care of their health and well-being. Choose hotels that have a gym, or restaurants that provide healthy and balanced food choices.
What changes need to be implemented to travel to ensure wellness is a priority?
First and foremost we need to all understand that every single person has mental health. It is part of our overall health and we have to look after this as we look after our physical health. Everything is connected, so when we drink alcohol or eat unhealthy food the chemicals and contents change our bodies and our minds.
Secondly, we need to recognise that today one in four adults will be diagnosed with a mental illness every single year. So, in our organisations when we have to travel, the person travelling may already have a mental illness. How do we support those so that their conditions do not worsen?
And finally, we need to make sure that traveller have a safe space to be open about any challenges that they may be experiencing, without any fear of discrimination or being worked out of the business. We need to support people to recover and thrive in their workplace.
Assistants will have a massive role to play in making and keeping wellness a priority. We will only get there when people book and travel differently to how they do today.