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Shifting Borders and Barriers

November 03, 2021


By Wendy Stachowiak
Senior Advisor, Global Travel Industry, International SOS

Borders and barriers have been shifted over the past 18 months.  They used to be defined by geography or geopolitical lines but have shrunk due to the effects of COVID-19 and may be as close as the border we travel between home and office.

Recognizing and accepting that we may encounter challenges, crossing those close borders and barriers is important to our emotional health. Following a long period of lockdown working from home and spending more time with family and pets, changes to our routine, loosening of restrictions and a return to traveling can be stressful. These tips can assist in minimizing our stress and help us adapt:

  1. What is causing your stress?  Acknowledging the source of your reluctance to start traveling is the first step. Once you understand the source of your fear you can address the source. Do you need information on the safety protocols for travel? Do you need more information on the meeting logistics? Concentrate on getting the information or actions needed to reduce your stress.
  2. Reach out to others who have traveled and learn about their experience. Your colleagues are a great source of helping to provide do’s and don’ts to make your journey pleasurable.
  3. Focus on the positives of returning to travel. Identify what you have missed and focus on the positive aspects of social connections, learning opportunities.

As we begin to expand our barriers and borders; colleagues returning to the office, face-to-face meetings inside and outside of the office and limited travel, we can begin to build on the initial steps to ensure we are comfortable and well prepared. The transition to going virtual happened almost overnight without any preparation. After 18 months of working in a virtual environment and the shared trauma of the global pandemic we have grown more comfortable with the routines of working from home. The level of comfort and new routines make pivoting back to the workplace and back to travel a difficult change. While change is frequently difficult, this change involves establishing new routines while there is still a concern over personal safety. Consider the steps below to help transitioning to expanding barriers and borders back to the workplace and travel.

  • Schedule time to fuel your energy: Schedule time for yourself that allows you to pause and fuel your energy. It can be a short, quiet cup of tea while staring into space, or a 10-minute walk outside. Start thinking about activities that fuel your energy and how to transfer them to the workplace to add to your new routine.
  • Movement makes a difference: Many have used their virtual work situations to get in better shape which in turn improves mood and overall mental health. Think about how to continue a focus on movement as you return to the workplace.  Look for opportunities to keep moving.
  • Rethink your workstyle: While working remotely opened new ways to work and reordered priorities, many of those changes can be incorporated into new routines at the workplace.  Think about how you will use your time in the office and time at home if you are adapting for a ’hybrid situation‘. Look at this transition to re-think your work style and travel schedule. Bring forward the learnings from virtual work to the new workplace.

“Returning to the workplace after working from home, as well as the return to travel, certainly presents new challenges for maintaining optimal mental health. Given the increase in anxiety, stress, depression, and other mental health issues including drug and alcohol use that we have seen during the pandemic, there is an increased need to address employee wellness in a holistic manner, and to go beyond a model of simply responding to physical disease, said Dr. William Hauptman, Regional Medical Director at International SOS.

It remains paramount for employers to recognize for example, the need for exercise, maintaining a good diet, as well as attending to spiritual needs. Employers need to be sure to support and provide the necessary time and resources for all employees - at home, in the office, or traveling. It is critical to demystify mental health issues by bringing these concerns to the forefront of discussions.”             

Focusing on your emotional health is key to expanding your borders and barriers.

Robust travel requires careful preparation and support, whether traveling between states in the US or crossing international borders. Travel safely with confidence, utilizing solutions from International SOS and following these tips during every stage of the trip.


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