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Traveler well-being: the missing metric

August 16, 2023


By Richard Johnson
Global Head of Solutions Group, CWT

I was invited to lead a session on traveler well-being at the recent GBTA meeting in Dallas. Such an interesting topic, as most of our customers now need to think about employee well-being standards while considering organizational goals and environmental impact. The topic is significant since traveler well-being is frequently squeezed uncomfortably into safety and security. Finding metrics to represent the travelers’ needs is part of my job, so I was glad to be able to share with such an important audience. Tricia Alsup, Travel Manager at Dollar General, also joined me in this session and we did work together to articulate how to measure, assess, report, and act on well-being metrics.

Check out these shocking metrics on employee burnout and turnover:

  • $125 - 190 billion in annual healthcare spending due to workplace burn out.
  • A burned-out employee costs $3,400 out of every $10,000 in salary through disengaged and less productive work. 
  • Disengaged teams endure turnover rate up to 43% higher than engaged teams. 
  • The replacement cost for the average worker is one-half to two times the annual salary.

The risk of not focusing on traveler well-being is high:

  • 87% of travelers feel that the quality of their business travel impacts their business results.
  • Road warriors face a variety of health issues, including obesity, poor sleep patterns, hypertension, increased smoking and alcohol usage, and high levels of anxiety and stress. 
  • A World Bank study showed 75% of staff reported high or very high stress related to business travel.

The good news is that the rewards can also be high:

  • Travel has the ability to decrease stress and anxiety, and improve mental, physical, emotional well-being.
  • Travel, according to scientists, can boost creativity by breaking the cycle of stagnation. Travel also provides an opportunity for employees to mentally unplug, allowing them to recover from potential burnout.
  • Travel has the potential to increase job satisfaction, employee engagement and revenue growth. Face-to-Face interactions are 34 x more successful than an email.

When we think of well-being, it appears to be an intangible term, however this is no longer the case. There are simple approaches to measure traveler well-being using existing travel data. My objective was to demonstrate some simple instances of the types of data points we might examine and how we can transform transactional data into employee well-being insights.

We conducted a poll on LinkedIn leading up to the GBTA event and asked people to weigh in on the aspects of travel that impact them the most when traveling.  The top 3 responses from voters were:

  1. Cabin class for long-haul flights
  2. Stress from balancing workload 
  3. Being away from home (family and friends)

Leveraging the insights and feedback form this poll we created a virtual ‘whiteboarding session’ as I wanted to walk the audience through simple and straightforward ways to measure and track wellbeing impacts like the ones mentioned above. 

The goal of this exercise was to show that after you have established your criteria, you can then start to place an impact score on each of these factors simply by considering a threshold of what you would consider to be ‘acceptable’, ‘not acceptable’ and maybe something in the middle. 

For example, consider the Cabin class.  We have set our thresholds for this example at 5 and 7 hours, and we have determined that if an employee travels business class, that is the best experience they can have, regardless of the conditions, so that cabin class would get 100% in every scenario. However, for those of us who must travel economy, our comfort levels are often influenced by the length of our flight.  We applied thresholds and scores, such as flights of <6 hours in economy are acceptable and will receive a score of 100%. Flights from 6-8 hours start to negatively impact well-being and would therefore receive a score of 50% and flights of over 8 hours in economy will likely be physically impactful for most and therefore would score a 0%. 

Using that same approach., we looked at a few other examples of thresholds in other categories such as Work-Life Balance, Departure and Arrival Times, and Jetlag.

For the final part of the session Tricia and I focused on tangible actions and ways to incorporate well-being metrics into travel program strategy and reporting such as:

  • Travel policy reviews
  • Sustainability initiative impact analysis
  • Business leader reporting
  • Traveler level reporting and education
  • Supplier evaluations and discussion

A wise man once said: “Not everything that can be counted counts…And not everything that counts can be counted…” (Albert Einstein). These words ring true on our traveler well-being session.

For more information on measuring your travelers well-being, contact CWT Solutions Group.


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