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小心, 频繁的商务旅行正在缓慢地谋杀你Why Frequent Business Travel Is So Bad For U

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频繁出差的人士其实并没有表面上看起来那么光鲜,相比在朋友圈晒些“激动人心”的生活方式,他们更应该对自己的健康问题给予足够的警觉。

文 / Michael Grothaus 自由撰稿人


你的朋友圈有“空中飞人”或“鸟人”吗?就是那种由于工作关系全国飞行或环球旅行的家伙,他们每个月可能要出差3-4次。当你日复一日陷于平常枯燥的办公室生活时,他们则频繁出入于洛杉矶国际机场、北京首都国际机场、迪拜国际机场和伦敦希斯罗机场。他们在朋友圈里晒东京酒店房间里可见的樱花景色,或者是香榭丽舍大街上某个小咖啡馆的食用蜗牛,还都是花着公司的钱。他们还真是过着舒爽惬意的生活,不是吗?

 

不过,也许是时候收起你的嫉妒心啦。根据萨里大学(University of Surrey)酒店和旅游管理学院副院长Scott Cohen的研究,这些频繁出差的人士其实并没有表面上看起来那么光鲜,相比在朋友圈晒这些“激动人心”的生活方式,他们更应该对自己的健康问题引起足够的警觉。在《超高活性者的阴暗面》(A Darker Side of Hypermobility)论文中,Cohen搜集了15年来关于频繁出差的各种研究,他的研究发现完全应该引起这些高度移动的商务精英们的不安。

 

飞得多,隐患大

 

“频繁的商务旅行会引发一系列生理、心理、情感和社会方面的后果,” Cohen说,“但它们经常被忽视了,因为这些商务精英作为‘在路上的勇士’倾向于通过营销活动和社交媒体赢得个人魅力和成就感。”这些魅力光环包括他们作为常旅客赢得的航班优惠、会员资格和酒店住宿奖励等,反而将他们在频繁出差中暴露的个人健康风险问题掩盖了。


这些风险包括:


老得快

生物科学家已经发现,特定的基因会影响我们的衰老速度,而一个人越是频繁出差旅行,他就越是老得快。


“频繁的飞行会引致慢性的时差综合症,这会引发记忆障碍。在许多研究中,慢性时差综合症还会增加心脏病发作或中风的风险,也会破坏那些影响衰老和免疫系统的基因表达。”


暴露于过量的辐射中

如果老得更快还不够可怕的话,频繁的商务旅行者还会暴露于超出健康范围的更多的辐射中。“在高海拔上的人们遭受到的辐射强度要几百倍于地面上的人们。”


事实上,Cohen说,这种辐射强度之高,以至于有一种声音认为应该将这些频繁的商务旅行者称为“辐射工人”(radiation workers)。他指出,每年从纽约到东京往返7次(约85,000英里)所遭受的辐射强度已经超出了普通人接触辐射的限度。而商业航班上的机组人员所遭受的辐射暴露甚至超过了核电工人。


免疫系统变弱

不管你是在经济舱还是在头等舱,跨大西洋长途飞行中的每个人都呼吸着同样的再循环空气,所以频繁的商务旅行者会更经常的暴露于细菌中。除此之外,时差和奔波往返机场的疲惫甚至也会使免疫系统相关的基因丧失活性。这意味着频繁旅行者在疾病抵抗力方面不如更少飞行的人们。


更容易走样,更易发胖

不出意外的是,那些经常飞行的人士通常也更少有机会吃到新鲜而健康的食物。航班上提供的餐食含有糖和盐,以便在长途旅行的高海拔情境下还能保持食物的味道,但这些糖和盐的摄入长期来看会对身体健康造成严重破坏。Cohen说,不健康的饮食,以及旅行中普遍增加的酒精摄入和更少的锻炼机会,意味着频繁的旅行者具有更高的肥胖风险。


更易罹患精神疾病

“由于时差关系导致的昼夜节奏破坏,会影响个人情绪、判断力和精神集中度达6天之久。” Cohen发现,准备一次商务旅行和时差焦虑给旅行者带来的压力累积效应,甚至会引致“旅行障碍”(travel disorientation)。


商务旅行会有精神上的压力。事实上花费在旅途中的时间极少被减少的工作量所抵消,这就会引起工作过量内在感(inbox overload)的焦虑,同时这些压力还和天气原因的航班延误、飞机技术故障、更多的安检,以及由于担心恐怖袭击的安全焦虑等掺杂在一起。


频繁的商务旅行者还会感到孤独,以及将家庭成员抛之脑后的负疚感和孤立感,而他们的配偶也可能会渐生怨恨。当这些压力和负疚感、孤立感综合在一起,就可引致严重的精神健康问题。“我们的研究显示,那些经常出差的世界银行员工在医疗保险的心理索赔方面是常人的三倍之多。”


如何阻抗频繁旅行的负效应?


必须指出的是,如果你只是每几个月才短期出行一两次的商务旅客,那么你暴露于上述风险的可能性就低很多。而对于那些一个月出行14天以上的商旅人士来说,他们的健康报告、肥胖和BMI问题就非常突出。哥伦比亚大学流行病学系助理教授Catherine Richards表示。


在现在日益全球化的商务环境里,对于重度商务旅行的员工而言,他们要么另谋高就,要么别无选择。如果是后者,Richards认为雇主和员工都应该行动起来,以减少这些负效应。


公司应该为经常出差的员工开设一些教育项目,告知他们如何进行压力管理,以及在差旅中如何健康饮食和进行锻炼活动的策略。公司还应该对员工差旅途中的饮食基于其质量进行补偿,“如对于高能量密度的食品以低于其成本进行补偿,而对健康的饮食则以高于其成本的方式做报销”。Richards还建议公司只为差旅员工预订那些带有健身房的连锁酒店,并对出差时还进行健身锻炼的员工提供财务奖励。


对于频繁商旅的员工来说,Richards认为他们应该在机场里尽可能多的站立或走动,不要借助自动人行道和自动扶梯,在等候飞机起飞时不要坐在椅子上,而应该去散散步。如果入住的酒店没有健身房,你可以在酒店房间内做做俯卧撑、仰卧起坐、下蹲运动和其他一些类型的锻炼,并记得带上运动服,以便去酒店外跑跑步或散散步。最后,她建议带上一些健康的点心,这样不至于让自己陷入在差旅途中遍寻健康食物而无着落的尴尬境地。


Cohen则建议这些重度差旅人士探索更多的替代交通方案,如以火车出行代替飞行,如果一定要飞行的话,尽量选择直飞而非中转,避免中转带来的更大疲劳感。另外,试试看是否可以通过电话会议代替面对面的拜访。通常第一次打交道的时候当面拜访还是必要的,但面访之后的工作推进,其实电话会议就可以解决了。

​We all have them. Heck, maybe you are one of them. Those Facebook friends who get to travel all over the country or the world for their jobs. Instead of being stuck in the same office day after day, frequent business travelers are taking three or four business trips a month. While you’re annoyed by Kim from accounting's smelly lunch, your frequent business traveler friends are checking in at LAX, PEK, DXB, and LHR. They’re posting Instagram snaps of the view of the cherry blossoms from their hotel room in Tokyo or of that excellent escargot from that little cafe along the Champs-Élysées, all on their company’s dime. They really are living the life, it seems—or are they?

 

According to Scott Cohen, deputy director of research of the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the University of Surrey, it’s time to send your envy packing. Cohen recently published a paper titled A Darker Side of Hypermobility, in which he aggregated the data from 15 years of major studies on frequent travel. His findings are nothing short of disturbing if you’re one of what Cohen calls the "hypermobile": "a mobile elite who are often well connected to global networks, with their lifestyles closely but not exclusively linked to the practice of business travel."

In Cohen’s review of the literature, he found that this mobile elite, instead of bragging about their exciting lifestyles, should be very concerned about their health. "[Business travel] has a wide range of physiological, psychological and emotional, and social consequences that are often overlooked, because being a ‘road warrior’ tends to get glamorized through marketing and social media," says Cohen. He argues that this glamorization of hypermobility—used to sell flights, frequent-flyer memberships, and hotel rooms—has silenced the negative health effects frequent business travelers expose themselves to. Specifically:

Frequent Business Travelers Age Faster

Scientists now understand that specific genes can affect how quickly we age—and it appears the more someone travels, the faster they age.

"Frequent flying can lead to chronic jet lag, which can cause memory impairment and has been linked in studies to disrupting gene expression that influences aging and the immune system, and increased risk of heart attack or stroke," says Cohen.

They’re Exposed To More Radiation Than Is Considered Healthy

If aging faster isn’t scary enough, it turns out that frequent business travelers are exposed to more radiation than is considered healthy. "Radiation exposure is hundreds of times higher at high altitude than at ground," says Cohen.

 

Matter of fact, it’s so high that "there have been calls to classify frequent business travelers as ‘radiation workers,'" he says, and notes that just seven round-trip flights a year from New York to Tokyo (about 85,000 miles) exceeds the limit for public exposure to radiation. As Cohen notes in his paper, "radiation exposure amongst commercial aircrew even exceeds that of nuclear power workers."

Their Immune System Is Weaker

No matter if you’re in economy or first class, everyone on a long-haul transatlantic flight is breathing the same recirculated air. Not only does this expose frequent business travelers to germs more often, the jet lag and general tiredness from running to and from airports "can even switch off genes that are linked to the immune system," Cohen notes in his paper. This means frequent travelers are not as well equipped to fight off disease as people who travel less frequently.

They’re More Out Of Shape And At Risk For Obesity

Unsurprisingly, those who travel a lot generally don’t have the chance to eat meals prepared with fresh, healthy foods. Airline foods are packed with salt and sugar so they can retain their taste at higher altitudes during long journeys. But that salt and sugar will wreak havoc on your body over the long term. Cohen says the poor diet, combined with a general increase in alcohol and the lack of exercise opportunities while traveling, means frequent travelers have higher risk of obesity.

They Have Higher Risk Of Mental Health Issues, Too

"The disruption of the circadian rhythm from jet lag affects mood, judgment, and concentration for up to six days," says Cohen. In his review of the literature, he found that the cumulative effect of the stress from preparing for a trip and the jet lag from those trips can lead to "travel disorientation."

 

"There is the stress of preparing for a trip, the fact that the time spent traveling is rarely offset through a reduced workload, and the anxieties of ‘inbox overload,'" says Cohen. "Stress is compounded through weather delays, technical failures, increased security checks, and rising anxieties over terrorism and safety."

Frequent business travelers often also feel lonely and isolated—as well as guilty for leaving family members behind. Their spouses, in turn, often feel resentment and anger. When you combine the stress with the isolation and guilt, it can lead to serious mental health issues, notes Cohen. "One study found that employees of the World Bank who travel frequently for work have a threefold increase in psychological claims on medical insurance as opposed to nontravelers."

How To Combat Business Travel’s Bad Effects

Before you cut up your frequent-flyer card, it’s important to note that if you take only a short business trip once or twice every few months, you’re likely to be less exposed to the risks mentioned above, says Catherine Richards, a staff scientist at the Hutchinson Institute for Cancer Outcomes Research and adjunct assistant professor at the Department of Epidemiology of Columbia University who has studied the health risks linked to business travel.

"In our study, our most robust findings were for heavy business travel—14 days or more of travel a month," says Richards. "We found that heavy travel was bad for self-reported health, obesity, and BMI. When I say robust, I mean that there was a significant increasing trend for these health outcomes with increasing nights spent away from home."

While that’s good news for people who travel fewer than two weeks a month, many employees don’t have that option in the increasingly globalized business world. It’s either you travel for your job or you look for a new one. But if you have no choice, Richards says there are some things both you and your employer can do to reduce the negative effects of frequent business travel.

Richards says that companies should look into employee education programs on stress management and strategies to improve diet and activity while traveling. She also says companies could offer reimbursement rates for food on the road based on the quality of the food consumed. "Either reimburse high–energy-density food meals at a below-cost rate, or reimburse healthy meals at an above-cost rate," she says. She adds that companies could book rooms only with hotel chains that have gyms, and provide financial incentives to employees to exercise while traveling.

As for proactive steps the employee can take, Richards says the frequent business traveler should stand or walk as much as possible in the airport, avoid moving walkways and escalators, and go for a quick walk while waiting for the flight to take off instead of sitting in a chair. If your hotel doesn’t have a gym, Richards says you can also always do pushups, sit-ups, squats, and other types of workouts within the comfort of your hotel room—and be sure to pack a pair of workout clothes and go for a run or walk outside if the hotel doesn’t have a gym. Finally, she says, "Pack healthy snacks. If you leave your food choices to what you find on the road, you may be stuck with limited to no health options."

As for Cohen, he suggests frequent business travelers explore alternative modes of transportation—such as taking the train instead of flying. "If you must fly, try to fly direct instead of taking connecting flights that will contribute more to exhaustion," he says, adding, "feel out whether there might be an opportunity to substitute a face-to-face visit with teleconferencing—often it is necessary to meet someone for the first time in person, but after that, teleconferencing can often get the job done."

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