Banishing business travel jet-lag could be worth billions in productivity, but how do we beat the travel blues?

7 August, 2019

Billions of dollars are spent on business travel each year so finding ways to banish jet-lag could be a major economic and productivity boon. Studies indicate up to four out of five international business travellers could be affected by jet-lag, with many regular travellers having their own ways – some more successful than others – in beating the problem.

This has wide implications for corporate travel. A premium seat may help and provide some additional comforts when travelling, the repercussions of jet lag could mean adding an extra day or two at the start of the trip to ensure travellers are ready for business. Not just adding to the overall time travelling it also adds costs.

With the arrival of ultra long-haul travel and the promise that new generation widebody airliners could stretch that envelope still further, airlines are very conscious of incorporating health and wellness initiatives. Qantas in particular has been working heavily in understand the impacts of long-haul travel on travellers as part of its Project Sunrise strategy.

Using the platform of its successful Perth – London nonstop route launch, the airline continues to discuss an RFP for development of aircraft capable of operating nonstop from Australia’s east coast to Europe and the US east coast with Airbus and Boeing. It is expected to make an announcement around Project Sunrise later in 2019, including which aircraft type it would operate, with both the Boeing 777X and the Airbus A350 under consideration, with the longest flights in the world scheduled to start in 2022.

The Blue Swan Daily reported earlier this year that Stationary exercise bikes and virtual reality relaxation and entertainment were among several features Qantas customers suggested for futuristic long-haul flights from research captured late last year in conjunction with Sydney University’s Charles Perkins Centre.

It is considered that jet-lag symptoms usually last until your circadian clock synchronises with your new time zone, that is, usually up to 24 hours after the time zone change. But depending on the quality of your sleep and your level of stress, these symptoms can actually last a lot, lot longer.

A 2016 study, from strategic insight agency Opinium and funded by travel search engine Kayak and aircraft manufacturer Airbus, found that jet lag cost UK companies GBP241 million that year through mistakes made by jet-lagged staff. It found that travellers performed at less than two third (61%) of full capacity when suffering from jet lag with the affects lasting an average of 2.2 days per trip.

Now, Central Queensland University honours researcher Ashlee Walters is reaching out to business travellers to learn more on the subject in research that could provide some useful insights into the matter.

“Jet-lag is caused by disruption to the human body clock and has implications on the health and performance of travellers,” she says. “Imagine all the wasted time and effort when business travellers arrive at their destination and are not operating at their full capacity in vital meetings where they are making strategic decisions potentially worth millions of dollars or affecting thousands of people.”

Ms Walters and her university research supervisors Dr Gabrielle Rigney and Dr Grace Vincent are partnering with Sleepfit and the University of Sydney to survey business travellers. They are conducting a brief online questionnaire to understand differences in how business travellers manage jet-lag, the jet-lag awareness of business travellers, and the impact jet-lag strategies have on performance.

Respondents will be asked a range of questions about their experience with business travel, their understanding of jet-lag, and the strategies used to help manage jet-lag before, during, and after travel. The survey is available for responses from business travellers via the survey monkey platform.