TRAVEL – A BALM FOR MENTAL HEALTH

Mental health has always carried a certain stigma around it, especially in the workplace – as it’s often associated with mental illnesses or struggles. The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent challenges has irradicated this association to a great degree. The turmoil, stress and impact on mental health was experienced world-wide and has therefore inspired a better understanding of mental health, and its importance.

There are 4 pillars of mental health that organisations need to keep in mind:

  1. Emotional well-being
  2. Physical well-being
  3. Financial well-being
  4. Social well-being

It is everyone’s responsibility to maintain their own mental health, and to exercise specific tasks or ‘to dos’ to succeed in mental health stability. This is however an ongoing journey, rather than a destination, and with individuals spending around 40 hours a week, (that’s 160 hours a month) at work, their place of employment plays an important part in their mental health.

Similarly, with your employees working on your organisational goals and objectives for 160 hours a month, you need your employees at their optimum health to ensure productivity, accuracy, team synergy and overall cohesive teamwork within the organisation. In short – the mental health of your employees directly impacts the success of your organisation.

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, travel is one of the easiest ways to address all 4 mental health pillars to improve overall mental health of an individual.

Emotional well-being is improved through interactions with new places, breaking the monotony of everyday life, and through experiencing new and exciting activities or foods. According to Adam Galinsky, a professor and author of numerous studies on the connection between creativity and international travel, says “Foreign experiences increase both cognitive flexibility and depth and integrativeness of thought.” Having a trip to look forward to is also an emotional boost – a carrot on a stick – to keep employees excited and thinking positively.

Physical well-being is improved through physical travels; hiking, skiing, swimming or even just breathing fresh air. Time physically away from work can boost your energy and increase productivity not only for the duration of your travels but also once you return. According to a 2013 study with people aged 25 to 70+, 80% of respondents said travel improves their general mood and outlook on life.  75% of respondents also said travel helps them reduce stress. This study was conducted pre-Covid; these numbers will most definitely have increased by 2022.

Financial well-being can be improved as some travel desires are met through company travel benefits, or company travel requirements rather than from personal finances.

Social well-being can be fulfilled in many ways through travel; trips with a loved one can strengthen that specific bond and enhance your connection with them while intensifying feelings of love, belonging, and fulfilment. Similarly, travelling with a team from work could improve team synergy; it could assist in improving communication and understanding, and build overall morale in the organisation. Interaction with a diverse group of people while travelling can also improve an individual’s social wellbeing, as well as their performance at work; a better understanding of different people, diverse cultures, distinct belief systems etc. allows for better communication and a more inclusive thought process.

South Africa has been categorised by a Bloomberg Study as the 2nd most stressed country in the world, costing the South African economy around R40 billion a year. Encouraging travel whether for vacation, business or a combination of both, could directly improve your employee’s mental wellness and improve your company’s overall health too.

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