Objectives: Spouses and staff of the World Bank Group (WBG) were questioned about the impact of international business travel on families and travellers. Dependent variables were self reported stress, concern about the health of the traveller, and negative impact on the family. We hypothesised that several travel factors (independent variables) would be associated with these impacts. These travel factors had to do with the frequency, duration, and predictability of travel and its interference with family activities.
Methods: Survey forms were developed and distributed to all spouses of travelling staff as well as a small sample of operational staff. Kendall's tau b correlation coefficients of response frequencies were computed with the data from scaled items. Written responses to open ended questions were categorised.
Results: Response rates for spouses and staff were 24% and 36%, respectively. Half the spouse sample (n=533) and almost 75% of the staff sample (n=102) reported high or very high stress due to business travel. Self reported spouse stress was associated with six out of eight travel factors. Female spouses, those with children, and younger spouses reported greater stress. Self reported staff stress was significantly associated with four out of nine travel factors. Further insight into how business travel affects families and staff (including children's behavioural changes) and how families cope was gained through responses to written questions.
Conclusions: The findings support the notion that lengthy and frequent travel and frequent changes in travel dates which affect family plans, all characteristic of WBG missions, negatively affects many spouses and children (particularly young children) and that the strain on families contributes significantly to the stress staff feel about their travel. Policies or management practices that take into consideration family activities and give staff greater leeway in controlling and refusing travel may help relieve stress.
- WBG, World Bank Group
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