02 November 2017 ,  —


New study identifies top stress factors for business travellers that increase risk of stress, depression & anxiety

- Nearly half of Australian companies do not provide mental health support to their business travellers

- Cost of a failed international business assignment is $950,000 on average


New research by International SOS has identified the impact of business travel on people’s mental health and the need for Australian companies to improve emotional support for travelling staff. 

Emotional support group Main image

Close to one million Australians travel overseas for work each year , but in doing so they potentially face an increased risk of stress, depression and anxiety that can have far-reaching consequences.


Travelling through different time zones (‘jetlag’), poor sleep and diet, a lack of work/life balance and social isolation from friends and family have been identified as the top stress factors for business travellers, along with having to contend with different organisational cultures or structures. 

The survey of almost 100 companies from Australia and New Zealand, part of a cross-regional study by International SOS, found 44% do not provide mental health support to their business travellers. Less than half of the companies who do provide support proactively communicate the emotional support offered to their business travellers. 

“As links between the mental well-being of staff and business productivity become increasingly evident, executives and managers need to take into account the emotional well-being of their mobile workforce,” said Dr Andrew Ebringer, Regional Medical Director.


“Failed international business assignments cost companies, on average, $950,000. Companies invest in the success of their mobile workforce’s business trips and overseas assignments but often overlook emotional support systems that can decrease the likelihood of a failed assignment.”

It is not just people who are away for long periods who need emotional support. Those who have shorter but frequent trips rarely see their workload reduced to offset the time away from their desk. This can produce anxiety as work continues to accumulate, while the impact on life at home through the loss of a family role and an imbalance in domestic responsibility can be significant2. 

“Organisations sending employees on short or long-term assignments abroad need to consider pre-trip emotional support that is appropriate for the destination and reactive response support systems that can be implemented quickly in times of an unexpected incident or accident,” said Dr Ebringer.

The top incidents that have had the most impact on business travellers in the past are:
- Working in a high-risk environment (country or workplace at risk…) at 50%
- Personal incident (sexual assault, theft and robbery, road traffic accident, workplace injury…) at 45%
- Terrorist or environmental incident (earthquake) at 33%
- Death or severe injuries of a colleague at 21%

It is estimated that 45% of Australians will have some kind of mental disorder at some point in their lives3, yet 87% of organisations surveyed do not have a mental health screening process for employees either pre- or post-travel.

Under Workplace Health and Safety legislation in both Australia and New Zealand, it is critical for employers to combine an immediate response approach with a proactive one when it comes to managing mental health issues. This responsibility integrates the topic of mental health under the ‘duty of care’ umbrella. 

“Support for one’s overall well-being should include all three aspects of travel – medical, security and emotional support – as a holistic and integrated travel risk management service offered by organisations to their travellers,” Dr Ebringer said.


About International SOS

International SOS ( is the world’s leading medical and travel security risk services company. We care for clients across the globe, from more than 1,000 locations in 90 countries. Our expertise is unique: more than 11,000 employees are led by 1,400 doctors and 200 security specialists. Teams work night and day to protect our members. We pioneer a range of preventative programmes strengthened by our in-country expertise. We deliver unrivalled emergency assistance during critical illness, accident or civil unrest. We are passionate about helping clients put Duty of Care into practice. With us, multinational corporate client, governments and NGOs can mitigate risk for their people working remotely or overseas.

About the survey

The 2017 Business Travel and Emotional Support Survey is a cross-regional International SOS survey conducted in Australasia from 1st August to 16th October 2017 and in Europe from 27th April to 30th June, targeted to those who are responsible for the health, safety and well-being of their mobile workers. The survey findings represent the responses from nearly 100 of Australia and New Zealand’s leading organization and 139 organisations in 13 countries in Europe.

Notes to Editors


1Based on ABS data showing 8 million Australians travelled overseas during 2012, 10% of which travelled for business purposes.


2Based on the 2015 study ‘A darker side of hypermobility’ by Scott Cohen & Stefan Gossling.


3Based on the National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing from 2007, of the 16 million Australians aged 16-85 years, almost half (45% of 7.3 million) had a lifetime mental disorder, ie a mental disorder at some point in their life.