This resonated with me, because it’s a conversation I used to have with people about business travel.
“We would expect to see anxiety levels rising during COVID-19, but in fact we first made this observation before the pandemic. Passengers reported that they experience anxiety about getting to the airport on time. They’re anxious about spending time in close proximity with strangers, TSA staff, and the airline crew. There’s anxiety about suitcases being over the weight limit, and about properly emptying their pockets before going through the TSA line. Even after clearing Security, there’s anxiety about boarding the flight and whether there will be room for a carry-on. COVID-19 compounds all these worries, as passengers shuffle through a seemingly motionless queue, struggling to keep a proper social distance.”
The conversation I used to have with people was about why traveling for work is so mentally exhausting in ways you don’t consider. Most people get that jet lag can be a problem, or that sleeping on places can cause just physical exhaustion, etc. What they fail to consider is the anxiety. Put it this way, how many thing about your work day are simply routine, that you spend no mental energy on? You wake up at the same time, get ready, drive to the office, go to your desk, and you know where everything is. A typical day does not involve a lot of thought given to how you get to work, where you park, where the restroom is in the building, whether you can bring lunch or have to go out, and if you do have to go out, whether there’s anything nearby. No, you do all of that without thinking because it’s totally routine.
Now, imagine, every week, your office moved, to a different building in a different part of town. And you had to figure out how to navigate all of those things again. That’s what business travel was like. That’s what I don’t miss. Travel, for anyone at anytime, but especially right now, adds all of these unknows to our day. How long will it take to get through security? Will there be enough carry-on space, or what will the other people on the flight near me be like? How do I get a cab after we land? How do I get to a hotel? And on and on…
It’s all those little unknown things that make us anxious when traveling, and the more anxiety that is built into the process, the less we enjoy it, and the more exhausting it is. I think that is an important lesson for airlines, but it’s also an important lesson for many people in a variety of service industries. Needing a lawyer, working with an accountant, etc. have always been things that most of us aren’t used to navigating, so there’s anxiety involved. Now, simple things like getting a haircut have become more complicated, and involve a lot more anxiety. Employees are also navigating things that they are not used to, maybe working from home, or working onsite but having to navigate all of these new safety protocols, and dealing with customers who are also dealing with all of their own anxieties all day.
Simply put, everything is exhausting. So, if you are familiar with a process, like going to court, or flying on a place, or working remotely, help each other out. Understand how exhausting this can be for first-timers, or infrequent travelers, and find a way to lessen their anxiety. It’s in everyone’s best interests.