There is a new experience at work that affects the body and the mind. When traveling to other time zones and back on business, we are all familiar with “jet lag.” – a chronobiological problem where the body clock (circadian rhythm) becomes out of synchronisation with the destination time. Rhythms that dictate times for eating, sleeping, hormone regulation, body temperature variations, and other functions no longer correspond to the environment. Because people are spending longer periods in other countries on assignments, and ease of air travel is creating expectations of hands-on assignments for 14 and 21-day periods – and much longer, jet lag is only one force that impacts the health and safety of people working away from their “home base.” In many instances, for consultants especially, a home base may not have any relevancy. There are many professionals who spend years moving from place to place working with specialized firms or large transnationals on both sides of the International Dateline.
In addition to jet lag, there are different weather patterns encountered that may range from very warm to hot environments to cool or cold within short periods of travel. The weakened body becomes susceptible to viruses and infections. Food and diet is different. A business person may go from a long period of high protein diets with small portions to large servings of carbohydrates. Travellers cannot always be choosy or have the option of dietary choices in some countries. When abroad for extended periods, the body begins to accommodate the bacteria native to the local population, and these may contribute to health issues returning to home base. Language and use of words in an international business person’s first language may sound awkward when returning to base, if the language had been slowed and the use of words simplified for a local audience where a business person’s first language is a second language to clients. And the ease of access to technology required to conduct business affects certain work habits like accessing the ‘net when there is faster connectivity and greater reliability. International workers need to be prepared to work at all hours because of time zone differences between multiple clients.
These are but a few observations of a professional marketer who works with clients in different time zones and countries, and spends weeks and months on assignments abroad. I have not coined a word for this collection of impacts on the international business person. It might be the 21st century spin on time shifting. I am sure someone has thought this through and already coined the term.
Grant Lee, RPM
AGL Marketing Limited