Even though there have been big improvements in recent years in collaboration tools such as video conferencing, sometimes, there's just no replacement for a face-to-face meeting. And with the economy more globalized than ever, this inevitably means business travel is essential, whether you're visiting offices overseas, dealing with suppliers, or looking to attract new international business.
But as any seasoned traveler will tell you, jetting off to far-flung locations is often not as glamorous as it's portrayed. And one of the biggest challenges for any professional is dealing with the side effects of jet lag.
You don't have to be flying halfway around the world to feel the effects of this. Even a difference of a couple of time zones is enough to have an impact. And if you're on a tight schedule, perhaps spending less than 24 hours in your destination, it can seriously impact your productivity and focus in meetings. Indeed, according to one 2016 study by Airbus and Kayak, the effects of jet lag cost the UK alone $295m a year (£241 million) in lost productivity and mistakes made by fatigued staff.
Here’s how to beat jet lag
Therefore, taking steps to minimize the effects of jet lag is hugely important in ensuring your business travel is successful. While you can't avoid jet lag, and there are no medications that are proven to be effective, a bit of preparation can go a long way to keeping you in the best possible condition.
Here's what you need to know before, during and after you travel.
1. Before you leave
The best way to fight jet lag is to prepare early. Before you leave, you should already start adjusting to the time in your destination, such as by going to bed earlier or later to match the new time zone.
You don't have to completely change your sleep patterns in one go - even a difference of an hour is enough to fight off the worst of jet lag effects, and if you do this incrementally in the days leading up to an important trip, you can end up feeling fresh and prepared when you arrive.
2. During the flight
Getting on destination time early and sticking to it is also a good way to avoid the side effects of jet lag. On the plane, you can do this by trying to get some sleep if it would be a normal time for rest at your destination.
Of course, this can be easier said than done, especially if your employer hasn't shelled out for business class, but bringing along a sleep mask and earplugs can help you block out the noise and light of your surroundings.
But whatever you do, don't try and drink too much alcohol in order to help you sleep. It may help you get to sleep faster, but it's been proven that alcohol-induced sleep is less restful, even before you take into account the effects of jet lag.
Indeed, as tempting as those little bottles may be, alcohol will only worsen the effects of jet lag when you arrive - and the same goes for caffeine if you're trying the opposite approach of staying awake. Water or calming herbal tea is your best bet.
3. When you arrive
When you reach your destination, resist the urge to crash for a few hours at the hotel. This will only further disrupt your circadian rhythms and leave you feeling in worse shape for your meeting.
If you have the time, try to go out and get some exercise. As well as giving you a chance to see the sights, exposure to sunlight is one of the best ways to ensure your body clock is well-adjusted. Even if it's pouring with rain, natural light is better than any medication for getting you up to speed.
Ultimately, fighting jet lag is all about getting your body's circadian rhythm in sync with your destination. Keeping an eye on when you should be asleep and when you ought to be enjoying daylight is the key to feeling fresh for your meeting - and if you can't manage this on your own, there are a range of apps that promise to help you.