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Preventing Burnout While Working on the Road in Downtown DSM

Work Trips to Downtown DSM

April 5, 2024

Working on the road, especially in a place like Downtown Des Moines (DSM), can be exciting. It’s a nice change of pace from sitting in a cubicle all day, and you have a bit more freedom when it comes to your time. But even employees who lead a more “nomadic” work lifestyle are at risk of developing burnout. One 2022 survey found that 76% of American workers say their job affects their mental health and 75% experience burnout.

What does that look like when you’re traveling for work? Don’t assume that just because you’re remote, you aren’t at risk of burning out. Working on the road has its own set of challenges, and it’s important to recognize them so you can prioritize your well-being when you’re away from home.

With that in mind, let’s cover a few helpful tips and techniques you can use to prevent burnout when you’re in a career that requires a significant amount of travel.

What Does Burnout Look Like?

Again, working from the road has its benefits. You get a bit more flexibility in your schedule, you get to see amazing places and experience new communities, and it helps to break up your routine, so you aren’t stuck in a rut. But there are also many challenges when it comes to traveling for work — many of which can impact your mental health.

When you’re constantly working on the road, you can start to feel homesick. You might struggle with feeling connected to friends and family. Eating out on the company’s dime can be fun for a while, but when you’re often eating alone, it can get monotonous and make you long for a home-cooked meal with your family. Plus, you might not have a home base to work from, so you end up spending many hours in your car, working from your phone or at noisy coffee shops with your laptop trying to stay focused.

Sound familiar? These issues can contribute to burnout when you’re traveling for work. If you think you haven’t been affected, pay attention to some of the common signs, including:

  • Exhaustion
  • Weight gain
  • Mental fatigue
  • Lack of focus

You might also find yourself counting down the minutes until you can go home again, and each time you know you must travel, you dread it. Unfortunately, burnout symptoms tend to get worse and more extreme unless you do something to stop the cause.

Prioritize Your Health

If traveling is a big part of your job, it’s important to find ways to prevent burnout and manage your well-being while you’re on the road. First, recognize that your mental health has an impact on your physical health. By prioritizing your mental well-being, you’ll likely end up bettering your physical health, too.

When you know being on the road is impacting your mental health, be proactive about it. Consider attending mental wellness webinars — some employers can even help you find some. Do what you can to get out of your vehicle and explore the area you’re in. Spending time outdoors can be extremely beneficial to your mental health, so consider playing “tourist” by spending time in nature. In Downtown Des Moines (DSM), some of the most picturesque places to do that include:

  • Pappajohn Sculpture Park
  • Des Moines Water Works Park
  • Gray’s Lake Park

It’s also important to have a steady work-life balance when you’re on the road. One challenge road warriors face is having a sort of random schedule. Setting regular hours for yourself each day will help you avoid that, so you’ll have some free time to enjoy yourself no matter where you are.

Having a dedicated workspace is also a must. Sometimes, that means working from your car. For example, you can transform your truck into a workspace by adding floor mats and liners, seat covers or other truck bed accessories to protect the interior. You can then set up on-board Wi-Fi, develop an organization system, maximize your space with custom storage systems and make sure you have the right supplies on hand at a moment’s notice.

Prioritize self-care, no matter what it looks like for you. That includes getting enough sleep and creating a routine that allows you some “me” time each day, even if it’s just a few minutes to relax with a cup of coffee and a book. Try visiting local places like Friedrich’s Coffee or Scenic Route Bakery to find your favorite “spot” for reflection and relaxation — and a treat, while you’re at it!

Find time to stay physically active, too. It’s another natural mental health booster that will also make you feel your best, physically.

Perhaps most importantly, stay connected with friends and family. We’re living in a time when technology makes that easier than ever, so take advantage of it. Call your loved ones or video chat regularly to feel like you’re still a part of things at home. It can give you something to look forward to each day and remind you why you’re working so hard for the people you love.

If you’re struggling on the road and need someone to talk to, don’t hesitate to check out a mental wellness center like Prairie Wellness or MercyOne House. Just because you’re not from the area doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of these services. Taking charge of your mental health and talking to someone, no matter where you are, can provide stability and keep things like anxiety and depression from taking over.

Work with Your Employer

Your well-being on the road shouldn’t be solely up to you. Modern business culture can sometimes stigmatize burnout, so employees are afraid to speak up about their needs. Talk to your boss about how you feel when you’re on the road and offer solutions as to what might help. That might mean an increase in flexible spending or a bigger budget, or they might need to look at your schedule and cut back on your time away from home. They might even consider adding some “leisure” days to each of your trips, so you’re not solely focused on work the whole time.

It’s up to employers to prioritize workplace wellness, both for in-house employees and those who are doing a lot of traveling. A company that invests in its employees is more likely to succeed, so if you’re working for a business that seems interested in doing what it can for your well-being, don’t hesitate to express your needs and wants, and work together to make burnout while working on the road a thing of the past.

The Greater Des Moines Partnership celebrates the Greater Des Moines (DSM) entrepreneur community and helps small businesses succeed with one-of-a-kind resources and opportunities for networking. Find out how other entrepreneurs have found success by reading their stories and attending local small business events in the region.

Sam Bowman

Sam Bowman writes about people, tech, wellness and how they merge. He enjoys getting to utilize the internet for community without actually having to leave his house. In his spare time he likes running, reading and combining the two in a run to his local bookstore.