The Ultimate Survival Guide for a Sick Business Traveler


One of the great frustrations of modern life is that no matter how advanced our medicine and planning capabilities become, people still can’t control when they get sick. Every now and then, the stars will align against you or one of your employees and they’ll have to travel for business when they are sick.

From the common cold to the flue or even food poisoning, if they’re still able to get the job done, often the best option is to simply help them bundle themselves onto the plane and take care of business rather than rescheduling the trip. Perhaps they will schedule a few recuperative sick days when they return.

Of course, no one wants to travel when sick and having an upset stomach or head full of mucus can become a major liability. Fortunately, your traveling team member is not the first (nor will they be the last) to take a business trip while under the weather and there are a few techniques to make help make their trip more comfortable and more productive:


As soon as you realize that your employee will be flying sick, encourage them to visit the doctor and explain their symptoms. Even if they would normally be inclined to wait out this type of illness, they should ask if there’s any advice or medication the doctor can suggest to help them make it through the trip without experiences the entirety of their unpleasant symptoms. If they decide on a medicinal remedy, make sure they select a non-drowsy variation for work-time.


Once (and if) your employee gets a prescription from the doctor, make sure they remember to fill the prescriptions before departure. This is a simple courtesy for team members whose illness, combined with a large workload, may contribute to distraction or forgetfulness. A friendly reminder, or even arranging for the prescriptions to be delivered to them, is a great way to make sure the business trip starts on the right foot. Whether they need antibiotics, antihistamines, nausea medicine, or something more specific to their condition… remind them to get everything they need before packing to leave.


While the doctor may have provided a few specific solutions, it never hurts to bring a other samples from the medicine cabinet just in case. Not only are band-aids and antiseptic ointment always a good idea, but your employee may also benefit from a few things like over-the-counter antihistamines, ibuprofen, pepto, antacids, and so on just in case they are needed later. Make a friendly suggestion or, if you’re really worried about it, put together a little kit as a gift to make sure your employee has what they need on their upcoming trip.


When most people are sick, their minds may not exactly be firing on all cylinders. No matter what seems to be slowing them down, the best way to make sure that the business trip doesn’t start with an illness-induced mistake is to help your team member double-check their plans, documents, and decisions before departure. It may help to send them with a packing list and make sure they have a number for your travel management help line just in case. This will ensure that they have backup at each step along their journey.


Almost every illness on the planet is made at least a little better by staying hydrated. Being sick burns of up energy, calories, and water sometimes at an alarming rate. Encourage your employee to carry a water bottle, fill it often, and make sure to drink at least ‘one glass’ worth every hour or so. Check with your travel manager to see if you can get your team member in an aisle seat on the plane for easy access to the bathroom just in case. They might not realize how much of a help this simple step can be until halfway through the flight.


Deciding what to eat in a travel situation always involves an interesting set of decisions, especially when trying to treat a delicate stomach. Almost universally, your traveling team members will wind up eating some form of restaurant food which is often richer, greasier, and heavier than what is considered to be healthy for a sick belly. Encourage them to take their best option which is to stay in, get plenty of rest, and consider ordering room service. Even if there’s nothing that they think would be a good idea on the menu, room service is usually very understanding and will work with them to create a few more sick-friendly options by mix-and-matching sides or bringing a nice tray of simple tea and toast.


The best way to recover from almost any illness, other than hydration, is deep recovery sleep. When your sickly employee’s body stops burning energy on being awake and active, it can dedicate resources to fighting infection, mending damaged tissue, and clearing out the remnants of sickness like mucus or digestive issues. If they have a few solid unscheduled hours, let them know it’s safe to take some ‘drowsy’ medication and get some deep recuperative sleep.


Another nice option for your employees who aren’t feeling well, especially those batting congestion from allergies, cold-like symptoms, cramping, or aches, is a hot shower. Steam is good for the sinuses and heat is good for both blood flow and muscle relaxation. The best thing about hotel rooms? You can spend two hours in a steamy shower and the water never runs out. If your employee calls you for help in a sinus-dazed fugue state, suggest they take a nice hot shower or hot bath. This is one more option that may help them feel better faster.


Finally, there’s actually taking care of whatever business the trip was planned for. This will usually involve meeting distant colleagues, working with other teams, assessing local facilities, and other forms of interacting with people and active work. Before they head out from the hotel, encourage them to have a good breakfast, take all their maintenance-medications, and dress warmly, especially if they have the chills. They should wear their comfiest business-appropriate clothing and consider a face mask if they’re either contagious or the work environment might set off symptoms.

Having to send an employee on a business trip when they’re not feeling well is never a fun position to be in, but it is sometimes necessary when duty calls and your team member is willing to take on the double-challenge of illness and business. Fortunately, there are options for your upcoming business travel when you’re sick. With the right planning, encouragement, and self-care, you can help your employees get all their work done, make it through the trip, and return to good health by sharing and implementing as many of these tips as possible.