The JGM BitBlog: The Ominous COVID-19 Genie and Its Influence on International Business Travelers
Vilmante Kumpikaite-Valiuniene, Kaunas University of Technology, Lithuania
Luisa Helena Pinto, University of Porto, Portugal
Tahir Gurbanov, Kaunas University of Technology, Lithuania
The genie is out…
“When the genie is out, it could harm many people. Therefore, you should be clever and ingenious and put the genie back into the bottle “. (Based on The Story of the Genie in the Bottle, One Thousand and One Nights)
When the media reported a ´strange virus’ and two hard cases of pneumonia in China by December of 2019, it sounded like one of many fast-disappearing news …. No one could believe that a ‘viral genie’ could get out from its bottle to threaten the world. The fast proliferation of the COVID-19 virus influenced decisions to establish quarantine in many regions. By the 6th of April 2020, 209 world destinations implemented travel restrictions, which limited the work of international business travelers (IBTs).
Unfolding effects among IBTs
Following the outbreak of COVID-19, this study draws upon the job demands-resources (JD-R) model and the literature on work-life balance (WLB) to examine how this crisis has disrupted international business travelers’ routines and the implications for their work-life balance.
Data was collected in April 2020 with an online survey answered by 141 international business travelers from different locations.
The findings confirm that the travel patterns changed abruptly. Most IBTs reported cancellation of business travel and documented a decrease in workload. However, and unsurprisingly, they have not experienced a significant decrease in stress and relational difficulties. The decline in job demand (that is, business travel and workload) after the outbreak of COVID-19 was not enough to reduce the stress and ameliorate their work-life difficulties and WLB. Only respondents who experienced a decrease in workload, including less relational difficulties, reported a better work-life balance.
Participants reported a sizeable increase in health concerns, which is consistent with previous reports about the psychological distress of travelers and families. The findings also document that some IBTs can experience job satisfaction and a sense of work-life accomplishment from business travel, especially when travel-demands are manageable.
In whole the COVID-19 pandemic changed the subjective experience of job-demands among IBTs, which lends support to recent developments of the JD-R model reflecting the importance of the external job context in triggering a health impairment process.
And then what?
We do not know when and where a ‘genie catcher’ will appear, outwit, and close the COVID-19 viral genie back to its bottle, for the sake of the world. So far, one knows that its spread has slowed, as has its viral power, and business travel increased. However, we still do not know when this or another ‘genie’ will be out of the bottle again, and how that might restrict our lives and business-travel. Furthermore, we are still redesigning the way we work in the international context. In short, COVID-19 is making us rethink the uses and needs of business travel and drives us to improve the well-being of IBTs.
To read the full article, please see the Journal of Global Mobility publication:
Kumpikaite-Valiuniene, V., Pinto, L.H. and Gurbanov, T. (2022), "COVID-19: prevalence of job-demands, stress, work–life difficulties and work–life balance among international business travelers", Journal of Global Mobility, Vol. 10 No. 2, pp. 172-191. https://doi.org/10.1108/JGM-03-2021-0030