How to Deal with Flying Phobias Among Employees

Image Credit: 1910 Vendome; Insomnia Cured Here

It’s estimated that approximately one in six Brits have some form of flying phobia; whether that be fears of a fire breaking out on board or worries about take-off. Aviophobia is extremely common and whether it’s experienced in a mild or severe form can impact on an individual’s working and personal life. A phobia can be perceived as a false alarm, since the brain tricks you into believing that you’re in danger – when in reality, you’re perfectly safe. When an employer is faced with an employee that’s afraid of flying, it can be difficult to know the right steps to take – and can also be a stressful experience, particularly if their role requires a lot of travelling.

Preventative measures
One of the easiest ways to avoid these problems in the first place is to make it clear in job descriptions that overseas travel is required, so that the candidate knows exactly what to expect. Travel policies should also be included in the employee handbook so that each individual has the required information to hand. If you do happen to be dealing with an employee that has a flying phobia, the key to helping them overcome it is advising them to address their triggers and be exposed to them, rather than avoiding their issues.

Triggers and potential alternatives to flying
The first thing to do is encourage the employee to identify their main triggers. This can comprise of anything from claustrophobia and fear of heights to fears of using the toilet and violence on board. It’s also a good idea to consider increasing the flexibility of the company’s travel policies, whether that be allowing video conferencing or virtual meetings rather than having to travel overseas. Additionally, if it’s possible for the employee to travel by car or train, this may be a more suitable option.

Education and courses/programs
There are plenty of courses available to help with flying phobias that you might consider recommending to your employee. British Airways offer a ‘Flying with Confidence’ course which includes trained counsellors and pilots explaining the noises that a plane makes during a normal flight, information about air traffic control, details on staff training and a relaxation session – followed by a short flight. Alternatively, simulator courses can also help to reduce anxiety. Additionally, make sure to advise your employees to educate themselves about how a plane flies and what actually happens when a plane experiences turbulence. They will most likely find that the facts will help to settle irrational thoughts.

Support and therapy
To help address the phobia on a deeper level, you might decide to invest in a hypnotherapy service or Neuro-Linguistic Programming treatment to treat the fears at their core. Alternatively, CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) is available and offers techniques for managing anxiety, such as breathing exercises that can be used during a flight.

Should your employee raise flying fears when they have been clearly informed that their role will involve travelling overseas, you may feel pressured to issue a disciplinary or dismissal. This should only be used as a last resort and be sure to check that your employee is not suffering from a medical condition first which would prevent them from flying.

If you would like to talk to us regarding an employee’s anxiety or phobia issue, please do get in touch with us via email [email protected] or call 01386 751740.