Returning to Business Travel
I recently made my first out-of-state business trip since 2019. The trip was to Albuquerque, New Mexico, and it was great to see some new scenery and some familiar sights from my past trips to The Land of Enchantment. I have spent time travelling throughout Oklahoma and Texas since 2019 for work and personal trips,
The airport, signage, and airline staff were great at encouraging proper mask wearing. There were hand sanitizer stations everywhere you looked. I was proud to notice that most of the travelers on the plane and in the terminals wore masks and practiced social distancing.
Being in and out of airports reminded me of how many surfaces are commonly touched and shared by large groups of people sharing a building. Armrests, vending machine buttons, and door handles are a few of the culprits. Largely though, the staff and travelers were kind and patient with each other as we navigated the terminals, flight times, and everything in between.
In addition to increased health and cleanliness protocols, an unforeseen, tragic event happened on my last day in Albuquerque. Early in the morning of the last day of my trip, I left my hotel and headed back to the airport. Across the street from my hotel at a sports bar, there were police cars, a mobile crime unit vehicle, news reporters, and crime scene tape. I later learned that there had been a shooting sometime that night that left one person dead and several injured.
I was already on my way out of town, but I was shaken to know that directly across the street from my hotel room, this violent act occured while I was sleeping. I don’t drink alcohol or spend a lot of time in bars except to socialize, so the chances of me being in that bar late at night were low. Even so, situations like this could happen in the vicinity of your destinations. That risk should not keep you from ever traveling again, but I do think we should all consider safety and well being as top priorities when traveling and planning to travel.
I only mention this to lead into this post in which I want to give you the tips and tricks I have learned during my business trips over the last few years. Traveling for business can be very enjoyable, but it can lead to burn out and added physical and mental stress. Since some of our work teams are using virtual meetings less and working towards a return to in person meetings, business travel has been increasing. I do not think it will return to pre-pandemic levels though. Many work teams and organizations have found success in adopting a largely remote work structure.
My View while Traveling Through New Mexico
Planning for Success
Your company may have travel accounts set up with which you can get assistance with pre-booking your flights, hotels, rental cars, etc. If not, there are so many apps and sites that anyone can use to find the best rates and itinerary for an upcoming trip. I find that pre-booking for business travel is the most convenient. On some personal trips, I have opted to find a hotel in whatever area of town I end up in. Business travel is often more structured, and I find peace of mind in knowing where I am going to rest my head at the end of the day.
Some travel services are operating at lower capacity due to staffing shortages and social distancing precautions. This could mean that a rental car or other service won’t be available if you don’t pre-book it. One of my relatives recently took a trip to Colorado and unfortunately had car trouble. He needed a rental car to get back home, but there was not one within a five hour radius. Since business travel often requires us to be at certain places at certain times, you want your travel to be as smooth and hiccup free as possible.
The View from My Hotel
Getting the Most Out of the Trip
In addition to pre-booking travel arrangements, I suggest that you pre-plan your meetings and appointments or whatever else your trip requires. Can you pre-arrange the time and place of your major meetings to make sure that all stakeholders are present? If you are attending a conference or seminar, can you set side meetings with key decision makers and connections that can help make your trip a success? I encourage you to think outside the box as well to get the most out of your trip. Is there someone or a company on your radar that works in the area and may be available to meet?
Certain trips may be great ways to expose employees to new networks, strategies, and projects. If an employee is interested in a promotion or advancing their current responsibilities, giving them the chance to travel to a meeting or conference also gives them the chance to bolster their skills and dedication to the company. Traveling together can also help employees get to know one another more effectively and give them exposure to a side of the business they may not see from the office (marketing, client interactions, relationship building, etc.).
Something that has helped me out in the past is looking into my destination city’s major news and happenings like festivals, concerts, expected weather, best ways to get around town, etc. Having a general idea of what to expect before I get there has saved me time and headache. If there is a festival or other big gathering, I know to avoid that part of town to miss out on traffic. Or, if I have extra time in my schedule and want to do some sightseeing, I generally know some fun things that are going on.
Checking the weather and traffic can help you know what clothes to pack and plan your ground transportation. If bad weather is planned, build extra time into your schedule, so that you don’t miss meetings. Building extra time into your travel schedule is a good practice anyways. When I try to pack my days full, I usually end up skipping meals and feeling drained by the end of the day.
Staying Safe and Healthy
As we continue throughout this pandemic, it is increasingly important for all of us to stay safe and healthy. Getting vaccinated, wearing masks, and practicing social distancing are so vital. Being aware of what you have touched and avoiding touching your face without washing your hands first can keep you from getting sick now and after the pandemic is over.
You can also try to stick to your normal home routines when possible. Bedtimes and wake up times often get thrown off when traveling, but sticking to them can help keep your energy levels up. I am all for trying new foods when traveling, but going too far off of your normal diet can make you drowsy or zap your energy levels. No matter what you end up eating or drinking, I encourage you to find a way to move throughout your trip. Walking to and from your destinations and utilizing hotel gyms are great ways to keep you feeling good after sitting in an airplane seat or a seminar all day.
You know yourself best, and these are just guidelines to help you take care of yourself and perform at your best when traveling.
We looked into WELL Building Standards in a previous post. Check it out here. WELL is a building certification that centers around the concepts of building sustainably and human-centered design. It is a leader in the world of sustainable buildings. In addition to the building itself, WELL has requirements for employee treatment and operational standards. A concept of WELL that really surprised me (in a good way) is their attention to the treatment of employees traveling for business purposes.
WELL institutes policies that allow for “buffer” time around periods of travel that give employees time at home with their families before and after a long trip. For extended trips, WELL suggests that the company allow the traveling employee to have a family member or friend join them.
Once the traveling employee returns home, giving them some personal time off fits within WELL’s standards and gives employees a chance to rest and recharge. The employees will appreciate the extra time to decompress and will most likely return to work with renewed energy levels.
Making it Enjoyable
Throughout the trip, check in with your team back at the office occasionally to let them know how your meetings and conversations are going. They should offer you support and encouragement, so that your trip is as successful as possible. Find ways to celebrate successes like acing a presentation or finding a new project lead. Sharing your experiences and knowledge gained from your trip can be helpful and inspiring to others back at the office. It also helps boost morale to let others know that you were traveling for the benefit of the whole team.