For many of us, an unexpected bonus from the COVID-19 pandemic has been a reduction in business travel. Yes, our hearts go out to furloughed hotel and airline workers. Still, there’s no getting around the fact that business travel can be deeply unpleasant. Cramped planes (now with never-ending eight-hour mask requirements), noisy hotel rooms, intrusive colleagues –– they all make us want to stay home. Sure, traveling for fun isn’t always pleasant but at least your destination makes up for the journey. Spending long hours in conference rooms or pitch meetings isn’t most folks’ idea of a good time. Still, with global business travel projected to grow 21% in 2021, there’s a decent chance you may have to leave town for business at some point in 2021. So here’s my advice about what to do when traveling for work.
Pack Right, Pack Light
No doubt it’s dated but I still think of the interactions between George Clooney and Anna Kendrick’s characters in Up In The Air. It was her inaugural business trip and she’d packed… a pillow. While his non-PC advice about the best lines to use might grate in 2021 ears, take his packing tips to heart. You don’t want coworkers waiting for you to finish at baggage claim (which would have made one of Dante’s hell circles if he was alive). Plus, your company probably isn’t paying extra baggage fees anyway. So bring sneakers for the gym and find dress shoes that slip on and look stylish. Invest in wrinkle-free blazers and learn some packing tips from online tutorials (I recommend Marie Kondo’s).
You’re Not Headed to Hedonism
Unless your company really has booked a room at a clothes-free Caribbean resort, do not transform your business excursion into a combo Mardi Gras-Spring Break. Almost one out of five business trippers report strip club excursions (an increasingly popular field trip for both genders). Around half admitted to getting drunk after working hours, while more than one out of four used the “it’s five o’clock somewhere” excuse. Around the same percentage reported witnessing a co-worker cheating on their significant other during a “business” trip.
Remember the days and weeks after embarrassing holiday parties and act accordingly. Trade the scotch and soda for straight soda and make your after-hours adventures G rated (or at least PG13). Most importantly, don’t let a co-worker or a supervisor pressure you into doing anything that makes you uncomfortable. You may have crossed state lines but sexual harassment rules still apply.
Fight Fat with Fitness and Food
No one should be body shamed in 2021. That doesn’t change the fact that recent data suggests one reason the U.S. and the U.K. have had so many coronavirus fatalities is because of the percentage of overweight citizenry. There’s some preliminary studies suggesting the vaccines are also less effective in people with BMIs over 25. If those facts aren’t motivating, I’m not sure what is. But here’s another dispiriting stat: people who travel 21 or more nights per month are 92% more likely to be obese than someone who travels one-to-six nights in the same period.
This is unfortunate because chances are your hotel has a reasonably decent fitness center. Hopefully by the time you’re flying for work, it will be reopened. You don’t need to be a C-Suite inhabitant to request a hotel with a workout facility. If you ask for one you’re more likely to use it. That’s why I suggest packing a pair of trainers. If the hotel doesn’t have a gym maybe your suitcase will have room for a jumprope and a set of resistance bands. At the very least plan some outdoor excursions where you walk and breathe some fresh air. If you can ditch the minibar for a minifridge, all the better. While more common at budget motels, having a place to keep fresh fruit and healthy snacks can be a life saver.
Use Your Desk as a… Desk
If your room has a desk (and increasingly hotel rooms do not) use it as nature intended. No, it’s not a drink cart or a makeshift ironing board. It’s where your laptop should live along with any papers. Make organizing your desk a daily task –– even if you let the staff make your bed. In fact, try to avoid using your bed as a work space. It will interfere with sleep and yes, actual work. Trust me. Limiting blue light and answering emails after ten p.m. is just not a good idea. Work travel alters your routine so developing some good hotel habits can be very helpful.
Check the List Twice
If you prefer a Notes app or your Calendar function, that’s fine. But the way our hands and brain are connected makes writing on actual paper a true joy. Many of us get real satisfaction from drawing an “accomplished” line through tasks. Regardless of how you do it, making a list on the daily is a great way to stay organized. To me, keeping track of the day’s goals isn’t just a good idea of what to do when traveling for work but a good idea period.
With a bit of effort, your business trip can be a chance to achieve and even get in better shape. Maybe you’ll do so well you’ll volunteer for the next one!