From sales reps to consultants, engineers, recruiters, lawyers and countless others, many careers require frequent trips away from home. While the notion of “business travel” may conjure up images of delicious meals in 5-star restaurants and fancy hotel rooms in exotic cities, the reality is far from it for many frequent travelers — and the novelty quickly wears off for others. In fact, our career coaches find that business travel can be a significant contributor to work-related stress.
In addition to taking a physical toll, frequent business travel can create a strain on family and relationships, even extending to social circles. By taking a proactive approach, you can mitigate the effects of travel, protecting your overall well-being while in and out of town.
8 Career Coaching Strategies to Ease the Toll of Business Travel
- Schedule accordingly — When you have the flexibility to book your own business travel, schedule trips that don’t conflict with family or other social commitments. Missing your son’s second grade play or your daughter’s playoff basketball game may seem insignificant today, but in hindsight, could collectively result in regrets over skewed priorities.
- Nurture social ties — As one frequent business traveler put it, friends become so accustomed to your being out of town, they often leave you out when they buy tickets to a concert or basketball game. “They just start assuming that you’re traveling,” he said. If you’re one of those people who travels often, you might have to make more of an effort to reach out to your friends when you are in town. This is particularly true for travelers with families, who are even more apt to put friends on the back burner when making up for lost time at home.
- Communicate with home base — While FOMO, the acronym for fear of missing out, was officially added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013, the concept is anything but new — particularly for anyone who spends a significant time away from home. Our career coaches emphasize the importance of keeping in touch with family via phone, text, FaceTime or Skype whenever possible, keeping in mind that different time zones, meeting schedules and erratic WiFi service may make communication unpredictable.
- Plan (healthy choices) ahead — While even airports now offer healthier meal and snack options, one of the biggest challenges of being away from home is the maintaining prudent eating and exercise habits. Packing nutritious snacks in your carry-on bag is one way to prevent an impulse purchase of chips to tide you over during a flight delay, or from giving in to a $5 candy bar temptation in your hotel room mini-bar. If working out is part of your daily routine, ask your gym if it has reciprocal arrangements with a club in your destination city. If you enjoy yoga or Zumba, call ahead and ask the concierge at your hotel if any local facilities offer classes for guests.
- Be flexible — When you’re out of town, accept the fact that your choices may be limited because meals will be planned for you (say at a conference or other organized event) or the geographic destination offers unfamiliar selections. Make concessions or trade-offs; if you indulge in a higher calorie entree than you normally would at home, eat half, skip dessert or add an extra mile to your run the next morning. If you usually exercise during the noon hour, but your meetings are in Phoenix, you may want to consider squeezing in a jog before breakfast.
- Relieve stress — From lost luggage to spotty Internet connection, the top two reported culprits in a recent survey, business travel creates stress. Whether you choose to meditate, read a book or create a calming playlist on your iPod, have some sort of stress-busting mechanism in place to alleviate the stress that almost inevitably accompanies travel.
- Mitigate lost time — Business travelers often complain about lost productivity during time away from the office, not to mention the workload that accumulates in their absence. Our career coaches advise using free time to your creative advantage; being in a new environment can often inspire new ideas and encourage innovation. Smaller chunks of time can be filled with low-level tasks such as catching up on email or phone calls to reduce backlog upon your return to the office.
- Be present — When you’re home, be fully present. As hard as it may be for you to transition out of your work mindset, try to let go of what may have transpired during your meeting. Focus on being home, and returning to your role as partner and/or parent. Understand that your re-entry can often be difficult for your family as well, depending on the length of your absence and their ages and developmental stages.
Some business travelers find that taking a personal day upon their return helps ease their physical and emotional fatigue, providing a nice “buffer” before returning to the office. Having a day to unpack, sort through the mail and run errands can feel like a luxury — not only to the frequent business traveler, but to the one holding down the fort in their absence.
What strategies have helped you mitigate the toll of frequent business travel?