Cloud technology is making virtual meetings almost as good as being there. We launch new businesses today thinking that we can do everything remotely, and for the most part, we can. But there comes a time when no matter how many video conferences we schedule, some business travel becomes an essential part of your company’s growth. You find, that despite your best efforts, you have to get out from behind the webcam and meet people face-to-face.
Some of the most battle-weary road warriors and travel experts have weighed in, offering an insider’s look at the most stressful part of business travel, the best part and how to take the edge off.
What’s stressful about business travel?
“Many people find that one of the most stressful parts of running a startup is the travel,” said HotelsCombined.com travel expert Chris Rivett. “But the truth is, business travel has never been easier. Thanks to technology advancements over the last decade, finding the right hotel room at the right price or getting around in a foreign city is a stress-free affair. Far less stressful than getting business loans or venture funding, that’s for sure.”
Road warrior Julie Stewart-Binks, sports reporter for ESPN, knows that stress, as she takes an average of 20 trips per month. You see her on the sidelines, reporting the play-by-play and interviewing winning athletes, and it looks easy. Her hair is perfect, and there’s not a single wrinkle on her clothes, but what you don’t know is that those few minutes of TV time was preceded by an entire day’s travel, a frantic last-minute makeup session and an entire behind-the-scenes team that coordinates everything from hotels in multiple cities around the country, to airplane reservations and putting out inevitable last-minute fires.
Business travel can be even more stressful if it involves moving between cities, as it often does for busy executives. “We’ve become a very mobile society, and the average worker holds 10 different jobs before they turn 40 years old,” said Simon Walsh, CEO of MovingAuthority.com. “Many of those career moves require relocating to different cities. Besides the inevitable lifestyle changes that comes with a move to a different city, other stresses such as finding a new home, settling into a new work routine and hiring a moving contractor make this type of travel the most stressful of all.”
Travel remains stressful even for those at the helm of the world’s biggest hotel chains. Mark Weinstein, SVP and Global Head of Customer Engagement, Loyalty and Partnerships at Hilton, said “Let’s face it, as empowering as travel can be, it can also be stressful. For me that stress comes from having to surrender a bit of control — entering the unknown and, often times, putting myself wholly at the mercy of others. That uncertainty can be stressful. I’m going somewhere to achieve a goal, whether that’s to have a successful business meeting or enjoy a much-needed vacation. And yet there’s the universe seemingly conspiring against you — flights get delayed. Traffic seems to pop up out of nowhere. And it always seems like my days outlast the capacity of mobile device batteries!”
Here are a few tips to ease the stress of business travel:
1. Schedule some personal time.
Business travelers overwhelmingly report that they take the stress out of business trips by scheduling personal time, turning the business trip into an informal mini-vacation. According to a survey commissioned by Marriott Rewards Premier Business Credit Card from Chase, 61 percent of respondents added an extra personal day to their business trips in the past. Thirty-six percent also don’t schedule any meetings for the last day of the trip, to give them a chance to “unwind” before getting back to the office.
2. Don’t overspend.
Road warriors who work for multi-national companies may have expense accounts and per diem allowances, but small business owners have to keep tabs on every penny. Research from the Global Business Travel Association notes that 56 percent of business travelers rank “finding the right price” among the top three booking priorities. “Going over-budget always adds to the stress of travel, but it doesn’t have to if you have the right tools,” said Rivett. “Hotel price comparison platforms are a great start, and the best way to use these tools is to consider both price and quality. Comfort and a little bit of indulgence will definitely ease the stress, and with a little research you can have that luxury at a price you can afford.”
3. Stay healthy.
Business travel can also take a toll on your health. According to Dr. William Siegart, medical director of travel risk management provider On Call International, “Business travel can be disruptive to your regular sleep, exercise and eating routines — all of which can take a toll on your overall health and well-being. Consequently, this often leads to business travelers engaging in poor travel health habits. Poor travel health habits furthermore compound the stress of business travel. It can become a vicious cycle in which the employee is stressed, engages in poor travel health habits, which then increases stress levels even more.”
4. Schedule extra time.
Stewart-Binks spends most of her time on airplanes and calling the shots at some of the most exciting games in the NHL, but she said taking an extra day, or even a half day, to enjoy the local sites is a great de-stresser. She often stays overnight rather than just taking the next flight out. “We’re so lucky,” she said. “We get to spend time in these cities. You can learn so much about yourself and what you like, and even things you didn’t know you liked, just based on immersing yourself in all these different cultures.”
5. Stay connected.
“The most stressful part of business travel is the distance and being physically disconnected,” said Brad Beckerman, founder and CEO of Stillhouse Spirits Co. “Each day I feel energized by my team’s passions and ideas. Even though technology (emails, phone, FaceTime) can connect us from long distances, it can’t translate your tone or intent the way physical interaction with your team can.”
Weinstein added that he always seeks out travel brands that put him in control. “Brands whose apps let me choose my own seat on the plane, hotel room or type of car rather than just assigning me one. And I’m always looking for ways to skip a line, so I join all the airport trusted traveler programs and whenever possible, choose a hotel that allows me to check in on my phone and use it as a room key.”
Make the most of business travel.
Despite the challenges and stresses, business travelers still manage to sneak in a little enjoyment whenever possible, and make the most of every trip. “We’ve become a mobile society, and we’ve gotten accustomed to our as-a-service tools,” Rivett said. “Taking full advantage of these platforms can make the mechanics of business travel a lot simpler, and leave us time to enjoy the trip.”