7 Ways To Make A Business Trip Fun
When you tell someone, whose work doesn’t involve travel, that you’ve just got back from a business trip to say, Helsinki, their reaction is likely to be a mixture of admiration and envy, concluding with some heartfelt utterance like ‘ You are so lucky, getting to travel to all these amazing places for free’. In response you smile woodenly because you know that the reality was a three am taxi, working on the plane, taxi to some anonymous corporate hotel, countless hours in the stale air of a conference room, then taxi, plane, taxi and complete and devastating exhaustion.
Business trips always sound so much more interesting in prospect than they turn out to be in reality. It doesn’t have to be that way. No employer in their right mind wants an exhausted, dispirited employee, so when you hear of a business trip in the offing start negotiating. Business trips can and should be energizing and you need to convince your employer that this is in their interest too. Why send an exhausted dispirited ambassador when you can send someone who is invigorated by their new environment?
It’s all about timing
Business trip schedules are too often put together by someone who isn’t going to carry them out. In the name of efficiency and economy, the timings are as tight as can be and the meetings stacked back to back. Once you have a few trips under your belt, try and get involved in the planning process so that you can shape a schedule which gives you some free time. If you are flying business class, offer to switch to the economy in return for extending the duration of the trip. Can the trip be bolted on to a weekend so that you are back Sunday night in time for work? If it’s a midweek trip how about slotting in a day of vacation so you can tag on the weekend too. By extending your stay you may even be able to get cheaper flights. An extended stay will mean that you have a decent amount of time to do something you’d really like, whether that’s the opera, hiking or shopping. All this of course is not always practical but there’s no harm in having the conversation so that your employer knows the kind of schedule you’d like to work to. If you’re an effective, hard-working employee, your employer should want to keep you that way, especially if it isn’t going to cost any more.
Staying in a bland, conveniently located, corporate hotel which could be anywhere doesn’t make you more effective. As I’ve suggested earlier, those aspects of the business trip which sap your energy make you a less effective ambassador for your company. If you are able to influence the booking of accommodation, then opt for somewhere that has some local character and where you have a sense of being in a different culture. It may well turn out to be cheaper too.
There’s nothing wrong with being interested in different cultures
Don’t feel that you have to apologize for wanting to see something of the culture that you are going to visit. Most people are proud of their culture and your business counterparts will react positively to your interest. Being interested in different cultures does not mean that you are only interested in having a jolly, it means that you are a well-rounded human being who takes an interest in the world around you. It can also help you understand the attitudes and behavior of the people with whom you are dealing with. The social conventions of the Japanese, for example, are very different from those of Americans.
Do your research
It makes good business sense to research the culture that you are going to visit. It will help you to avoid causing any unintended offense. It is also important in order to make the most of your visit. Is there something that you would particularly like to do or see? Can it be built into your schedule?
Do all your meetings have to be in a conference room?
Your clients or business colleagues may be as keen as you are for a change of scene. It doesn’t mean you are goofing off; in fact, it may turn out to be far more productive. By scheduling a meeting in an art gallery café or an interesting art deco bar you are also signaling your cultural awareness and appreciation of where you are.
Eating is a great way to enjoy a different culture
Why oh why would you want generic international hotel cuisine when there is authentic local food to be had nearby? If you’re scheduled for a working lunch, your hosts are likely to be much more impressed by your choice of a well-researched local restaurant than the safe bet of food nobody much enjoys. If you’ve free time in the evening, no matter how whacked you feel, get out there and see what the locals are up to.
Don’t veg out. Don’t over-work
Exhaustion is the familiar enemy on business trips. Jet lag, long hours, stress, the perfect exhaustion storm. Don’t veg out in your hotel room, you need exercise and not in a hotel gym. Walk, run or hire a bike. Get yourself outside in the sun and the air, get some exercise and enjoy your surroundings. If your internal clock is all over the place and you wake up early, don’t watch TV, go out and watch the sunrise instead. You’ve gone over that presentation enough; you don’t need to go over it again. Get out, take in a few sights, you’ll be more effective for it.
Written by Jamie Rose, founder of MAHI Leather. Specialists in leather travel bags, the perfect accessory for any business trip.