As I find myself lounging on my hotel room bed for the fourth night this week, wishing I was at home with my husband, I can’t help but wonder how I let this happen again.
Many people wrongly assume work travel is glamorous and exciting, but any seasoned work traveller will tell you it is far more hassle than it is worth. Occasionally, it can be nice to see somewhere new or catch up with friends or colleagues living in another city, but mainly it’s a whole lot of inconvenience…
Grappling with booking systems to get approvals for hotels and train tickets; packing and unpacking suitcases every week; coping with late night transport delays; schlepping your suitcase across cities between meetings (and then usually when it is chucking it down with rain, discovering the wheel has come off and you have to carry your luggage instead); needing a new suitcase every six months due to aforementioned broken wheels; missing home comforts like your own bed or a comfy pair of slippers; being unable to plan any social commitments in advance as you never know when you’ll be home or when you’ll be away; finding the hotel room you’re staying in is dirty, uncomfortable or noisy so you cannot get any sleep; eating the same takeaway or room service meal that you had the previous week because you can’t be bothered to find somewhere new for food; sorting out the mountains of receipts stuffed in every pocket of your purse or bag so you can get your own money back; filling in expenses forms and waiting for approvals; being out-of-pocket for all those extra incidentals you forgot to get a receipt for or lost along the way; catching up on all the chores you haven’t been able to do at home on the weekend so you go back to work on Monday and feel you’ve not had a break; feeling like you can never switch off whilst you’re away because there’s nothing better to do in the hotel, so you might as well work; only talking to your loved ones on hangouts/WhatsApp/facetime… I could go on. It sucks.
I love this job, don’t get me wrong, but I moved on from my last role because I wanted to spend more time at home and less time travelling, but here I am, living out of a suitcase again. In this role, the travel is relatively seasonal. A few months ago I was enjoying my work-life balance and making the most of being home in the evenings. However, at the moment I am deep in the middle of end of posting performance reviews, which involves spending time visiting my many direct reports to discuss in some detail what they’ve delivered over the past six months and reflecting on all that they have learned. My cohort are posted all over the country, predominantly in London, which results in a lot of time on the West Coast Mainline and many nights in dubious Travelodges. It’s a necessary, but challenging part of the job.
The question I have though, is why does it have to be this way?
In a world full of amazing technology, why do thousands of us spend multiple days a week working away from home?
Why has work-related travel become an accepted part of professional life? Especially at a more senior level.
Why do we not co-locate or cluster teams more? Couldn’t we save time and money and give people a better working experience if we stopped spreading out our teams all over the country or globe and started thinking more regionally?
As HR professionals, how can we design jobs that don’t require long commutes or frequent travel?
Or if travel is needed or an intrinsic part of the job, how can we support staff to help them cope with that better? How can we lessen the burden of travel and help people find a balance that works for them?
When will remote-working become the norm?
Will driverless cars make work related travel less painful? Can we develop teleportation?
Can we cope without face-to-face interactions at work? Are physical meetings necessary?
Why do London-centric organisations always expect those of us based ‘in the regions’ to travel to them, instead of the other way around? Particularly when travel and accommodation is usually cheaper in the other direction?
Why do hiring organisations often understate the amount of travel in a role description, rather than being up front about it?
Is it possible to find a challenging and rewarding mid-senior HR role that doesn’t require as much travel?
If I choose to travel less, will that impact on my career progression?
Lots of questions. I’m not sure I have the answers. However, if you do, I would love to hear from you. What are your experiences of work travel? How do you cope?