With clients to impress, deadlines to meet and targets to achieve, travelling for business is certainly more complicated than travelling for pleasure – especially when travelling in a group. Travelling and being away from home with people you know only on a professional level can be challenging, and it takes both consideration and compromise to ensure your business trip is a success.
Companies often ask employees to share accommodation for budget purposes, or as part of their team-building strategies. Whatever the reason, everyday scenarios can be tricky when sharing a room. To ensure you and your colleagues are as comfortable as possible, it is best to have a brief discussion about personal habits and routines before you check in – for example, bathroom use, when and where to change, morning alarm times etc. Attitude is everything, and sharing can be positive if you take advantage of the opportunity to get to know your colleagues better. Use any free time you have to chat over a drink or meal to discover your colleagues’ hobbies, likes, dislikes and views, or even brainstorm and share business ideas. However, always maintain a professional distance. Remind yourself that this trip will end. Don’t let excessive drinking, partying, gossip, or inappropriate behaviour make your return to the office an embarrassing one.
Perhaps your group business travel involves meeting, working with or even staying with colleagues from other countries. If this is the case, learn about the relevant business cultures of these countries prior to your trip. This will go a long way in establishing a mutually respectful and professional relationship. For example, although meetings often run late in Brazil, never leave early. It’s considered rude to exit before the gathering ends. In Canada, always be on time. Canadians, like the Japanese and Germans, are extremely punctual. If you’re conducting long-term business in China, give yourself a Chinese name. It’s a sign of commitment and respect. And when visiting a Chinese colleague’s home, gifts are greatly appreciated, but there are definite rules for this so do your research. For example, don’t give clocks, especially to elders, as clocks represent death.
Despite the fact that group business travel, by definition, is all about working with others, remember to take time for yourself. Being continuously upbeat can become exhausting in a business environment so make sure you get enough rest. Resist the temptation to stay up late every night, be it for work or socialising. Retire early and get a good night’s sleep so you can be on top of your business game. If possible reenergise with an invigorating hour at the hotel gym or a brisk walk in the area where you are staying.
Better still, if you have a friend in town, arrange to meet them during your time off for a quick coffee. This break in routine and some new company will be a welcome change during a long business trip. If you have no friends or family close by, enjoy some quality alone time and take in the sites and sounds of the area’s tourist stops. However, be sure to check that this time-out is allowed before leaving the venues booked by your employer.