8 Tips to Make Traveling for Work Easier

See also: Travel and Freelancing

According to a 2017 survey of employees who travel for work, only 34 percent love doing it. An additional 36 percent say they primarily do it to advance their career, while the remaining 30 percent don’t enjoy it at all.

The reasons why so many people dislike traveling for work vary from sleep disruption to a general distaste for air travel. Not all these can be helped. But employees who travel for work can take certain steps to ensure their health and happiness isn’t affected by their travels.

But why shouldn’t traveling workers just grin and bear it?

According to one study, happy employees are around 12 percent more productive. Traveling can help you develop important skills and increase your employability to other companies. So, staying happy while you travel may help you seal the deal on a big client or tie up loose ends on an important contract.

Graph showing the results of the Tsheets Employee Travel Survey 2017.

How to Prioritize Family Time

The biggest complaint traveling employees have is being away from family (23 percent of respondents).

ON24 Inc., a webcasting and virtual event tech company, found “91 percent of Americans believe too much time away from home due to work has consequences”, including increased stress. Other respondents in the ON24 survey believe it could negatively affect marriages and relationships, and even cause kids to act up.

Thankfully, there are many ways to manage the work-life balance conundrum that comes with traveling for work. Here are just a couple:

1. Make time for a digital connection

Apps like Skype or FaceTime are becoming increasingly common and accessible. If you’re unsure of how to use them, enlist a tech-minded co-worker or family member to help you set it up.

2. Unplug completely on weekends or days off

Unfortunately, not everyone will have a say in whether they can avoid traveling on weekends. If you can choose your work travel dates, do your best to avoid the weekends, and give yourself some time to spend with your family. Additionally, try to avoid checking your work phone, emails, and other communications outside of work hours. Instead opt to spend your free time with your family.

How to Support Your Health and Happiness

Besides being away from their family, other concerns that employees had when traveling for work included poor sleep, a bad diet, and a lack of exercise.

Added up, these three concerns are about a third of the biggest worries traveling workers experience. Fortunately, these are some of the easiest problems to fix. Here are a few tips to help you make your health and welfare a priority while traveling:

3. Take care when booking flights

Although not every employee can book their own flights, for those that can, choosing a later flight (versus a red-eye at 6 AM) can help you conserve sleep. If you need to be at your destination earlier in the day, opt to fly the evening before so you don’t mess up your sleep schedule too much. 

Alternatively, if you have to leave on an earlier or overnight flight, try following some of the suggestions that Adam White provided for Travel and Leisure on how to sleep on planes. His biggest suggestion is trying to control the environmental factors that affect sleep quality: light, noise, and temperature. The solution for this is to have a blanket handy, noise-canceling (or noise-reducing) headphones, and an eye mask.

4. Pack a small snack pack of healthy, delicious eats

Many flights may offer in-flight snacks, but the nutritional value of these items isn’t spectacular. Instead, try to pack your own selection of tasty and nutritious foods. Protein bars or fruit and nut bars travel great and may offer just the right pick-me-up before a long flight. Drink packets that add flavor to water and immune system-boosting vitamins also make great travel items.

5. Track expenses

Tracking your expenses while you travel can save you a lot of time, money, and stress. It’s a relatively easy task, but not everyone is doing it. One in 10 self-employed workers don’t even track expenses. Try using a business card when you travel, or keep all your receipts. Reducing the stress of tracking down expenses months later is worth the time.

6. Take advantage of hotel amenities

Many hotels do their best to cater to the traveling employee. Some may provide a continental breakfast or have a fully equipped gym. Whatever amenities exist at your hotel, try to take advantage of them. Keeping your routine going is important in maintaining your health.

How to Stay Productive

Want to go the extra mile while traveling for work?

While your overall happiness can certainly improve your productivity at work, these tidbits can help, as well.

7. Take advantage of quiet moments to work

Traveling can throw off your work schedule easily, as you’ll be spending more time waiting in airports, getting situated in your hotel, and finding your destination. However, you can take advantage of some of the quieter times—like when you’re waiting at your gate or on the plane—to get some work done, study, or prepare for meetings. Traveling offers many people the opportunity to learn a new language, as well, so practicing common phrases might help you prepare if you’re traveling internationally.

8. Plan ahead for your trip

Research your destination before you leave so that you know where you’ll need to go, and how far away your hotel and the airport is from your destination. You can also research nearby restaurants and where you can stop to stock up on supplies. Additionally, if you want to work while you’re traveling, be sure your laptop battery is fully charged and you have access to all the files you need. Also keep in mind that not every airport has reliable Wi-Fi. Downloading files ahead of time can help you in those moments when you can’t get online.

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A little mindfulness goes a long way

Traveling can take a lot out of a person, and forcing yourself to work when you don’t have the energy will only produce mediocre results. If you’re familiar with burnout, recognizing the symptoms early can help you avoid making it worse.

Early signs can be anything from frustration and anger to writer’s block and a drop in creativity. Once you start to notice those signs, take a step back and take care of yourself. Whether that means turning in for the night, going for a walk, or trying to take a nap, your brain (and your work) will benefit from the break.

Traveling for work isn’t for everyone, but that doesn’t have to make it a bad experience. A little mindfulness can go a long way in making yourself happy and comfortable, even away from home.

About the Author

Danielle Higley is a copywriter for TSheets by QuickBooks, a time tracking and scheduling solution. She’s been a contributor to MSN.com, FiveThirtyEight, and a variety of HR and business blogs where she can put her affinity for long-form storytelling to best use.