Co-workers in close quarters: dos and don’ts for travelling with the team

Travelling with your colleagues isn’t the same as travelling with your friends. You usually choose your friends – but you can’t choose your colleagues…

Business-related trips have higher levels of stress than a holiday, and there are also professional boundaries to consider. The last thing you want is someone going ‘postal’ because you dozed off on their shoulder on the plane, invading their personal space!

Here are a few informal rules on how to make a trip with your colleagues memorable for all the right reasons…

Rely only on yourself

Don’t expect others to take care of all the travel arrangements. Even if there’s someone else in charge of logistics, take responsibility for your own plane ticket, car rental, and accommodation by keeping keep copies of all the relevant documents.

Whatever you do, if you’re a guy, don’t assume that the one lady in the group will be take over the role of your secretary when you’re travelling together. And if you’re a lady, don’t assume that the guy in the group will carry your bags. Being prepared and organised will ensure a smoother trip overall.

Respect and compromise

Not all travellers are the same. A team works best when everyone feels their needs are considered.

Realise that not everyone’s food requirements, work schedules, and travelling needs are the same as yours and take the time to compromise on certain things. You might be comfortable getting to the airport just before the plane takes off, while your colleague may be on the verge of a nervous breakdown! Respect that everyone’s different and you’ll all feel more comfortable when everyone’s compromising for the good of the group.

Dress appropriately

Business travel tipsA business trip isn’t a holiday – leave the hawaiian button-ups at home! A work-appropriate wardrobe is a must.

Just because you’re travelling through airports or to foreign destinations doesn’t mean you can let your hair down, especially if you’re seeing clients or important business associates. Your colleagues don’t want to see your unshaved legs in shorty-shorts when you’re off the clock – always keep it smart-casual.

Get to know people

Take advantage of opportunities to get to know your colleagues. Spending time with colleagues outside of the office, travelling between meetings, or getting together for meals gives you time to get to know them better as individuals.

Ask Susy if she has children before you go on a rant about annoying parents and snotty kids. Ask Dave if he’s married before you go on and on about how you don’t believe in marriage. Stay with safe topics like brainstorming project ideas. Travelling with your boss can give you a chance to get closer to your superiors and get your ideas noticed.

Maintain a professional distance

While travelling together can give you more face time with your colleagues, it’s important to remember that they’re not your friends and you should maintain a professional distance at all times. Don’t divulge how hungover you were when you stepped onto the plane, or how you’ve been fantasizing about setting the office on fire.

Remind yourself that this trip will end – don’t let drinking, partying, gossip, or inappropriate behaviour make your return to the office an awkward one!

Plan and prepare

If you don’t get enough sleep, eat properly, or drink enough water, you might end up being grumpy and unproductive. But biting your boss’ head off will only create more problems…

Plan ahead and make sure you’re prepared for long trips by carrying easy-to-eat snacks, home comforts (such as a special travel pillow), and work accessories (such as your laptop charger and iPad). These items will make sure you’re as comfortable on your trip as you would be at home or in the office. And when the going gets tough, just remember to smile and tough it out till the trip’s over.

travelling tipsTake some ‘me’ time

A work trip means you’ll be with your colleagues for large stretches of time. To avoid frustration and stress, take some time for yourself.

Whether it’s sitting alone on the plane or taking a break in your hotel room before dinner, time alone can help to soothe your shattered nerves. It can wear you down listening to Bob’s thousand stories of how great he is, or looking at Linda’s never-ending phone albums of baby photos. Get away to the gym or relax with a book – whatever will help you to wind down so that when you’re back in contact with your colleagues, you’ll be at your best again. And just remember to breathe…

Get work done

Just because you’re travelling doesn’t mean your work obligations go away. Make time to check your email, and stay in contact with colleagues back at the office.

Those in the office won’t appreciate constant Facebook posts about your seafood lunch in the sun or the glass of wine the client ‘insisted’ you drink – if the work gets done though, they can’t really complain. Complete essential work to make sure you’re not completely overwhelmed when you get back to your desk.

Stay positive

A good attitude can go a long way. Instead of moaning when things go wrong, remind yourself of the reason for your trip, focus on your business goals, and be proactive by suggesting alternatives, managing your own needs, and helping others. And when in doubt, smile. You may be thinking of all the reasons why you’d like to throttle your colleague, but a smile will keep you from snapping, and the energy it takes to smile will help you focus on other thoughts than murderous ones.

What are your coping mechanisms for travelling in close quarters with co-workers?

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