How to take business trips with coworkers

Traveling with colleagues can be tricky. Should you sit together on the plane? How much should you talk about work? What about sharing cars? Who pays for team meals? Team travel can present some interesting challenges, but common sense and good manners can go a long way in making it work. Here are some ideas.

  1. Don’t feel obligated to sit together during the trip. If you and colleagues are traveling on the same plane or train, you don’t have to stay together. Travel arrangers likely won’t seat you together, but if you have a strong preference for solitude, tell the arranger when you make your travel request. Some travelers prefer to rest quietly or catch up on emails while others like to chat. If you find yourself seated with a talkative colleague, politely signal that you’re going to take advantage of the downtime during the journey. If you take a “more is merrier” approach to work trips, don’t be presumptuous. Confirm in advance whether your colleagues would also like to spend travel time together.

    Road trips may require a different approach. Riding silently in a car for a long period could be misinterpreted, so keep two or three conversation starters at the ready. On the plus side, carpooling is responsible and sustainable behavior that keeps extra cars off the road and helps the earth by lowering your carbon footprint. Keep the good you’re doing in mind while you’re waiting on your turn to hold the aux cord and play deejay.
  2. View the trip as an opportunity. Awesome rapport leads to amazing business results. Use the time to get to know your travel companions better. Not sure where to start? Ask them about their journey to the position they presently hold. Inquire about their hobbies and life outside of work. Offer them the same in return.
  3. To text or not to text? If you and your colleagues will be working together at the destination, agree on the technology you’ll use to keep in touch. Will you call, email, or send messages?
  4. How much work is too much work? Work-related conversations often extend to drinks and dinner after regular business hours, but, read the room. Once the work-related topics have reached their conclusion, recap key points and takeaways and use cues that business has ended for the day. Say, “Today was quite productive; I think now is a good stopping place.” If a colleague continues, try this: “Those are good points, let’s take them up in our next meeting,” and then excuse yourself when appropriate. Make sure you’re watching and listening for these cues, as well.
  5. Who picks up the check? Always consult your travel policy for the specific rules in your organization. Typically, group meals are paid for with split checks (where practical) or the highest-level employee attending the meal pays. Keep track of the receipts and the names of everybody at the dinner. You’ll likely need them for your expense report.
  6. Don’t get too relaxed. Always remember you’re on a work trip. Refrain from inappropriate conversations, overindulging in alcohol, or other behaviors that will undermine your professional reputation.
  7. Prioritize your wellness. Take time to recharge during the trip. Eat well, hydrate properly and rest each day. Find time to move your body, whether it’s gentle stretching, a workout, or a brief walk.

Planning to travel internationally for business? Read these tips for managing visas and passports, vaccines, testing requirements, currency exchange and more.


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