Guide to Creating Work Life Balance While On the Road
tl;dr: Establishing a work-life balance is especially important for those who travel for work.
If you travel frequently for work, you know how stressful it can be. But did you also know that it can be bad for your health? In fact, according to a study done by the Harvard Business Review, people who spent 14 or more nights away from home “had significantly higher body mass index scores and were significantly more likely to report the following: poor self-rated health; clinical symptoms of anxiety, depression and alcohol dependence; no physical activity or exercise; smoking; and trouble sleeping.”
Scary stuff, right? But traveling for work is often necessary for finding new business, keeping clients happy, and pursuing professional development. And, luckily, there are things you can do to keep yourself healthy and happy while on the road.
The worst thing is to be away from home and work, wondering if your spouse remembered they were in charge of the carpool or if your manager remembered you weren’t going to be at the weekly meeting. Eliminate that worry by preparing ahead of time. Make a list of all the things that need to get done without you while you’re gone, and take the appropriate actions to make sure everyone is caught up. For your spouse, put a calendar on the fridge and highlight everything they’ll need to take care of. At work, make sure you set up an out-of-office response on your email, put your trip details on your calendar, and add that to your manager’s calendar so he or she is aware of where you are and when.
If you’re still calling into meetings while on the road, set alarms and reminders for anything you need to keep track of. Use calendar apps or Slack reminders to make sure you get notifications for everything.
Stick to your normal routine (as much as possible)
If you get up at 5am at home to workout, try to do that while you’re traveling too. It might not always be possible, but if you can swing it, maintaining your routine will drastically improve your mood and the energy you have while you’re on the road. You should also try and eat meals at the same time you normally would. If you don’t normally order pizza at 10pm at home, then a business trip is probably not a good time to start. Plus, eating too late at night will also affect your sleep, which segues into another routine you should stick to: bedtime. It won’t always be possible to go to bed at your normal time if you’re entertaining clients or taking a late flight, but making sleep a priority is essential to an effective (and healthy!) business trip.
Let technology help
Looking for some assistance? There’s an app for that. Seriously, there are tons of apps you can download to help keep you organized and relaxed while on the road. First, download the app for the hotel brand you are staying at. A lot of hotels allow mobile check-in, plus you can usually make requests through these apps for a certain type of pillow, room service, and anything else you might need during your stay. Try a meditation app to help you sleep or recharge after a particularly arduous meeting. To avoid pre-travel stress, keep yourself updated on the status of your flight with a flight tracker. Think of the things that could help relieve stress and make the day a bit easier, and find the app for it!
Book a hotel with the right amenities
Don’t spend your downtime searching for the closest gym, restaurant, convenience store, etc. Stay in hotels that offer all of those things in-house. It will be much easier for you to stay on top of your workout routine if you just need to run downstairs to hop on the treadmill. And being able to grab a coffee and granola bar from the hotel’s store on your way out will ensure you don’t skip breakfast. A lot of hotels have started offering amenities aimed towards business travelers, so be on the lookout for those when booking.
Book flights that work with your schedule
Usually when you’re traveling for business your company wants you to book the cheapest flight possible. But often times that flight has a layover and leaves at 6:00am, not exactly ideal when you need to have a productive day after landing. Read your company's travel policy and see what the rules are for booking flights. If you aren’t finding reasonably priced flights that work with your schedule, talk to your manager. You shouldn't have to wake up at 3am to save your company $50, if that means spending more money on a baby-sitter or daycare because you can’t leave your child alone. Most managers will understand especially if you are a frequent traveler for your company. They want you to stay well on the road too.
Turn it into a bleisure trip
Traveling across the country for a 3 day trip? Why not turn that stay in San Francisco into a mini-vacation? Most companies will be fine with this, as long as you pay for the additional nights in the hotel that are not covered by the business portion of your trip. Bleisure is becoming increasingly popular, and some companies are actually including it in their travel policy. Bleisure trips are a great way to unwind for a few days before heading back to work. And even better if you friends or family can come out and join you for the leisure portion of your trip!
It’s difficult for most people to achieve work-life balance under normal circumstances, so doing it while traveling can be really hard. When you’re traveling for work it can feel like you are never off the clock, but that’s not true. You deserve a good night’s sleep and healthy meals just as much as you do at home. With just a few small changes you can drastically improve the way you feel when you’re on the road.