Should we ask employees to share hotel rooms when traveling for business?
How thrifty is too thrifty when trying to save money on corporate travel?
This question was posed by one of our customers, so I decided to do a little bit of research. Having asked employees to share rooms for several user conferences in an effort to reduce hotel expenses, I knew that the question could be fraught with challenges. In the end, it was setting expectations that the company needed their help in keeping costs in line, and the notification that room sharing was needed essentially minimized challenges. And, there is a difference between a three- or four-night conference versus ongoing travel. Without causing undue hardship to your team members.
There is no specific state or federal law prohibiting employers from requiring their employees to share a hotel room while on the road for business. However, doing so may cause employee relations issues that, in the long run, could cost an employer more in lower employee morale, higher turnover, and decreased productivity than the possible savings realized in sharing accommodations while on the road.
Being away from home and putting in long days in unfamiliar territory may already stress employees, especially those individuals that rarely travel. While a small number of employees may be comfortable sharing a room, a room-sharing policy has the potential to create ill will between co-workers (and management).
The following scenarios could offer the potential for conflict when sharing a hotel room:
- A light sleeper bunked with a snorer
- Similarity or difference in sexual orientation
- An early riser bunked with a night owl
- Differences in personal space expectations
- Differences in bedtime and/or bathroom routines
Companies Need to Have Across-the-Board Consistent and Transparent Policies
A practice of sharing rooms will backfire for management if the program is not uniformly executed throughout all levels of the organization. “Where it is particularly demoralizing,” a company controller says, “is when executives insist on penny pinching for their employees but exempt themselves from cost-cutting measures, whether that be sharing hotel spaces or air allowances or whatever. Then people just feel they are being pushed around when it comes to accommodating travel plans or concerns."
Employers who have no choice but to require employees to share hotel rooms in order to save T&E budget may consider the following approaches to avoid any perception of promoting undue hardship:
- Provide employees with ample time to select a roommate before randomly assigning roommates before a conference or event
- Allow employees to pay the difference between a private and double room if they do not wish to share accommodations
- Require room-sharing only when the hotel room rate is higher than a specified amount defined in your corporate travel policy
- Encourage roommates to discuss bathroom schedules and other issues up front by creating a safe environment that allows for communication without penalty
Whichever route you ultimately choose on the room-sharing issue, it is wise to document all aspects of the travel policy and communicate the rationale to employees. Travel policies that are transparent and consistent have the best chance for success.
Employers may like to consider alternatives to required hotel room sharing to save money in their corporate travel budget. For example:
- Promote same-day travel, where possible
- Renegotiation of the corporate rates with the relevant hotel chains
- Use of a less expensive hotel chain
- Reduction of travel costs in other areas, such as meal and alcohol per diems and transportation to and from the event
- Virtual meetings via software and hardware such as Owl Labs Meeting Owl.
The Unwritten Rules of Sharing a Room
Most employers are respectful of personal privacy, and it’s unusual for them to require you to share a room. But, on the off-chance of budget or room shortages, make sure you pick the colleague with whom you’re closest (or at the very least, most comfortable with) before agreeing share accommodations.
Then, re-visit your overnight camp days and tough it out:
Change in the bathroom to the extent that’s possible (even if you’re comfortable with your own nudity, don’t assume your roommate is).
Be respectful, and leave when your colleague needs to change.
If snoring is an issue, download a white noise app.
Also, “if it’s more than a day or two of your sharing a room, try not to spend the entire time [on your trip] together as well,” says Ellie Mirman, CMO of Crayon.co, who has logged Portland, San Francisco, Orlando and Phoenix on her business travel list this year along. “Even if you don’t know it, you need space and your personal time.”
All this said, keep an open mind and remember that sharing a room can provide surprising benefits. One comment I read during my research on this topic included, “There was a room shortage at business conference I attended , and I ended up sharing a room with a woman from who I didn’t even know. After working out the shower-and-get-ready schedule, I ended up having a great week with her. It was a surprising circumstance, but it paid off because she made it a point to take me under her wing and introduce me to people there.”
Companies need to carefully calibrate their travel policies according to their organization’s culture. Bunking up policies can make employees feel both uncomfortable and undervalued if handled the wrong way. But for many, room-sharing — if respectfully and equitably administered — has the potential to foster not just major cost savings, but also deeper, unanticipated connections that can change the course of a business or a career.
As a final note, be grateful you aren't sharing a bed with a co-worker.
Looking for other ways to save money on corporate travel? Schedule a call with one of our corporate travel experts to learn how Lola.com can help you save time and money on booking, managing and reporting on corporate travel.