Free travel, all you can eat food, little-to-no work, basically a holiday… These are the common perceptions of a “business trip”. So having been to a few in my years, why not shed some light? Different roles in different industries will require business travel for a variety of reasons. Personally working in the technology industry, my reasons for travel have been client meetings, training and conferences.. But what actually happens at these trips?
First of all, it’s never a “holiday”. Work trips usually count as work days which means you are being paid to carry out a function… not completing this function means the business is wasting money, however you can fit in some fun around this. Most recently I flew to Vienna for a tech conference which ran from a Tuesday to Thursday on the back of a bank holiday, perfect time to fly out early and have a few days to explore. How does this benefit the business? It doesn’t, but by booking a flight for Saturday instead of Tuesday (at the same price) and by covering your own expense for that weekend, the business is not affected. I flew out with a few colleagues and we explored the beautiful city of Vienna, and sampled the nightlife (as most 20-something year olds would do). We stayed in an Air BnB flat near the city and headed to Prater Dome the first night. The club is located in an amusement park which is open till late (hell yes). Prater Dome was great (gets busy from 1am onwards), has multiple rooms and is open till 5am! Good way to start our trip!
After a few days of touristing, eating schnitzel and drinking local beer, the conference starts and we check-in to the always lovely hotels (Hilton Danube Waterfront on this occasion, which was superb) and these are covered for us of course, as well as most other expenses. This includes breakfasts, lunches and team dinners, taxis to and from events & usually a drinks reception which is covered by senior management or sponsoring partners, basically means you won’t have to take out your wallet when on duty, happy days!
The conferences usually starts early (8am) and involves a large room of thousands of people, listening to senior figures at the company who educate us in the strategy moving forward and how we can be successful, go team. Especially working for an American company, it’s usually high energy and trying to get you pumped up! Following this we had smaller break out sessions where we would receive updates on various technologies (it was a tech summit after all) and have deep dive sessions which would enable us to be better at our jobs, in theory. Throughout the event we had teas, coffees, snacks provided for us and lunch receptions which also gives us a chance to network. This is one of my favourite parts of work trips as I get to see my colleagues from other regions of the world, for example catching up with colleagues I met 4 years ago who live South Africa, Middle East, Germany, Sweden etc. (The gossip catch-up was unreal).
The days can be tiring, mentally exhausting, but organisers try to make it as easy as possible while trying to get the most content out possible. Things like a 15-minute coffee break in-between sessions is a big help. The smaller sessions themselves are quite interactive where you can ask questions and engage the presenter (if you’re not asleep)… I’ve always thought I’d like to be a presenter at these kinds of events, but probably not for this particular industry, I think I’d bore even myself (find your passion people!!). When the long work day of 8am-6pm is finally over we are rewarded with a delicious selection of food, beers, wines and time to reflect on the day with our various colleagues. Little tip, it’s always a good idea to not get carried away on the free booze as there is always management watching and you don’t want to gain a bad reputation… As a rule of thumb try to stay one drink behind your manager, better than the other way around, believe me!
The next part is optional, but you may be tempted to go “out-out” while on a business trip… This is fine, but make sure you cover yourself. Do not be late to sessions the next morning (they scan you in to every session) and make sure you look respectable… It’s never a good look to be hung-over at events in front of partners especially that have paid for the event! I went out every evening but have done it enough times to know not to get back at a ridiculous hour and fall asleep in the sessions next morning, it does happen!
So after a few days of the same, it’s time to say good-bye and head for the airport. As I said earlier, it’s important to serve your function at work trips, so be prepared to talk about it. This was an example of a very laid back trip where we managed to take advantage of some perks… On the other hand I’ve been to client meetings abroad where I’ve literally gone from the airport to the meeting, then to the hotel for a night, back to a meeting in the morning and then heading to the airport. These work trips become more the norm as you become more senior/older and your time becomes a lot valuable to you and the business. Also a consideration is if you have commitments back home like a young family… People like me, mid-20s and no kids, it’s easier to take time on abroad trips 🙂
All in all, work trips can be both glamorous and gruelling, I hope this post gives you an idea of what actually happens. Personally I love travelling for work, and cannot wait for the next trip!