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The fun and exhilarating (but stressful) world of business travel

Employers can help by setting reasonable expectations
business travel
Business travel is a great way to broaden your horizons and explore new places.Shutterstock

By Brian Kreissl

I thoroughly enjoy travelling for work. I’ve been to several cities I never would have had a chance to visit on my own, and I now only have two provinces left to visit (although I have never visited any of the territories). I also keep on hoping I will get to travel to Europe, the United States, Asia or Australia on business, but no such luck so far (although a previous employer did once send me to a conference in Cleveland).

I just got back from a trip to Saskatoon and Winnipeg teaching the “HR Fundamentals for the Payroll Professional” course on behalf of the Canadian Payroll Association (CPA). Later this week, I will be teaching the same course in Edmonton and Calgary.

Business travel is a great way to broaden your horizons and explore new places. I also believe it can be a nice perk for many people. Let’s face it, there is something nice about staying in hotels and eating in restaurants, and not having to cook and clean or complete other household chores.

I also take the opportunity to do some sightseeing and shopping wherever I go, and I like to try to find and sample craft beer when I can (obviously after hours once my work is done). I was lucky enough to find three excellent craft breweries right near my hotels in Saskatoon and Winnipeg (as well as Abbotsford and Vancouver earlier this year, although those were slightly further from where I was staying).

People have recommended I take some extra time when I visit Calgary to go and visit Banff (on my own dime, of course). One of these days I will actually do that, but I couldn’t manage to extend my stay into the Thanksgiving weekend this time around.

Still, I thoroughly enjoy Edmonton and Calgary, and I am really looking forward to my trip. Edmonton is a nice city, and when I teach there the hotel where I stay is actually part of the West Edmonton Mall, which is really a sight worth seeing since it’s so much more than just a mall.

Calgary is a city I have fallen in love with. I am a proud Torontonian but I could live there in a heartbeat. I love the architecture, the scenery, the thriving restaurant and bar scene and the vibrancy of the city. I like how Calgary has a big city feel, yet there is so much nature right near downtown and you can get to the airport via taxi from downtown in about 20 minutes even in rush hour.

Drawbacks of business travel

Business travel has its drawbacks as well. One of the things I struggle with when I travel is some people still expect a reply to their email and voicemail messages pretty much right away.

Strangely enough, they tend to forget about my out-of-office replies, panic when they see I am out of the office or don’t understand that I teach all day with only very short breaks and often have to rush to the airport immediately afterwards. I have also seen the opposite problem where people frantically start copying everyone to find an answer when I would be able to answer the question within a relatively short period of time.

I also think it is reasonable for me to take at least some time to myself, and I really cannot respond to email messages on a plane. Certain types of email messages and issues can be very difficult to deal with on a smartphone even if I do have some time in a departure lounge.

Implications for employers

Part of the problem, I believe, is when people are travelling for business, others see the person in question is technically still working. Because people are often so focused on their email, others assume they are still able to respond.

As a society, we have elevated the importance of email to the point where people expect an instant response even when that isn’t possible.

Delegation can help, but often there is no one to delegate to. Employers can help by setting reasonable expectations and guidelines around deliverables and communications and not expecting instant replies when people aren’t available.

Responding within 24 hours is a reasonable guideline, but when someone has been out of the office for a few days or longer, that isn’t always possible.

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Brian Kreissl

Brian Kreissl is the product development manager for Thomson Reuters Legal Canada's human resources, OH&S, payroll and records retention products and solutions.
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