Traveling for work may sound like life in the fast lane. And it definitely can be. In many ways, business travel is incredibly glamorous. You get to visit new cities in the middle of the workweek, lunch with clients on the company card, and check into hotels that lend you a sensory break from the day-to-day. When it comes to traveling for work, turning on your out-of-office can feel incredibly rewarding. Jetting around without cutting into your vacation time? What’s better than that, right?
But strip back the layers of prestige and glamour, and business travel is often not as effortless and free-spirited as it seems. You have to work within predefined budgets, and the schedules of other people might dictate the way you plan your every move. Your business might have pre-approved airlines and hotels you’re required to use which aren’t always the most comfortable. You often spend weeks and weeks preparing for big meetings and presentations and lunches with important people. And, while you’re away on business, hoping that your meetings and events go off without a hitch, you still have to keep up with what’s happening in your office back home, unless you want to risk falling behind.
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It’s factors like these that can lead to burnout, which are ultimately exhausting for your mental health.
But don’t get me wrong – working on the road can be fun! It’s not uncommon for me to take anywhere from 5-15 work-related trips for meetings, conferences, and office visits in other cities throughout the year. I love the thrill of traveling for work and I believe it can be a great opportunity to take advantage of if you’re given the chance. And, with the right preventative measures in place, you can reduce the risk of business travel-related burnout.
Here are my 5 most helpful tips for preventing burnout, listening to your body, and refreshing your sense of purpose when traveling for work.
How to Prevent Burnout When Traveling for Work: 5 Tips
1. Incorporate Pieces of Your At-Home Routine While On The Road
When I first started traveling more frequently for work, I would cram my days full of meetings and meals and sight-seeing because, as you probably would expect, work travel doesn’t usually leave you with much downtime. Despite that, if you’re in a new place odds are you’ll want to actually, you know, see it. There have definitely been times I’ve woken up at 5 am to see the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco before an event, or sprinted to the other side of Manhattan during lunch hours to explore SoHo with an old friend, or gone on a sunrise hike in Salt Lake City before boarding a 9 am flight home.
This all sounds exciting (and it is!), but after a while of not cutting yourself some slack, this can get exhausting and lead to either burnout or an unhealthy yo-yo of contradicting routines when you’re at home and on the road.
If you’re going to be on the road for an extended period of time (like, more than 2-3 days), try incorporating small pieces of your at-home routines into your work trips. Whether it’s 5 minutes of meditation, an hour-long yoga class, or the occasional salad instead of a heavy meal – and trust me, I know how tempting it can be to order everything when it’s on a company card! – little tweaks like this can help you remain on your A-game and have a more sustainable attitude towards work travel in the long run. And, if you have a busy, jam-packed afternoon one day, as often happens when on the road, try to intentionally under-plan the next morning so you can sleep in and take a breather.
2. Establish a Realistic Schedule
Similar to the above, another big factor when it comes to avoiding burnout is maintaining a realistic schedule. Those hikes and cross-town commutes I pulled off in order to maximize my business trips are great in moderation, but trying to do things like that all the time will only lead to stress. In a worst-case scenario, over-planning and trying to cram too many activities in might even make you late for the events you actually need to attend, like that important meeting or client lunch.
Traveling for work often leaves you feeling overextended, and still, it’s all too easy to feel guilty about being away, especially if coworkers are covering for you. But putting in extra hours answering emails while also traveling for work isn’t always realistic, and you shouldn’t be expected to be available 24/7 just because you’re not in the office.
In order to help you perform at your best while on the road, and minimize the factors that might lead you to overexerting yourself, have an honest conversation with your boss or your team before you leave for your trip. Find coverage if you truly need to, or use this time to establish what you’ll realistically be able to accomplish (and what you can’t) while you’re away. You may still be expected to respond to emails, but maybe you request to be relieved of internal meetings and any nonessential internal deliverables during the days that you’re away to help you establish a more realistic schedule.
3. Turn Off Your Notifications (When Appropriate)
Give yourself permission to be offline and unreachable when necessary. Especially when you’re preparing for a big meeting or actually sitting face-to-face with a client or colleague, shut off your email notifications, set an away message, and turn your phone on silent. There’s no use traveling for work if you aren’t able to really be in the moment during the event you’ve traveled for, so allow yourself to be unreachable if it helps you be more successful. Just make sure to over-communicate with your coworkers ahead of time, so no one jumps to conclusions about you being MIA.
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4. Carve Out Time To Connect With Family and Friends
When you’re away on business trips consistently, it’s easy to feel like you’re missing out on life events and quality time with friends and family. The more frequently this happens, the easier it is to feel burnout and ultimately, resentment towards the job that’s keeping you away.
If you’re traveling often or for an extended period of time, make it a priority to carve out some time at the beginning or end of your day to call or video chat with a friend, your parents, or your significant other! It’s always good to check in with the people closest to you, of course, but when you’re on the road it’s even more crucial for helping you feel connected with whatever’s going on back home.
5. Add In Some Bleisure Travel Before, During or After Your Work is Done
One of the reasons so many people find work travel appealing is because of the draw of getting to see new places. But it’s nowhere near as fun or exciting if you don’t actually get to see anything outside of the hotel lobby, office, or convention center you’re working from. I’m the biggest proponent of bleisure travel (combining business and leisure travel), and I firmly believe you should take every opportunity you get to explore a new city – as long as it doesn’t pull you away from the work you need to do while you’re there.
Of course, work travel can be chaotic at times and you may not always be in total control of your schedule, but if and whenever you can, squeeze in some time to break away, relax, or explore. Burnout is very real, especially if you’re on the road often. Be mindful of your limits, and stay focused on the things you can control to ensure you have the best possible time while traveling for work!
Do you travel for work often? Let me know below!