Share By Sachin Shenolikar
Being out of the office on a business trip can be a tricky proposition. Our focus can be scattered as we zip through airports, check in to hotels, and meet with clients. Even though we are out of sight from co-workers, we are definitely not out of mind when it comes to being available and staying on top of work back at the office. After all, this is not a vacation — you can’t simply unplug for a few days.
Thankfully there are some simple ways to stay ahead of work while on the road. Real Business asked Chris McGinnis, editor of TravelSkills.com, for tips on how to hack your business trip to be organized and productive so you won’t come back to the office to a mountain of work and stress.
1. Web in the Air. The biggest improvement for frequent fliers over the past year has been the increasing ubiquity of in-flight Internet. “That’s really changed business travelers’ productivity,” says McGinnis. However, access to the Web isn’t cheap — you could pay up to $35 for Wi-Fi on a transcontinental flight. McGinnis says the key to saving money is to buy a Gogo day pass ahead of time for just $16, either on the airline’s site or via Gogo’s official site
Pricey Internet is also a common complaint at hotels. The solution: Join hotels’ frequent stay programs — chains like Kimpton and Courtyard By Marriott provide free Wi-Fi access to members. Also keep in mind that less expensive hotels such as Best Western tend to offer free WiFi. Staying in a less glitzy room could pay off if you have a limited expense account. “Investigate free options instead of paying the irritating fee every day,” says McGinnis.
2. Email Offline. If your flight doesn’t have Wi-Fi or if you’re traveling to a location that has poor Internet access, get the Gmail Offline app. It allows you to download the most recent emails to your hard drive so you can read and respond to messages. The app then synchs up to send emails when you’re back online. “It’s a very helpful way to be able to plow through your inbox,” says McGinnis.
3. Lounge Act. A lot of people think you have to pay $500 a year or fly in business class to get into an airport lounge, but that’s not true. Many will allow travelers to enter with a day pass (usually $35 to $50). “If you get stuck at an airport and it’s a mob scene and there’s no place to sit and there’s screaming babies everywhere, you can go into an airport lounge and get faster Wi-Fi access; there’s refreshments in there, cleaner bathrooms, and work stations,” says McGinnis. “That makes it definitely worthwhile.”
There’s also a new generation of public pay-per-use airport lounges — for about $20 per hour, you can take advantage of better food, shower facilities, and Internet access.
4. Set Up For Success. Many hotels have turned their lobbies into work/play areas where you can have a drink, get some work done, or hold meetings. If you prefer the solitude of your room, make it more comfortable by rearranging the furniture for added inspiration. “I always place my desk facing out the window instead of a wall,” says McGinnis.
5. Chill Out. This isn’t a hack per se, but it’s something people forget: Don’t overdo it on the road. Trying to stay on top of “home work” during a business trip can be overwhelming when you’re trying to take care of business at hand. There’s a point when you just have to let go and catch up when you return to the office. “Technology has made us slaves to our devices, and it pays to take a break from that for your mental health,” says McGinnis.
Also, carve out some time during your trips to visit a museum, take a long stroll to explore the city, or go to the gym. Preserving your mental health is important later, too. If you go abroad or are away for more than five days, request a comp day when you return home. “Use that extra day to catch up and be with your family, so you don’t feel so stressed out when you get back to the office after a big trip,” says McGinnis.
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