‘Work Life Balance’ returns over 280 million results in Google, most of them associated to remote workers. While it’s important to have time for both, this is especially difficult when working on the move for nomad workers and business travellers. I have had my share of work travel and the four tips below have helped me with work life integration when on the move. Hopefully they will also boost your experience!
Forget about 9 to 5.
Understand it is OK to take two hours for lunch to get to see the Eiffel Tower before you leave Paris. Or go to that exposition in Madrid a friend told you about. And most importantly, that leaving a city without meeting at least one new interesting person is the professional traveller’s sin.
Leave the hotel early for a walk around the city before your first meeting or conference call. This lets you breathe the city, and avoid the too common feeling many business travellers have: travelling to a city but not getting to see it, being locked all day in an office and running to the airport after meetings. Who said you can’t check your first emails of the day while drinking your morning coffee at the central square?
Look for a coworking space to work from, and spend the morning there. In fact, I’m writing this from a coworking space, during a business trip! Coworking spaces are made for remote workers, and the productive atmosphere is contagious. You can use apps like Foursquare to find the closest coworking space, or check the Coworking Wiki.
Many coworking spaces will let you book a day or half day pass, at an economic rate; or even by-the-hour; and if you are usually working from a coworking space, you may even work for free thanks to the Coworking Visa program.
Being in touch with real people from the city is enriching, and you never know if you’ll meet your next client while trying to read the coffee machine instructions in a language you don’t understand!
Leave the lounge. Live the city
Leave your hotel lounge and go find something inspiring out there. Make friends. Get a feeling of how people live and do business there. This is work too. Take your time to have lunch and possibly share it with someone: a client, a partner, or the freelance designer you just met. Create human bonds with the people and the city. After lunch, grab a take away coffee and walk to your next location, or hop on a taxi or a bus. Avoid the underground – you only have a few days to get to see the city and we all know there’s not much to see from an underground train!
When travelling, I love the change of atmosphere, so I usually look for a different place to work in the afternoon, usually a place where I can stay a bit longer to compensate for the time I took off for breakfast and lunch. Nobody is waiting for you at the hotel, no flatmates or family to talk to, so you can take your time to get all your things done. Doing this out of the hotel is important not only it makes you more productive, but also gives you a chance to do a last walk around the city on your way back home. See how it changes at night.
Connect with the local network
Don’t have dinner alone. Call someone. Announcing your trip on social networks like Twitter works wonders to make connections with some locals. Have a chat over dinner with some of your new friends or partners, or a friend of a friend. Avoid franchises and try to get a taste of the local cuisine.
Only after this are you allowed to go back to your hotel to check the last emails of the day. You’ll go to sleep with the satisfaction one gets from getting the work done and enjoying the perks of flexible mobile work.
Do you travel a lot for work? What’s your experience and which are your tips on making the best out of your time abroad? As always happy to read your comments.
A version of this post was originally written for the Alliance Virtual Offices blog in January 2014.