With domestic business travel bouncing back to near pre-COVID levels – and international travel not too far behind — Corporate Traveller notes that with the return of corporate travel the age-old problem of being productive while travelling for business also returns.
Corporate Traveller’s global managing director, Tom Walley shares his own tactics for keeping productivity levels high while travelling – from planning and prioritization skills, to discipline and innovative technologies.
(Corporate Traveller is, of course, Flight Centre Travel Group’s corporate travel management provider for SMEs).
Walley oversees hundreds of Corporate Traveller employees around the world, across dozens of cities, and is required to travel regularly between multiple cities every month, with Toronto, Perth, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, London, and New York already visited.
He observes: “Being highly productive while travelling is particularly a challenge for business leaders who need to oversee and sign off on deliverables from their teams back home, join virtual meetings, approve budgets, and generally be available for their own managers or board, as well as urgent requests by their direct reports. Getting on impromptu calls, looking over important presentations and contracts are all part and parcel of the deliverables I need to meet while travelling.”
While remote-working technologies over the last two years have eased communication difficulties for people working remotely, working as productively when you are on the move remains a challenge for many business travellers, particularly team leaders who are responsible for managing employees remotely.
Said Walley: “The cost of slowing your usual productivity, however, is plenty of stress and late nights when you do return to HQ. Many travellers often return to a plethora of important deliverables and approvals as they play catch up on emails and deadlines.”
He continued: “Some leaders also find that if their productively slows, so does the team’s. Just because you’re travelling, your personal productivity and that of your team back at HQ should not slow down if you plan carefully and have the right technologies in place. There is also a way to avoid late nights working in your hotel room.”
Research has found that half (51%) of business travellers admit catching up on office work is the most stressful aspect of travelling for work purposes,  while a quarter feel they must work overtime upon returning to the office to make up for lost time when travelling. 
Walley offers 9 ways he maintains productivity when travelling for business.
- Delegate before you travel. Set realistic expectations to avoid burn-out or missed deadlines and talk openly with your team or managers about what you will and won’t be able to do while travelling. If you have a very tight business trip planned, you will not be able to complete the same workload that you would in the office. Delegate tasks to in-office team members to help maintain productivity in the workplace. If you’re travelling with a team, ensure each person has a balanced workload they can effectively manage.
- Set up your digital communication and synchronize your files. Walley ensures he has the best fit-for-purpose applications for communicating with his team while travelling, including mobile apps such as WhatsApp and Microsoft Teams. And he explains: “Before travel, I recommend executives install messaging and virtual meeting apps used by their team on all devices – and synchronize documents and emails across them. You could store large files on Cloud drives such as Google Drive or Dropbox, which provide free capped storage. Just check beforehand if the available free space is adequate for all your files, whether you’ll need to upgrade, and if they support your devices and file types.”
- Use your most productive time of day for desk work. If possible, dedicate one or two time slots per day – when you know you will be most productive – to desk-based work such as presentation updates, approvals, team meetings and any issues management back at HQ. Said Walley: “The most productive travellers go beyond this and develop a realistic schedule of meetings, desk work, travel time and leisure activities before their trip to prevent them from taking on impromptu and unnecessary activities on their trip.”
- Pre-book everything. Make advance bookings as much as possible. “Not only flights and transfers, but also transport to and from meetings, meals out, any required in-room hotel meals, any essential hotel dry cleaning, and any leisure activities,” said Walley.
- Be selective with your time. Don’t let your travel schedule unravel. Try to avoid meetings running past their scheduled times. Consider using rideshare rather than car hire, so you can work during the drive. Try to have a consistent sleep routine so you won’t need to nap in transit and try to use transit waiting times and flights for work.
- Fly early. Book an early morning flight, and get a good night’s sleep beforehand, to ensure you have a full and productive day at your destination.
- Use your hotel or mealtimes for meetings. Take shortcuts and multitask where possible. If you are staying at a four- or five-star city hotel, you could hold informal meetings for two or three in the lobby café. You could also gauge whether your stakeholders are open to meeting over lunch or dinner. Walley explained that: “Meeting this way can relieve your stress on a jam-packed work trip and lighten the meeting atmosphere. Clients and suppliers will understand that when you are travelling for business, you are trying to squeeze in as many meetings as you can, and they are more likely to accept a meeting over a meal, coffee or at a hotel.”
- Get the best Wi-Fi everywhere. Choose flights and accommodation with the fastest Wi-Fi. Comfortable internet browsing requires a broadband connection of at least 25Mpbs to support up to two devices. When travelling with colleagues, ensure you have 100-200Mpbs internet to support multiple devices.  If you are travelling to a rural or regional area, take a prepaid pocket modem or dongle. When travelling internationally, you will need to weigh up the capabilities of your mobile phone plan, particularly its international roaming offering. For instance, some providers offer as little as $5 per day for international roaming through your existing phone plan.  For longer trips, you may benefit from purchasing a local SIM card.
- Outsource your travel admin. Knowing what you should do yourself, and what you can rely on others for, is an essential part of remaining productive while travelling for work. He pointed out that: “An increasing number of businesses are partnering with travel management companies in this complex travel environment. You don’t want to think about flight delays, pandemic restrictions, and check-in requirements on a work trip.”
Corporate Traveller, for instance, allows businesses to book transportation and accommodation on a single consolidated platform, backed by a team of travel advisors, the ideal blended approach for SMEs. Business travel itineraries are hosted on the CT.GO app, which features an AI assistant named Sam to notify travellers on the go and carries out simple tasks such as flight check-ins.
And Walley concludes: “Organizing your next move while on the go can be unresourceful. Good travel management companies integrate easy booking technology with expert travel advisors, to ensure a smooth trip.”
 NexTravel, 2019 — cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/5863384/Business%20Travel%20Productivity%20Report.pdf
 BroadbandNow, 2020, broadbandnow.com/guides/how-much-internet-speed-do-i-need
 Vodafone, vodafone.com.au/plans/international-roaming