Five expert tips for surviving long-distance business travel

A frequent traveler explains why you shouldn’t work on the plane

Business travel today is widely considered to be a perk rather than a chore—a recent study showed that 75 percent of millennial business travelers view travel as a benefit of their jobs. But those who travel often or over long distances for work know that business trips aren’t as glamorous or easy as they might seem. In reality, business travel often means late hours, a grueling schedule with little personal time, and jet lag. It’s no surprise then that a 2018 study by the Harvard Business Review found those who travel for longer than two weeks to be more prone to health risks including anxiety, depression, and insomnia. 

Monica Parker, entrepreneur, speaker, author, and founder of WeWork member company Hatch Analytics, is an expert when it comes to frequent, long-distance travel. She commutes between her company’s two office locations—WeWork Medius House in London and WeWork 152 in Melbourne—every other month.

Below, she shares her tips for healthy, long-distance business travel. 

1. Rest in the air, work on the ground 

While working during a flight might seem like a productive way to pass the time, Parker has a strict tools-down policy while on planes. “Forget the Wi-Fi, take a nap, read a book, listen to music, meditate, and take time to think,” she advises. “Just make sure to keep the laptop stored away. You’ll be amazed by the ideas that pop into your head during that switch-off time, and you’ll arrive at your destination feeling refreshed and ready to take on the busy schedule.”

2. Take 10 minutes to meditate 

“Even when everything goes to plan, you are running against the clock—working on a tight schedule, packing, and unpacking. It’s a lot of intense activity on top of your everyday job,” Parker explains. With this in mind, she recommends a 10-minute meditation practice once you’re settled in your seat. “Centering your breath will help rebalance your mind and make you feel more relaxed—it’s also more efficient in the long run than having a whiskey in the departures lounge.”

3. Avoid hangovers 

Being on a plane is similar to being at altitude—the lower barometric pressure in the cabin increases the effects of alcohol. Parker’s advice? “Nothing more than just a cheeky glass of bubbles.” There’s also an increased risk of dehydration on a long-haul flight—if you pile that on top of a hangover and jet lag, it can wreak havoc on your body clock, immune system, and overall performance. “Stick to whole foods and immune boosters and your trip will be much more productive,” she suggests.

4. Optimize your schedule 

Parker’s business trips are usually booked with meetings, so she aims for efficiency when planning her days. “Schedule meetings at locations that are near to one another,” Parker says, so that you don’t spend time commuting around the city after a long flight. If you regularly visit the same city for work, creating regularity and routine can help you be more efficient. “Preorder lunch from your favorite spot,” she suggests, “so that it’s easy to pick up en route to the office or to your next meeting. Try to stay in the same hotel each time—one where you feel comfortable—to create familiarity and a sense of routine.” 

5. Bring a bit of home

No matter how seasoned you are in the art of business travel, unfamiliar places can still get you off-balance. Parker recommends taking a piece of home with you—a reminder of home can easily settle your nerves when traveling a long way. “When I travel, I always bring a small jewelry tray my husband gave me. It’s just a little reminder of home and keeps me grounded when I’m in a new space. That physical representation of home makes the unknown somehow less so. It doesn’t have to be precious or highly valuable—anything goes!”

Louisa Green is the regional lead on the public affairs team at WeWork and a writer for Ideas by We. Her work has appeared in UK-based publications and Tastemade’s global Snapchat column.

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