It’s that feeling I get when stepping out from a bungie jumping platform. “No turning back now. Whatever is going to happen is going to happen.”
It’s the same feeling every time I leave my driveway for a business trip. Is my family going to be okay? Do I have all my work stuff? Do I have socks?! Wallet – check. Cell phone – check. I know I have my keys – I’m currently driving. My one comforting thought is this: a couple of hundred bucks and a credit card can get me out of most jambs.
Technological advances like video-conferencing haven’t hurt the business travel industry a lick. Statista.com reports spending for domestic business travel has steadily increased over the past decade and is expected to hit a half-billion dollars by 2022. Bottom line, a lot of us are traveling for business. We’re leaving home for a couple of days or a couple of weeks every month. We’re also leaving home for extended periods of time. A recent Allied Moving and Storage survey shows 17% of American relocate for work. Considering many of these moves may be relatively temporary, it often doesn’t make sense to move the entire family. That means living apart.
Preparation seems to best ease the queasiness of leaving home for business, whether it’s a short business trip or a work relocation.
Recently I took on a temporary sales job that forced me to travel for a week at a time. I have a wife, two sons (16 and 9 years old), and two dogs. This all translates to a lot of preparation before each trip.
Auto: If your business requires car travel, I find having a dedicated business car eases a lot of pressure. I don’t need to haul my samples, files, or mobile office equipment in and out before every trip, risking forgetting something. Given the option, dedicate a car to work-only use – or at least try to partition your work-related materials in the car so they aren’t disturbed by kids or pets.
Computer bag: Similarly, dedicate a local computer bag and a travel computer bag. Equip your travel computer bag with extra cell phone chargers, including a 110V plug for the hotel/airport, a cigarette lighter plug for your rental car and extra cables for when they go bad. Also consider bringing a couple of FedEx pouches and labels, so you can easily send things from your hotel.
Clothes: Traveling light is paramount with today’s restrictive baggage policies. Consider only wearing different underwear, hose or socks each day. If you’re meeting different people, no one will know you are re-wearing your outfits, suits or shoes.
Family obligations: Check in with your partner a couple of days before you leave. What can you do to make home life easier? Taking out trash, mending clothes, helping with long-term homework projects, etc. While business travel is stressful, the at-home parent is bearing the brunt of the work. You get to flop on your hotel bed and watch CSI reruns at the end of the day. He/she is making sure homework is done, teeth are brushed, and no one is getting strangled.
I’ve relocated more than a dozen times in my career. Whether you are in the military, politics, a professional athlete, or simply climbing the corporate ladder, short-term relocation away from family requires lots of prep.
Nearly half of those who move are given less than 30 days to prepare (47% according to the Allied Moving survey.) So, it’s likely you will be in some form of semi-temporary housing at your new location – especially if you don’t know how permanent your new position will be and whether your family will come along. Apartments.com, Zillow, Rentalcafe.com, aparmentratings.com are all good sites. I found Craigslist a bit sketchy, immediately running into someone attempting to rent me a home that had just sold – and wasn’t hers. VRBO and AirBNB are another way to go. While it can cost four times as much as renting an apartment, there’s no need to buy or transport furniture or pay utilities.
Consider your personal emotions and your family’s emotions. For me, the thought of living away from my family left a pit in my stomach. But my wife reminded me that time passes quickly. Think what you were doing six months or even two years ago, and it seems like yesterday. Workdays are filled with work. Weekends are tougher, but it’s an opportunity to do some self-improvement, like working-out, working on an advanced degree, or binge-watching Game of Thrones, seasons 1-7. To prepare for your family’s emotional rollercoaster, consider:
- Staying connected to your family – Arranging a time every day to Facetime or Skype (preferably right before bedtime so you can talk about the day and not interrupt meals or activities.) Attending your kids’ important activities – like sporting events and birthdays – via Facetime. Staying relevant by keeping notes about your kids’ crushes, friends and activities.
- Giving kids goals – Set dates for family vacations, trips home or bringing-out your family to your new home.
- Accommodating at-home parent – Just like temporary business travel, the at-home parent is doing all the discipline, taxiing kids and home maintenance. Take on responsibilities that you can handle remotely, like home finance and scheduling homework, sports and/or appointments.
The Allied Moving survey shows 64% of respondents find relocating for work a positive experience. Only 7.5% find it negative. And while I suspect business travel statistics are not quite as favorable, rest easier with some pointed preparation. And remember, a couple of hundred bucks and a credit card can get you out of most jambs.