It’s fun to travel with colleagues. No, really. Back when I worked at CA, my whole team traveled from New York City to Las Vegas once a year for our company’s annual trade show. After the highs and lows only a harried week of work in Vegas can provide, I really bonded with these people. Many years later, I still keep in touch with many of them. And I still love Vegas.
Traveling with co-workers, however, involves a set of informal rules of which it’s helpful to be aware. Here are a few that I’ve learned over time.
1. Don’t insist on sitting together on the plane.
Plane etiquette is tricky. Some people don’t mind gabbing away the whole time, while others would like nothing more than sit silently with their iPad and relish the calm before their trip’s storm. Because it can be difficult to ascertain your co-worker’s camp and awkward if you get it wrong, sit apart unless you can’t avoid it. You can probably use the quiet time yourself.
2. Do use the trip as an opportunity.
During a trip, you will probably have more chances to converse with your colleagues than usual. Use the time to get to know them as human beings. Express curiosity about their family and hobbies and be open in answering their questions about your lifestyle. The closer you become when you travel, the stronger your relationship will be back at the office.
3. Don’t let your guard down too far.
Of course, there is a such thing as getting too close. Always look presentable and avoid inappropriate conversation topics such as sex, drugs, current personal struggles, mean-spirited gossip, and anything you’d be embarrassed about if your boss found out. Never use a business trip to launch a physical or sexual relationship with a colleague. Even if you are both single, this is not the time or the place.
4. Don’t drink too much.
Alcohol and business go hand in hand, and unless your personal convictions prevent you from drinking, I’m not going to suggest that you abstain while traveling. However, please know your own limits and stop when you start to get tipsy. A lack of inhibition can undermine your professional reputation and you don’t want to find yourself regretting your comments or behavior the next day.
5. Do understand your co-worker’s tech preferences.
If you and a colleague will be working closely together, know how to get in touch with her quickly. For instance, is a quick text better, or would he prefer you instant message on the private network? How will she read e-mails and review documents on the trip, and does she have Wi Fi where she’s based?
6. Do take charge of the logistics and schedule.
Even if the two of you (or the group of you) will be attached at the hip, it’s a mistake to let someone else arrange everything for you. You don’t want to end up leaving too late for the airport, choosing a hotel that’s way out of town, or scheduling two client meetings at the same time because others are not as meticulous as you are. The more control you retain, the smoother your trip will be.
7. Do take time for yourself.
It’s taxing to be constantly “on” in a business setting. After spending all day with co-workers, even the most extroverted people need time to rest and recharge. So turn in early one night and curl up with a good book, or hit the hotel’s gym. Better yet, if you have a friend in town, arrange a coffee break or tourist stop. Your work performance will be better for it.