While business often requires that we travel, being on-the-road can make it challenging to meet other (more routine) business responsibilities. Indeed, it’s not uncommon to return from business trips to a mountain of work and (possibly) a number of small fires.
Before heading out on a business trip, then, it’s important to create a plan outlining how to maximize your time out-of-office (OOO), from your time in flight without internet access to those quiet moments between meetings and other business engagements. The best way to begin preparing maximizing your efficiency while you’re OOO is by knowing your company’s travel policies, preparing a detailed schedule of your trip, and making sure you have access to all the necessary tools you might need to work remotely while still fulfilling your responsibilities.
1. Review Your Company’s Travel Policy
Many companies have travel policies, so before heading out on the road, you should know what guidelines apply to you while you are out of the office. Often referred to as Duty of Care, these policies outline how you should go about making travel reservations, what expenses can be billed back to the company, how often you will be expected to check in with your team, and anything else you company might require of you during your physical absence from the office. Reviewing these policies before leaving the office will give you a chance to get answers to any questions about your objectives, and reduce miscommunications with your team back in the office.
2. Optimize Your Out-of-Office Messages for Voicemail & Email
You don’t always know who will need your expertise when you’re OOO, so it’s important to establish a system for (1) informing others of your absence, (2) how you might be reached — if at all — during your absence from the office, and (3) who might be reached instead in case you cannot be. The idea, here, is to ensure that anyone who needs to reach you knows what to expect while you’re away, whether that means being a being a bit more patient while they wait for a response or reaching out to someone else who can help in case of emergencies.
3. Diligent Planning & Helpful Tools
Creating a schedule detailing who you will be communicating with, where you will be going, and when different engagements will be taking place will help you and colleagues determine how certain commitments can be met. The more preparation you do before leaving the office, the less chance you have of wasting your time with frustrations.
If you’re future meetings mean giving a presentation, prepare yourself by obtaining any tools you need (battery packs, hotspot connection, document printing, etc) before your meeting. If you’re told you will be leaving your city for a day or more, contact your mobile service provider about a travel package so you’re not worrying about exorbitant roaming or data charges.
Many mobile web applications allow you to book flights, private cars, and office space equipped with WiFi at the touch of a button via smartphone technology. Identifying which ones can be most useful to you and downloading them in advance will help you eliminate the need for paper documents and simultaneously ensure that you have all the information you need at your fingertips while in-transit.
4. Be Prepared to Network
Any gaps in your schedule permit you to increase your client base. Social media can inform you of networking events related to your industry which can result in creating prospective clients. Leave a day early if possible to give yourself time to schedule additional meetings or attend networking events. Any opportunity to experience new cities and cultures is rare and an envious position to be in so don’t stay in your hotel room if you can avoid it. Make the most of this time away from your post.
5. Returning to The Office
Compile your notes, meeting minutes, and any other research thoroughly before returning to the office. Reviewing the entirety of your time away will prepare you for any questions your team may have upon your return. You may also want to book meetings to provide them with a proper briefing of different findings or opportunities you encountered while you were away. The more attention you pay to independently managing your time away, the more your partners and colleagues will be willing to trust you with any deliverables they are relying on your for.