Business Travel : Management in Motion – Graceful Globetrotting

The nature of New Zealand business has changed significantly over the past 20 years with much of it now conducted in global context. The need for overseas business travel has increased dramatically so that for some managers and other personnel, jet-setting is now standard way of life.
It might sound exciting, but what does it really take to manage business travel successfully?
While it has traditionally been seen as perk, the growing frequency of business travel presents new challenges. In the past five years, overseas business travel from New Zealand has increased by almost 25 percent. Some managers now even base themselves in several countries, managing regionally, within Asia-Pacific for instance. These changes have an impact not only on management and working style, but also on the way in which business travellers manage their personal lives including family, friendships and health.
In this article NZ Management speaks to four jet-setting individuals who travel for work. One thing we discover is that successful business travel depends, first and foremost, on how well one manages oneself.
Vaughan Scott, seasoned TVNZ cameraman and now director of Create Business, has changed his view on business travel over career that has seen lot of it.
“There is glamour attached to it but when you’ve been doing it for while, you don’t see it as being glamorous – it’s just what you do.”
Scott has been travelling overseas for work for 40 years now and on the whole has enjoyed the experience. “I chose to pursue that aspect of work which would take me away,” Scott explains. “I am very interested in world events.”
For the past eight years Michelle Pissaro has travelled extensively in her role as business developer for globally based software company. Pissaro explains that one of the best parts of the job is that you “get to travel to places that you may not necessarily be able to afford the time or the money to see”.
Hamish Guild is the executive general manager for technical services with Downer EDI for both New Zealand and Australia. He has commuted between the two countries in this role for two years and feels positive about the travel component of his work. “Travel for work makes things more interesting. It gives you broader outlook. You learn great deal because it opens up the business stage. You learn different approaches to business. Also, you build wider network which is hugely useful.”
While travelling to new places and meeting new people can be exciting, it comes with certain challenges. Pissaro explains for instance that travel for work can result in “a transient lifestyle”. Business travel makes “it hard to set routines and make plans for your personal life”, he says.
That’s an aspect of business travel that Sunshine Yates, co-director of Waste Not Consulting, struggles with. She travels extensively for work, mostly within New Zealand and while she enjoys visiting different cities, she does find that “travel takes huge toll on one’s personal and health life”. It is, she says, case of “learning how to manage in the best possible way for your own sanity”.
So how do individuals best manage business travel?
Advances in communication technology make keeping in touch with family and friends while away lot easier than it once was. Says Scott: “It is great if your company is flexible with phone calls home. And texting is great now. You also have CHAT and SKYPE more recently. Times are changing, one is more able to communicate on daily basis.”
Regarding relationships, one key message coming through from Scott, Guild and Pissaro was that being successful as business traveller and at home as partner and parent, depends on the support of one’s partner. In his four decades of travel, Scott has also been helping to raise six children. “If you are married, you have to have good stable relationship and have partner who is happy that you travel,” he says. “My wife has been the strength of our family when I’m away.”
Guild believes business travel has to be acceptable to all the family and something that everyone enters into. “You can’t hoist it on to relationship,” he says. “You have to pointedly commit to this way of life.”
You also need to be careful not to let travel rule everything, he warns. “A meeting can become suddenly so important. You can say to yourself, ‘once I am through this deal then things will settle down again’, but of course they never do. You need to have rules agreed with your company and stick to them. You need to be mindful, vigilant, all the time, otherwise things can escalate and you end up with long absences.”
Pissaro has found it very difficult to maintain romantic relationship given the nature of her work. She can be away more often than at home, sometimes for up to five weeks at time. “A job involving travel is great if you are young, free and single. Or, older with grown family and have partner who is understanding. If you are looking to meet someone, then job with 80 percent travel is not going to help your cause.”
It is not all challenging when it comes to relationships however. Guild argues that travel for work can have positive impact on family relationships and friendships. “Travel is an opportunity as well,” he says. “For the most part people who travel to Australia for work know other people overseas in Australia. So, it is an opportunity to keep those friendships alive as well, which would be difficult without the work travel I do.”
And, he adds, you can also use your air points to travel with family, which is bonus.
All four mentioned health as key issue when travelling for work. Some of the health downsides include eating extensively at restaurants, breaks in fitness regimes, sleep issues and the danger of getting severely run down.
For Guild, the health issue requires quite bit of work. “You need to be very aware of your diet. At Downer they had programme at work not specifically on travel, but which covered travel. It covered some specific advice on fitness routines when travelling and eating at restaurants. It was really useful.”
Pissaro has spent the past eight years trying to find the best approach to jet lag, diet and fitness whilst travelling. Her suggestions include maximum of one alcoholic drink per flight and keeping up fluids by drinking adequate amounts of water. She will also occasionally take sleeping pills on 24-hour flights and avoids overeating in restaurants by giving herself “two-course cap”. For exercise she tries to go to the gym, if the hotel has one, most days for light workout. “Even 20 minutes on an exercise bike is enough,” she says.
Working out of suitcase or between offices can definitely impact on working and management styles. But this does have some positive pay-offs. Guild has responsibility for around 2000 employees in Australia and New Zealand. He believes that being travelling manager can benefit both him and his staff. “Being away empowers your managers to step up and manage in your absence. It can be good for them and also one’s own professional development. You learn to be very clear on communicating the vision and building the capability of individuals to be able to develop their ability to manage on their own.”
Pissaro believes that through work travel she has developed “the ability to deal calmly with constantly changing circumstances”. In terms of her working style, she tends to work in short bursts and get all tasks completed from her ‘to-do’ list during the downtime in the office. She says that the reason for this is that she could be called upon to travel the next day. “So I cannot always plan to have consistent time in the office to complete tasks.”
Both Guild and Scott believe that business travel can make your work more interesting. It is “a much bigger business”, explains Guild. “Your environment changes,” comments Scott. “You tend to be more enthusiastic about work when you are away, so it is not boring. There are often more expectations and demand

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