those movies from the 1940s and '50s that showed Dad packing his suitcase,
kissing the family good-bye and cheerfully leaving on business? Mom
held down the home front, Dad earned money on the road, and everyone
lived happily ever after. Except they didn't -- at least, not in the
Jet lag, 14-plus hour days, a stressed-out spouse at home and cranky
children who miss their traveling mom or dad mean frayed nerves
and short tempers -- that's the reality for many of today's business
travelers, and something has to give.
Luckily, it has. Although many companies tightened their travel
policies during the recent economic downturn, they're once again
realizing that employees are their best investments.
To build loyalty and guard against burnout and turnover, many businesses
are offering ways to balance work and life among their traveling
workers, says Joyce Gioia, president of The Herman Group in Greensboro,
Here are some examples:
- Some companies let employees take their spouses along on business
travel. Some go even further, paying for accompanying spouses
- Some employers pay for extra phone calls so traveling workers
can stay in touch with those back home.
- Businesses are increasingly letting workers come back on Saturdays
rather than Sundays. The earlier return means employees can have
some family time before heading back to the office Monday morning.
The bottom line? Whether you're married or single, a parent or
childless, you can balance business travel with the rest of your
life. Here's a look at three professionals who do just that.
Joyce Gioia, president of The
Herman Group, a North Carolina company that specializes in employee
retention, future trends forecasting and workforce issues.
Gioia's travel schedule can be intense. Last fall, she traveled
almost nonstop for 2½ months. And while her three children are no
longer home, flexibility remains critical if she's going to perform
at her peak.
Her solution? Instead of booking evening flights when she goes
on business, Gioia leaves earlier in the day. That way, she can
get to her destination and relax before gearing up for the next
"My favorite thing to do is order room service and sit on the bed
and have a picnic and watch TV," she says. "I never get to watch
TV at home."
Traveling late in the morning or early in the afternoon can mean
savings for your company. That's because airfare for off-peak travel
is usually less expensive - music to any boss's ear.
Sure, Gioia is president of her own company, so it's easier for
her to build flexibility into her schedule. But her strategy can
work for anyone, she says.
Naomi Schmuckler, human resources employee at a large, national
Schmuckler, a Maryland resident, spends 50 percent of her time
traveling up and down the East Coast. And with two small children
at home, balance is key.
"If I'm going to be gone at dinner time, then I try to stay home
for breakfast," she says. "I do a lot of the normal bedtime things,
but in the morning."
She also looks for ways to break up her travel schedule so she
has as much family time as possible. If, for instance, a trip includes
both 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. meetings, she'll split it over two days.
That way, she can leave home later on the first day, make the 5
p.m. meeting, get up early the next morning for her 7 a.m. appointment,
then return home.
And if she's going to a destination up to four hours away, she
drives. "It's so much more flexible," she says. "And if something
happens at home, I know I can get back."
Schmuckler has high praise for the balance her employer gives her.
But she fought for it even before accepting her current position.
When interviewing for her job, she was very clear about her need
for travel flexibility and asked specific questions: Could she devise
her own travel schedule, or would the company dictate it? Could
she work from home? Could she travel during working hours, or would
she have wait until the workday was over?
"I asked them about every imaginable computation in flexibility,"
she says, then laughs. "I think I interviewed them a lot more than
a lot of people do."
Gary Kushner, founder and president of Kushner
& Co., a national employee benefits consulting and administrative
company in Portage, MI.
Kushner's client base spans 33 states and three countries, so it's
easy to live out of a suitcase. But that isn't what he or his family
So early on, Kushner and his wife decided his travel would benefit
their three children, two of whom are now grown. Toward that end,
the couple built family vacations into Dad's travel schedule.
It's a formula they still follow. Today, many of Kushner's business
engagements fall on a Monday. Instead of flying solo that morning
or the night before, he books a Saturday flight, and the family
goes sightseeing. "You get to see a lot of the country that way."
It's a strategy employees throughout the United States are using.
According to the Travel Industry Association of America, 18 percent
of the combination business/pleasure trips in 2002 were by taken
adults traveling with children.
To sell your company on a business/family travel trip, Kushner
says, stress cost. Saturday airfare is cheaper than weekday travel.
Offer to cover any extra expenses for meals and lodging. Don't expect
the company to cover expenses for your family.
In other words, talk to your employer. If you want extra flexibility
in your business travel schedule, be honest -- both with your bosses
and with yourself.
"Why are you looking for flexibility?" Schmuckler asks. "Is it
because you want to spend more time enjoying yourself or by having
more balance, you'll be a better employee?"
If it's the latter, you're likely to benefit. After all, companies
want happy, energetic employees.
"It's a win-win," says Kushner. "And I think there are a lot of
these types of win-wins out there."
Susan Bowles is a business journalist based in Washington, DC.
She has 20 years journalism experience and has written for USA Today,
USATODAY.com, the Washington Post, the St. Petersburg Times and
The Palm Beach Post.