How Business Travelers Can Stay Productive While Working From Home

Working from home is a major adjustment for business travelers. But if you maintain your routine, organize an office space, communicate effectively, and keep detailed tasks you'll be productive.

Young man works on laptop in home kitchen

Travel Tips Published March 23, 2020   |   3 minute read

The spread of COVID-19 has brought non-essential travel to a halt. Business travelers, in particular, have had their itineraries for the coming weeks and possibly months changed in a matter of days. They’ve gone from spending significant time on the road to working from home (WFH). And that’s not ideal, regardless of the circumstances.

First, we encourage everyone to stay safe. Follow updates and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), and your local governments.

Second, make a plan to stay productive at home and stick to it. That involves creating a quality office space, detailing—while remaining flexible on—daily tasks, maintaining your routine, and communicating effectively.

 

What should your home office look like?

Let’s start with this: Your home office doesn’t have to be an office proper. If you have the luxury of an extra room, that’s great. But converting a corner of a room, or setting aside table space, can be just as effective.

Whatever it is, make it your own. Set up pictures, trinkets, and books around your computer as you would in a regular office.

Here are some other things for you to consider for your home office:

  • Have plants (small desk plants or bigger ones) nearby, as they may have mental health benefits. (If nothing else, they look nice.)
  • Set up near natural light. If that’s not possible, make it a point to step outside from time to time. Lamps are a great addition as well.
  • Order vinyl wall stickers of your company logo, so they’re visible on video calls.
  • Purchase a portable whiteboard to keep track of tasks. (It’s also good for doodling during breaks.)

Don’t be afraid to ask around, either. Different people like different setups, so solicit tips from your colleagues, clients, and friends to help mold your new workspace.

 

Detail daily tasks (and be flexible.)

This is the balance you must find working from home, especially when so many others are in the same boat: Be detailed and flexible when mapping out your day. Things change quickly, and that small aside you’d have in your office is now an email or a phone call. The happy hour you’d attend for networking purposes is no more.

How do you make up for that absence? By prioritizing your tasks with breaks built in. Those breaks could be for leisure purposes or engaging with colleagues as you normally would during work hours.

For instance, you may start your day with three tasks that you need to complete. You could detail time deadlines for each, with gaps in between for anything that comes up. If nothing does, use the opportunity to check in with clients or colleagues.

And if you’re going a bit stir crazy without the aforementioned happy hour, suggest starting a book club, or streaming a new show with your pals. Crack a beer after work and discuss away. Just because you’re not traveling doesn’t mean bleisure no longer exists.

 

Maintain your normal routine.

You’ll likely hear this advice more than any other as it pertains to working from home: Maintain your normal routine. That’s trickier for business travelers, whose routines involve going from the airport to the hotel to the convention center and back.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow the advice. Wake up, shower, and put on business clothes as you would any other day. If you’re a suit-and-tie person on the road, be a suit-and-tie person at home (at least during business hours). If you like to grab Starbucks before starting your day, find one near you.

It’s the new norm, and the more you mimic your actual work setting, the quicker you’ll adapt.

 

Communicate effectively.

Business travelers and corporate travel managers prefer face-to-face meetings. People who work from home regularly prefer email as their primary form of communication. That’s something you may have to adjust to.

Start with an email when reaching out to a client you planned to meet, and be mindful of tone—Grammarly is a useful app here—as your intent could get lost otherwise. After all, people are understandably on edge. Go out of your way to make sure you recognize the situation and offer flexibility: You're fine talking after work hours; you're open to video calls; you don't mind a delayed response. 

For internal communications, Asana and Slack are two apps to facilitate teamwork and productivity while you're working from home. If your company doesn't use them yet, consider getting them. 

It's also good practice to follow your clients' social media pages. In times of crisis, that's often where you'll find the latest updates. Besides, their posts can let you know when to send that email or make that phone call at an appropriate time. 

Whether you stay at your house is short or long term, productiveness in any setting is a useful skill. And when it comes time to resume your business travels, you know you can go home again. 

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