I have a business trip to Surreynext week and I must say I am not quite so excited. For one thing, it is going to be cold and rainy. I can stand cold or rainy, just not both together please.
There are typically two reactions to business travel in the company, and the reactions are divided almost purely by seniority. The younger, more junior engineers are typically most excited at any chance they get to travel on the company’s dime, regardless of destinations. Yet, these guys are normally the ones passed over for travel as they are usually not crucial to overseas discussions. When one gets senior enough, the trips seem to never stop coming, but the senior staff will try and get out of it as much as possible.
I guess I belong to the senior group now.
Financially, business travel is good for the pocket. All accommodation, transport and business entertainment expenses are of course paid for. For food, we can either get reimbursement by receipt or opt for per diem. I normally go for per diem to earn some easy cash. I usually buy some bread for breakfast when I am overseas, and working lunches are normally provided by our hosts. I usually get myself fast food takeaways for dinner, as I dislike having to dress up and go eat at a formal restaurant. Jet lag and lingering over food do not mix, unfortunately. I can easily net $50 to 80 per day just from per diem reimbursement.
However, something that has been getting my goat with regards to business travel is this: The company sees travelling during working hours as a waste of time and money on the company’s part. We are therefore frequently asked to fly on weekends, so that the flight time spent is ours. We are also mostly put on midnight flights so that we can still come to work during the day and we almost always land within a few hours of the meeting start, so that we can go directly into meetings.
I especially hate that last point when we have top level bosses traveling with us because they always have the attitude that if they can do it (when they are so busy and important as heck), we should have no complaints. Then they trod off happily to their business class seats while we working stiffs have to trudge off to our sardine packed economy ones. They have a good lie-down sleep the entire flight and emerge bushy tailed and bright eyes and chirp “See, that wasn’t so bad, was it?”, while we struggle with body aches and sleepiness and urges to brain them with their LV luggage.
And how about reaching home at dawn from a business trip from Europe, and being expected to be present in the office after lunch the same day?
I also read with envy other people extending their business trips for personal holidays. There is an unwritten rule in the company that this is not allowed. Somehow, the people in charge abhor having to contribute even partially to our enjoyment, even though they have to pay for the roundtrip air fare anyway. We consider ourselves lucky if we manage to finagle half a day here and there for a quick city bus tour.
In my 20s, I thought business trips, even with the above constraints, were better than nothing. Now in my 30s, I would rather stay at home than make these rushed and meaningless trips.
Last May, I had to make a 3 week trip to North America andBerlin, and everyone around me was envious. I couldn’t make myself confess that I spent most of my free days off sleeping in the hotel because I was so jet lagged, so I made up some stories about where I visited and what I had seen. With the internet, that’s not so hard to do. 🙂
Anyway, the Surrey trip looks to be more of the same. I am hoping that those gorgeous Brit accents will at least alleviate some of the misery.