UK: Literally travel-sick blues. When can the business traveller say 'enough is enough'?

UK: Literally travel-sick blues. When can the business traveller say 'enough is enough'? - With the big players in the business world moving towards global lines of operation, executives are busy globetrotting. Business travellers are making up to 15% m

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

With the big players in the business world moving towards global lines of operation, executives are busy globetrotting. Business travellers are making up to 15% more trips than a year ago. The constant time zone changes, time wasted in transit and frequent delays wear down many. What can the weary executive do to alleviate the downside of business travel? And under what circumstances can he or she simply say 'no' when asked to go on yet another trip?

Travel seems glamorous and desirable only to those who don't have to do it, according to many of those who do. 'There are few advantages to frequent travel for the individual,' admits Nick Hurrell, director of business development at travel management company Hogg Robinson. 'What makes it bearable are the little things, like having someone to park your car at the airport and meet you on arrival; any way to avoid queueing is a boon, as is the use of an executive lounge at airports.'

Aside from the perks, minimising the nights spent away is another obvious answer to those sick of airports. Business travel agent Mike Carrivick, managing director of Maersk DFDS Travel, says: 'You see haggard executives in airports, having got up at 4.30am and not due back at home till 10pm, but they'd rather do the trip in a day than stay away overnight. Saves money on accommodation, too.'

Chris Jonas and his family suffer exceptionally from travel commitments. As chairman of Quest Refrigeration, he is away once a month, for a week at a time. His wife and son - director and export manager respectively - travel too, but at different times, 'so we don't see much of each other at all,' he admits. As Jonas sees it, if he wants the sales, there is no alternative to the grind of business travel.

At least as chairman, Jonas gets to keep his job if he decides that he can't bear another trip. For most over-travelled employees, however, quitting the post is often the only option. But employers have to be careful not to make unreasonable demands if there are no clear provisions in the contract, warns Sue Nickson, employment specialist with lawyers Hammond Suddards, 'or else they could be at risk of constructive dismissal claims'.

Kevin Jaquiss, employment partner with solicitors Slater Heelis, says that recruits can try to limit the number of nights they will be contractually required to be away, 'but in practice only those senior enough to have negotiating power will get away with it'.

Steve Ingham, at recruitment specialists Michael Page, thinks that the issue of travel figures less in contracts but should certainly be discussed with a prospective employee at the interview stage. 'The employer should make it clear if the job entails frequent travel that if candidates don't want to travel, they don't want the job,' he says.

Amid all the jet-lagged misery there is, it seems, one man who still actually enjoys the whole process of travelling. Martin Holland, procurement director for Allied Domecq finds himself away for two or three days a week. In the last five weeks he has been to Mexico, France, Canada, Spain, Scotland and the US. 'Even after all these years, I find airports quite exciting. Mind you, I go to interesting places.' He does see limits to his enjoyment, however. 'If I had to travel from London to Amsterdam every week, I think I'd get terribly bored.'.

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