Is Work-Life Balance Possible for Business Travelers?

If you travel frequently for business like I do, you might find it difficult to maintain your sense of work-life balance.

For starters, the very fact that you’re traveling for work means that the work-life balance scale is starting to tilt more heavily on the “work” side.

But on top of that, I often have to scramble to get stuff done before I go…and then work seemingly twice as hard when I get back to catch up. I realize this may only happen to me, and is probably not something that you can relate to.

So not only am I gone for a few days or a week, but I can tend to be “gone” a few days before and after the trip too…”gone” mentally, anyway, if not physically.

I’ve been thinking about work-life balance for business travelers quite a bit, because I’m not so happy with how things have been going for me.

Here are my problems (well, not all of my problems, just some that pertain to work-life balance when traveling):

  1. I knew I traveled a lot at times, but didn’t really think about how much. I guess the fact that I re-qualified for Priority Club’s Platinum level for all of 2011 – by June of 2010 – should have been a clue.  That’s a lot of nights away from my family.  Though there are some times when I can bring one kid, my wife, or everybody with me.
  2. I don’t always eat right. I tend to stay at Holiday Inn Express hotels a lot (hence the Priority Club Platinum status), and I’m a big fan of their cinnamon rolls.  So big, in fact, that I used to eat two of them.  Which caused me to become a “bigger” fan, if you know what I mean.  I curse the day I looked up the nutrition info online and discovered they have 410 calories and 22 grams of fat, though I guess I should be glad I found this out.  I always thought it was OK to eat just one (or two) because I don’t travel too often.  But I really do travel a lot at times, and the calories and fat can add up fast if I eat just one.  OK, two.  And that’s just breakfast…not to mention the other restaurant food I might eat while away from home.
  3. I don’t always exercise. Just about every hotel has an exercise room and a pool.  I’ll tend to use the pool quite a bit, but don’t always knock myself out to make it a real workout. And I don’t typically use the treadmill.
  4. Many of my trips are driving trips, and when I drive, I tend to drink a lot of pop (soda for you folks in the south) and McD’s Sweet Tea. I was gone six out of the last seven nights, and drove about 3,000 miles.  That’s a lot of time sitting on my you-know-what, drinking a lot of pop and sweet tea.
  5. I can get REALLY backed up on email when I travel.
  6. I can get behind on personal or home projects. And I’m really behind on some of these right now…and it’s costing me money, because of my travel.

Just by making this list, I can see the toll this travel is taking on my body and health.  Eating a lot of restaurant food, drinking all that pop, and not getting enough exercise, is not good.

I need to find some ways to bring more balance back to my life, and especially to the life areas of health and family, when I’m traveling.

Here are some thoughts I’ve come up with:

  1. Be sure to make enough deposits before I withdraw. By this I mean that I can plan ahead and spend more time with my family, and more time exercising, before I go away on a trip.  I think I’m pretty good, at times, in connecting in meaningful ways with my family before I leave on a trip. But I’m sure I can do better.  And I know I can do better at exercising more before I go!
  2. Ask my family “How am I doing?” more often. I got this idea from Ed Koch, former mayor of New York City, who was famous for going around town asking, “How am I doing?” of just about everyone he met. If I ask them, my wife and kids can tell me if they that I’m connecting enough with them before I go, and even during trips.
  3. Make exercise a priority. Most times, there’s no reason why I can’t run on a hotel treadmill for a half an hour.  And in good weather, if I have the time and transportation, there’s no reason I can’t find a trail to hike, which is something I enjoy doing when I can.
  4. Decide in advance what food options are good for me, and keep track of what I eat. I’ve realized that I could have a cinnamon roll just once during a trip, instead of having one (OK, or two) every morning.  And I could decide ahead of time what kinds of food are good options for me when traveling.  On my trip last week, I ate Subway almost every day for lunch, which I think was a pretty good choice.
  5. Drink more water. I tried to drink more water on this last trip, I really did.  But Coke habits are hard to break. I’m 40 years old, and I can remember when you didn’t have to pay to drink water.  So if I have to pay for something to drink, it may as well have sugar in it too.  One tip I’ve learned is that I can stop into any grocery store, or Target or WalMart, and buy a gallon of drinking water for anywhere from 60 cents to $1.09.  Might not be cold, but it is MUCH cheaper than buying one of those tiny bottles of water for $1.00!
  6. Plan ahead more at work. I know I’ve got to think farther down the road, and not put off certain things or projects until the last minute when I’m about to hit the road.  And I know I can delegate more of my work to others.

These are some of the things I’ve been thinking about regarding maintaining a more balanced life while traveling for business.  What else would you add?

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Top 10 Happiest Holiday Retailers

CareerBliss made a list (and checked it twice) of the Top 10 Happiest Holiday Retailers for 2010.  Costco tops the list.

The report is based on almost 100,000 independent company reviews submitted by visitors to to evaluate levels of current and past employee happiness in the following categories:  growth opportunity, compensation, benefits, work-life balance, career advancement, senior management, job security, and whether the employee would recommend their company to others.

2010 Ten Happiest Holiday Retail Employers

Retailer Happiness Rating*
Costco 3.84
Nordstrom 3.76
Old Navy 3.48
Best Buy 3.40
Lowe’s Home Improvement 3.35
The Home Depot 3.29
Sam’s Club 3.27
Target 3.27
Victoria’s Secret 3.24
PetSmart 3.17

According to the CareerBliss report, a key driver of employee happiness is compensation, but it is not the only factor that drives job satisfaction levels. [Read more…]

Best Adoption Friendly Workplaces in 2010

As you’ve probably figured out by now if you’ve been here a while, I’m a fan of “top 10” or “best of” lists, like the Working Mother’s Best Companies to Work For, the Ten Best Employers for Work Life Balance in 2010, etc.  Both of those highlight the best companies that promote a healthy work-life balance for their employees.

The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption has released a list I’d never heard of before: the Best Adoption-Friendly Workplaces in 2010, just in time for National Adoption Awareness Day which is November 20.

This list highlights 100 employers in America that offer the best adoption benefits to their employees.  The rankings are based on the maximum amount of financial aid or reimbursement that is offered, along with the amount of paid time off given to employees when they adopt.

The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption was founded by the late Dave Thomas, who also founded the Wendy’s fast food chain.  Interestingly, and appropriately, Wendy’s/Arby’s Group Inc. tops the list as the most adoption-friendly company in America.

Here’s the list of the Top 10 Adoption-Friendly Companies in America: [Read more…]

Should We Keep Going Until We Stop?

It is tragically ironic to me that some people, while working so hard day after day and year after year to provide for their family and achieve their goals and dreams, start to lose their sense of margin and life balance in the process.

They end up hurting their relationships with – or even lose – the people they were supposedly doing it all for.

It’s a tension I am mindful of nearly every day.

Why?  Because it’s easy to work, perform and achieve.  And harder to rest, cultivate and be.

Frugal Dad & Man vs. Debt turned me on to a video by Scott Stratten which will serve as a wake-up call or dashboard warning light to anyone who, like me, struggles at times to maintain adequate margin and rest in our lives.

It runs about 15 minutes, and was recorded at the TEDx event in Oakville, Ontario, Canada last month. (I’m really beginning to love these TED and TEDx talks.)

I laughed.  I cried.  It moved me.  What about you?

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Work-Life Balance a Misnomer Says Kraft CEO

Kraft CEO Irene Rosenfeld said work-life balance is a “misnomer” in a recent interview in Forbes.

In response to Steve Forbes’ question of how she, as one of the most powerful female business leaders in the world, balanced work and family, Ms. Rosenfeld said:

You know, I think the notion of balance is a little bit of a misnomer.

I think you have this sense that there is this scale and every day and everything is just perfect. The reality is that it kind of goes like this or like that. And so I think what my advice to young women and men–because I think, increasingly, we’re finding that the young men in the company are much more active fathers than, perhaps, the generation that preceded them–my advice to them is to figure out what’s important to you and make sure that you take advantage of that.

So if there’s an important event in your child’s life or there is something that you need to do, do it. I think you can do it within the context of your business responsibilities. I think you can do it by working it out with your boss. But don’t come to regret having missed some of these hallmark events. But you can’t do all of them, and I think making some of those choices is important.

I’m curious as to how she got the idea that work-life balance ever meant that “every day and everything is just perfect.” Are there people out there somewhere who are teaching that?  Personally, I’ve never thought that work-life balance equals perfections, or that it should be measured on a daily basis – have you? [Read more…]

Working Mother – Top 10 Best Companies to Work For

In my last post, Working Mother – 100 Best Companies to Work For, I wrote about Working Mother magazine’s just-released 2010 list of the best companies in America, based on all the things they do to help working moms balance home and work.

Today, I’m featuring the Top 10 List from Working Mother’s Best Companies for 2010, along with an excerpt from Working Mother which describes why they received top ranking for work-life balance:

  • Bank of America – Mothers enrolled in its My Work program may log in from home or a satellite office, whichever is more convenient; as of 2009, more than 16,000 associates had signed up for the option, and 94% said it made them more productive. Under the Select Time program, employees who need more flexibility may temporarily switch to a part time schedule and ramp back up when work demands.
  • Deloitte – A new sabbatical program offered by this professional services organization grants employees four unpaid weeks off to do anything they like (climb Everest, hang with kids), or three to six partially paid months off to volunteer or pursue career-enhancing opportunities. Women make up 57% of those who go on sabbaticals; if they want longer breaks, they may take up to five years off. But there are plenty of reasons to stay put, including health insurance that’s available to anyone who works 20 hours per week, up to $10,000 in annual tuition aid for job-related courses and a parental leave policy that gives birth moms 14 fully paid weeks off, with eight paid weeks for primary adoptive caregivers. [Read more…]