How to travel with colleagues to off-site meetings without awkwardness

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Traveling on business can be a mix of work and pleasure. It’s always nice to get out of the office, but being away from home does have its disadvantages.

Another piece of the business-travel puzzle involves traveling with co-workers. 

It can be a balancing act to be professional and courteous while not getting on one another’s nerves.

Here are some expert tips on how to keep the awkwardness to a minimum and productivity to a maximum.

Maintain boundaries when going and coming

Don’t expect to be conversing the entire time you’re en route to your meetings. “If you’re traveling on a plane or train, bring a book or headphones so you and your coworker don’t feel obligated to hold a conversation the whole time,” suggests Rhiannon Staples, chief marketing officer of Hibob, a leading online HR platform.

“Use the time for yourself to relax or read materials you may need to familiarize yourself with ahead of the event you’re attending.”

Practice phone etiquette

Phones are quickly becoming a social barrier for people – and when you’re traveling for business the same courtesy rules should apply.

If you’re out for a meal with work colleagues to discuss the business at hand, and one person is continuously scrolling on a phone, awkwardness can easily creep into the picture.

It may be worth setting ground rules that phone use will be limited if discussing company business.

“If you don’t make a clear plan, one person could be playing with their phone when the other has expectations to chat, which causes a mismatch,” says Michael Alexis, CEO of Team Building

Establish some private downtime

Having an itinerary for business is expected, but be sure to carve out private time during the trip to break up the together time. “The key to traveling together without getting on anyone’s nerves is to designate some aspects of your day to yourself,” says Deborah Sweeney, CEO, of MyCorporation.com.

“Stay in separate hotel rooms where you can head back for a break. If you’re attending a networking event together, make it a point to split up and mingle throughout the space on your own instead of walking around glued to the hip of your colleague.” 

Limit the alcohol

It may be tempting to head to the hotel bar at the end of a long day of meetings, but reconsider that. You’re there for work and don’t want to give the wrong impression to a colleague. It’s OK to meet for a drink, but don’t let the bar tab get out of hand.

Don’t be overbearing 

It’s not necessary to keep tabs on the person you’re traveling with; they are an adult and can manage their own schedule.

It can be insulting to hound them to make sure they are on time for the meeting or remind them of details. It can also be awkward to ask to spend all evening with them. Some people like to wind down after a day of meetings and welcome alone time. 

Keep the time together professional

A prime rule is to always keep conversations professional and work-related.

“Sometimes when colleagues are out of their usual office environment, conversation topics or tones tend to change. As a good tip, try and pretend as though you are still In that ‘office environment’  and only mention or say things you would say around your manager or boss while at work,” says Staples of Hibob.

“Remember to avoid taboo topics such as political commentary and opinions, religion, or delicate personal matters.”

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