Business travel survival: How to handle long periods away

Sam McKeith

When it comes to business travel, Angela Ferguson is one serious jetsetter.

The managing director of Futurespace spends long stretches away from Australia throughout the year, regularly making the jump to Asia, the US and Europe.

The internationally renowned designer and businesswoman shares her five big tips on staying fresh and super productive on the road.

Manage expectations

Achieving your business objectives while travelling is about staying focused and calm, Ferguson says. That means doing your prep before you get in the air.

“Set your out of office email to say you’ll be travelling and slow to respond and let clients know a week or two prior that you’ll be travelling so they have plenty of time to meet face-to-face before you go,” she says.

“Work out who is going to step in during your absence if something needs to be done in person and have their details on your out of office email.”

Use time zones to your advantage

Travelling in various time zones can knock your body around with jet lag, but it can also “be a blessing” for getting work done efficiently, Ferguson says.

“Depending on where you are the time difference means your staff can work on things during the day, then you can review and/or add to overnight,” she says.

“It can actually be more efficient than if you were both in the same time zone sometimes, and even a two hour time difference can be used to your advantage.”

Look after yourself

Ferguson’s big piece of advice here: don’t push too hard.

“Not stopping to rest or eat for me invariably ends up in illness,” the designer says.

“I usually take an hour or so in the afternoons to recharge and do something non-work related that is going to give me the energy to keep going through until late in the evening.  This could be reading a novel, taking a swim in the hotel pool, or simply resting or meditating.

“Some of my trips average 20,000 steps a day or more, and so good walking shoes are also a must.

“Melatonin also helps regulate sleep and wake cycles. I take it as a supplement and I find it helps enormously with jet lag both when I land overseas and when I return home.”

Don’t get drunk

This is Ferguson’s big no-no for business travellers, no matter how tempting a boozy night out can sometimes be.

“Getting drunk – and being hungover – means you can miss whole days of a trip. When every moment counts this can be a wasted opportunity,” she adds.

“I also find that being drunk in a professional environment is not really conducive to getting business done or building great relationships.” 

Make time for family

For Ferguson, a big part of keeping your spirits up while away on business is about keeping connected with home.

She says a good strategy here is to set up times to Skype with loved ones and make sure to build them into your travel itinerary.

“Typically when I am away though we will Skype at a prearranged time,” she says.

“Skype works so well for us because it makes the distance seem so much shorter, although it can feel like a bit of a time warp when you’ve just got home from a late dinner and your family are having breakfast about to start the day.”

Sam McKeith

Sam McKeith is Sydney-based media professional. He has contributed to many leading publications including The Huffington Post, The Australian Financial Review, The Australian and BRW Magazine. He was previously a senior reporter at the Australian Associated Press where he covered national affairs. 

Image: mrhayata, Flickr Creative Commons License