I have enjoyed working from home since Covid 19’s various lockdowns and the expectations of me to travel for work were one of the few benefits of the pandemic. Now that travel is resuming for holidays, I'm worried that the day is coming that travel will resume for business and for work again. I have a young family and quite enjoy being at home and not having to travel to the office or travel overseas for work. Should I start thinking of how to manage these expectations to once again travel so that I am ready when this might happen again?
Happy at Home Working Mother
Dear Happy at Home Working Mother,
There seem to be two camps when it comes to traveling these days: Those that can’t wait to get back out there and get away from the places they’ve been stuck in for the past year and a half, and those that are quite content with the lack of travel and would like things to continue as they are. In your case, you have an extra layer of a young family which typically requires a bit more time, attention, and support. It’s completely understandable that you would want to limit your travel in the future. So how do we set expectations here?
I would first assess how much travel you are willing and/or able to do and second, the amount of travel your role has typically required. This second piece may be a bit more difficult to answer as we are living in a very different world now, but start with what it used to look like. Once you have that, think about how much travel you think is really necessary now? Pre-pandemic, many business trips were required as they were key to building relationships. In this post-pandemic world, however, this isn’t necessarily the case. While an in-person meeting, in my mind, will always trump a virtual one, that doesn’t mean that EVERY meeting needs to be in-person. Every organization is reimagining what business travel looks like. The ability and what’s become almost second nature of connecting virtually for many fields is making it so organizations can save not only money but also time. It’s much easier and efficient to jump on an hour-long Zoom call, than to fly for 5 hours, rent a car, spend a night at a hotel, expense meals, risk exposure to COVID, etc. for an hour-long in-person meeting. I would say you could make quite the business, financial, and health case for not traveling in certain situations.
After you have done some basic analysis, try to gauge the direction that your organization is going in. Do you think the expectation is that travel will ramp back up again? Talk to your supervisor about what they think. If the organization is really going to limit travel then that’s a good sign and will hopefully work for you. If they aren’t, however, or if they haven’t decided, it’s going to be really important to start having discussions about what you would like sooner rather than later. Explain your situation and how you would like to reduce the amount of travel. Are there practical ways to reduce travel because of the remote space we naturally find ourselves in? Perhaps another colleague is willing or even eager to take on some of that in your place. Is there a way to adjust your official role to have less travel? Perhaps now is the time to consider other roles within the organization or outside the organization if it isn’t meeting your needs. The key is having a clear understanding of what you’re willing to do, what your role entails, and to communicate with your supervisor around this. Ideally, you will be able to make a case for an adjustment and if not, then you’ll have to decide what your priorities are and potentially adjust your expectations to jumping back onto a plane.
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Please note: This response is provided for informational purposes only. The information contained herein is not legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice or legal opinions of a licensed professional. Contact a personal attorney or licensed professional to obtain appropriate legal advice or professional counseling with respect to any particular issue or problem.