Travel. A necessary evil or an outdated activity?

One common complaint that I hear when I’m amongst other Project Management colleagues is complaining about their travel regimes or the amount that they need to travel. This isn’t just about the length of the journey but also the ‘waste’ of time when it could be more efficiently used.

What’s the problem?

In most countries, traffic is becoming more of a problem. Delays, traffic jams, cancellation and weather mean that we’re on the road for longer, we’re away from our work for longer and it causes stress, tiredness and impact on the environment. There are predictions that it’s only going to get worse for the amount of time we spend in peak hour traffic but the real question is: Is it necessary?

2019-05-10 19_29_17-Vehicle in Road at Golden Hour · Free Stock Photo

Is travel really required?

If you’re involved in technology or working with teams located in other locations, you might be asking if you really need to travel? I strongly recommend that if you have remote teams to visit them / arrange for them to visit you on a regular basis. This helps build a team but also helps you maintain the relationship when you’re working remotely.

What Technology can you use?

I’m a huge fan of online collaboration tools! In previous projects we’ve used:

Using online collaboration tools can really help you maintain the communication lines with your remote teams and it can also help you keep track of the conversations that are being held/discussed.

The case for Flex-working:

Depending on the job there are a lot of companies now that are supporting and moving towards a ‘Flex-working’ scheme which promotes working from home, travelling outside of peak hours and also changing your working days to less busy days. At a recent Project Manager gathering I asked how many of them were flex workers and they all said: Yes. They were all working flexible hours because it’s what the project /company needed.

Why you need to  be onsite:

The fundamental reason for me being onsite at a client or with my team is to build relationships and maintain them. I’m not more productive when I work onsite (normally it’s actually the opposite due to the constant interruptions that I get).

It’s important to realise that you do need to spend time building relationships and you will need to travel but there could be ways to minimise the impact. Quite often in my projects, I’ll try to spend a portion of my time at the start of a project working onsite to build relationships with the client/team and then have regular touch bases where I can be onsite / travel to location as needed.

How to travel and not lose your mind in traffic:

  • Travel outside of the peak hours. There are some motorways in the Netherlands which encourage you to not drive during the rush hour. This is a great initiative and if you can do it, would also help your flexible working day. I have a colleague who regularly starts at 7am so that he can avoid the traffic and will be finished work by 4pm giving him plenty of time to get back home before the rush hour evening traffic begins.
  • Podcasts: I find that I can easily sit in traffic if I’m listening to an interesting podcast. Comedy, an audio book or just an update on the news can make everything a little easier
  • Be productive! Can you do any of your meetings from the car? I normally try to keep ‘informal’ chats to within the car environment to minimise the impact of the noise/possible loss of signal but it really helps to spend some time catching up with the team/ colleagues over the phone.
  • Car-pool! Do you have colleagues going to the same destination? Could you cut the driving in half and relax/work on the way?
  • Do you need to use the car? Could you use other forms of transport to get to your destination? (e.g. train, plane, car, bike).

How to work effectively whilst travelling:

If you spend more of your time in a hotel bed than your own bed, you may appreciate/value some of these tips:

  • Utilise the time waiting: When travelling (and especially in airports), you can lose hours to waiting around or waiting for connections.  I recommend using lounges/quiet areas to work where you can work on email/write documents etc. I have found my time in an aeroplane to be one of the most effective uses of my time as my email is turned off and I can focus!
  • Use your timezone efficiently: I used to work with a Project Manager who was based in San Francisco but often worked in New York. They would use the time difference to their advantage in scheduling meetings / working outside of the other timezone.
  • Look at your tools: One of the greatest investments I’ve made has been noise cancelling headphones. They are invaluable when i’m travelling for reducing the noise but also giving me the ability to listen/focus to videos/ trainings that I may need to cover. Your tools not only cover the items that you use on a daily basis but could also be things that make your life easier, such as: power banks, blue-light glasses etc.
  • Check your hotel options: Many hotels will have a working spot that you can use or have the option for faster internet. This can be great if you’re holding/viewing video conferences and need a reliable connection.

What technology do you use to keep in touch with your remote teams? Are you a flex worker? What do you do to minimise the road rage of being stuck in traffic?

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