By Robert McGarvey
A survey from Jos. A. Bank, the clothier, offers up some of the most insightful data about business travel that I can recall seeing – starting with how little free time we have on a trip.
Per Jos. A. Bank we get about two hours a day of free time – and we log 14 hour work days. Which is pretty much my personal reality on business trips.
As for the free time it amounts to one hour, fifty-five minutes daily for exploring the city, networking, etc. The rest of the day is prescribed – meetings, meals, and the other activities that fill days on the road.
It’s a bleak picture. But also spot on.
Color me surprised by the accuracy of this portrait and, no, I’ve never shopped at Jos. A. Bank.
But I devour data about business travel and most of it, much of the time seems fictitious.
Yes, Jos. A. Bank is shilling suits – the survey even served up silliness such as this quote attributed to company president Mary Beth Blake: “While traveling for business can yield some unexpected obstacles, the one thing you should be able to rely on is your suit.”
It also noted that we fret about our clothes on road. 57% of us, said Jos. A. Bank, “have trouble keeping their clothes and suits tidy and unwrinkled while on a trip.”
Uh, okay, sure. (And, nope, I can’t recall worrying about wrinkles on the road. But maybe I’m just a slob.)
Let’s move on because there are lots of other insights that are quite to the point.
46% of us complain about the hassles of dealing with airports.
39% worry about how to stay fit and healthy while traveling.
36% say living out of a suitcase is a challenge.
And 34% say they work longer/harder on the road.
All sounds smart to me. Especially the observation that we work longer/harder when we travel. When I first started to travel on business, decades ago, business travel was a cake walk – and often we took off the day after we returned home, just to catch up with life on the homefront and nobody complained. Today is a very different environment. We fly out Sunday night (on our own time!) and basically are on the move from 8 a.m. Monday until we get home, typically late at night. It’s a grind and it’s tiring.
Why do we put up with it?
Partly because it may be mandatory. Also because there are benefits, tangible plusses to going on the road.
As for the benefits of business travel, Jos. A. Bank reports that we said we like air miles (48%) and hotel loyalty points (53%).
But the biggest single benefit – 56% of us say so – is seeing a new place.
And 55% like meeting people face to face.
49% say they enjoy good food and drink on the road. They must travel in different company than I because to me the best meal I get on the road often is an egg sandwich at Starbucks. I cannot recall the last good meal I had on a business trip and I am not complaining, just reporting reality. But, no, I don’t count hotel meeting food as “good.”
24% also said it “feels like a paid vacation” – and I really have to question that. Or, maybe, these poor souls go on really miserable vacations.
As for what we do with the limited free time we have on the road, 77% of us say we try out local restaurants. 67% say they explore the city.
Sift the data and a take-away is that, indeed, business travel is every bit as rugged as we believe it to be. Glamorous? Don’t jest.
But, somehow, when it’s done we have that sense of accomplishment. And it is deserved. Very much so. The data prove it.