5 Reasons not to work when you travel for business

Do you know who you're sitting next to when you work?

Do you know who you’re sitting next to when you work on the go?

By Karen Adamedes. 

If you travel for business you know just how time consuming it can be.

The taxi to the airport, maybe drop off a bag, undress to get through security (well it feels like that some days), a quick coffee, board, the actual flight and then the convoluted process at the other end! Deplaning whilst your fellow passengers play a round of ‘wrestle-the-bag’ from the overhead locker, waiting for your luggage (if you’re not a bag wrestler) the line for a taxi, the trip to your destination listening to the cab driver on the phoneand hey presto, you’re where you need to be! My recent 30 minute flight from Sydney to Canberra took me just on 2 1/2 hours door to door – and that was a quick trip!

It’s no wonder that it can be tempting to make up for this ‘lost’ time and work on the plane (train or automobile!).

There are at least 5 good reasons why this is not a great idea – but I’m guessing this first one should be enough to convince you!

Think about this:

Reason 1: If they can read it, they can tweet it!

Or post it to Facebook. Or take a photo and Instagram, Pinterest or Tumblr suddenly become your unplanned go-to-market strategy.

No matter how confidential (or not) your work, or how discrete you think you are being, do you really want to chance it that others can see what you’re working on?

If it is confidential – the results could be disastrous. Do you know who is sitting next to you? Or across the aisle? Or nearby with a good view of your work? Do you know who they work for? Who their friends are? Not only do you not know everyone who might be able to see your work, you don’t know who they know! They may not be a direct competitor but they might think that whatever you are working on is interesting enough to mention to someone. And it may not get shared on social media, but it could become the topic for a coffee or at a weekend BBQ.

A friend of mine recently saw a branding strategy for a minor celebrity that one of their team was reviewing on a flight in full view. They may have been a minor celebrity but well-known enough that if it had been someone without integrity in the next seat it might very well have been leaked on the Internet rather than form the basis of our, “This is why we don’t work on planes” conversation. We regularly have this, along with one of our other soapbox topics, “That’s why you don’t have confidential meetings in coffee shops”.

[Sidebar story – waiting to get my lunch in an airport this week I heard an organizations strategy to field a political candidate to represent their interest being loudly and clearly discussed. I was a little unclear about exactly what organization they were from, but one of the guys was helpfully wearing a t-shirt that had their name embroidered over the pocket. Maybe they would like some publicity but I don’t think that was their plan. What exactly were they thinking?]

Anyway back to working when you travel, the bottom line is – if you wouldn’t tweet it or invite strangers into your office whilst you work – don’t work on it where others can see it!!

What’s the worst that can happen? You lose your competitive advantage? You disclose confidential information? You violate customer or employee privacy? You lose credibility? Is it worth the risk?

If you’re still not convinced, here’s a few other thoughts:

Reason 2: It’s Uncomfortable!

It really doesn’t matter how small your laptop – the combination of the size of your tray table, the recline on the seat in front, your bag under the seat in front (or worse overhead) does not make for an ideal ergonomic work space. Throw a coffee into the mix and you have a potential disaster on your hands!

Reason 3: You need to relax and recharge (sometime…why not now?)

‘Down time’ often leads to your best thinking. Switching off with a good book, trashy magazine (how else are you going to keep up with those Kardashian’s?), favorite movie or TV show can give you time to turn off and recharge. You’ll be more effective when you get back to work.

Reason 4: It’s a chance to learn something

If you can’t bring yourself to actually relax – there are other ways to recharge. Use this valuable time to read an article or business book to learn something or keep up-to-date. Airport book stores are full of business related material. When else are you going to get some uninterrupted time to read stuff?

Reason 5: You could miss the chance to talk to someone really interesting

Now don”t get me wrong, I’m not a plane (train or any other transport) talker. I am much more likely to opt for the music /games on my iPad combo but over the years of business travel I’ve chatted with pilots, business people and even a guy who had represented in Australia in curling at the Olympics (I know, we all laugh about it when the winter Olympics are on – but he was really interesting).

Delightful little interludes that help you practice your communication skills (It’s amazing how much you can learn when you ask the right questions) and give you a little bit bigger world view that the meetings that are likely book-ending your trip.

Personally, I don’t get as much time as I would like to listen to music, so reason no. 3 is enough to justify not working when I travel for business. But even if you’re not a music/TV/movie/trashy magazine lover – the fear of being tweeted should get you over the line!

The Career Tip To Go: Don’t work when you’re on the go!

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Make business meetings worthwhile with an agenda!

An agenda can help make your meeting worthwhile

An agenda can help make your meeting worthwhile

How many meetings do you go to in a month, week or even each day?

And how many of those are a joy to attend?

A really valuable use of your time? Where you feel that the organizer is well prepared and put some thought into the time they have asked you to devote to the meeting?

I’m guessing not all of them? In fact, I’ll say it’s likely to be very few of them? (Sad but probably true!)

Based on the general feedback about meetings – many are if not unorganized and a waste of time, at least considered to be not as useful and productive as they could be. (I’m being nice ‘meetings bloody meetings’ is a well searched term in Google – if that gives you any indication how people feel about them!)

Someone decides it’s a good idea to have a weekly meeting and everyone just rolls up. If there ever was a real purpose to the meeting it’s been long forgotten but the meeting is still scheduled as a “catch up”. And no one has put any time into preparation. Or someone wants an issue discussed so they invite everyone and anyone to attend and waste a lot of people’s time.

When it’s you who is responsible for setting up or running a meeting – you have the power to change all that! One of the ways you can do that is to have an agenda. It seems pretty basic…but how many meetings do you go to where there is not one?

Career Tip To Go: Prepare an agenda!

An agenda can make a real difference to how effective a meeting is and how people view you and your level of professionalism.

A meeting agenda should be sent in advance. You’re not holding a surprise party – it is a useful reminder about where the meeting is to be held, who will be there, when and for how long. More importantly though, it sets very clear expectations about the topic that is to be covered and what is expected to be achieved in this time. And provides notice about any preparation that needs to be done in advance.

Not only does this help others prepare for the meeting, it positively influences the perceptions about the meeting and the person responsible; you! The level of preparation you do for a meeting and how this demonstrates your understanding of the issues that are to be discussed and your respect for the time of the participants are all indicators of the likely value of the meeting and impact your credibility. (As well as helping you have a worthwhile meeting this seems like a pretty good reason to spend time on an agenda).

Even if there’s only a few people attending, it’s well worth the investment of a few minutes to prepare an agenda in advance, as opposed to scribbling something down as you walk into the room – or worse yet when you sit down at a table with a whole lot of expectant faces looking at you to lead off the discussion. (Yes guilty as charged I have done this when I’ve been busy and it never goes well!).

So with this in mind, here are some items to include on a meeting agenda:

What to include


Include the:

  • date
  • time
  • length of meeting
  • location, telephone and video link details
  • who will be attending – make sure you spell all names correctly (they won’t read anything else on there if you don’t!)
  • titles of participants – unless people work in the same immediate team, include the titles of people attending on the agenda. This helps other participants know who is attending and can also provide indications of the seniority level of attendees and the breadth of issues being covered. It will help others prepare – reminder, it’s not a surprise party.

Agenda Items

The agenda items should cover:

  • each topic to be discussed
  • how long each item has been allocated for discussion
  • who is speaking or leading the discussion
  • any outcomes / decisions that are required on the day.

Deciding on agenda items

As well as your own objectives for the meeting or the obvious items that need to be included – think about what other people’s expectations for the meeting are and what topics that they might think need to be included.

Another great tactic is to ask people what they want included (saves guessing!) This is particularly important if there are people more senior in the ranks, or representatives from another company or department who will be attending the meeting. Or people from your team who don’t get the purpose of the meeting. This gives you a chance to explain.

People like being asked. They feel respected. Which is a great way for people to feel when they come to your meeting. It will help it be productive. And you’ll find out topics that need to be included. It might be a little bit 1990’s retro but this really is a win – win situation!

Send the agenda in advance

It’s common courtesy to let people know if they have an item to talk to or something they need to bring to the meeting before the meeting. This is stakeholder engagement 101 – let people know what is required of them before they get there. It gives them time to prepare and also for you to confirm that they will be able to deliver what you need. Otherwise, you might very well find yourself with a very big black hole in your agenda…or find out that the objectives of the meeting can’t be met. (It can save both you and others from wasting time and from potential embarrassment!)

Depending on the size, importance and frequency of the meeting consider how far in advance you need to send the agenda out to allow people sufficient time to prepare. At a bare minimum for a regular meeting it should go out the day before so that people have time to read, reflect and complete any preparation that is required. For a one-off or high level meeting it may need to go out several weeks in advance.


When will you find the time?

When you send out an invite for people to attend the meeting, work out when you are going to prepare the agenda and book that time in your diary at the same time. If it doesn’t take as long as you think…bingo you have some extra time in your day. If you don”t allocate that time how will you remember you need to do it? And with you diary no doubt filling up with meeting requests from others…where will you find the time?

These are simple and basic tips for meeting agendas but people don’t always do them.

When you do it will help you have better meetings and reflect well on your personal operating style and professional reputation.

Others will remember when you demonstrate that you value their time, are organized and run a good meeting.

Prepare an agenda and you and your meeting will be good to go!

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One click – and we’re launched! Career skills, advice and tips are ready to go. Career Tips To Go…

Karen Adamedes right before the "click" to launch Career Tips To go!

Karen Adamedes right before the “click” to launch Career Tips To Go!

Welcome to Career Tips To Go – an online magazine with practical career advice you can use!

It is designed to help you develop the skills you need to achieve the results you deserve and the rewards you desire.

The ability to develop and manage a career puts you in control and provides you with the opportunity to make choices.

Choices about where you work, how you work and the kind of work you do. And to live the career that you dream of, aspire to or simply enjoy.

Whether you are starting out in your career, looking for a change, working your way up the corporate ladder or just trying to do your best job – there are a multitude of challenges to be overcome and opportunities to be leveraged.

Career Tips To Go provides you with the why, what and how to deal with many everyday work situations.

Our articles and resources will cover real world work situations, opportunities and challenges to provide you with practical tips and ideas that you can try for yourself! They have all been fully tested by someone, somewhere at sometime!

On our site you’ll find some ideas to ponder including why career skills are important and what career skills actually are. We invite you to meet “The Selfies” and read about different career experiences in different fields and countries in the words of the people “them-selfies”. These are real people working across the United States, Europe and Asia-Pacific. Their stories are different but many of the key themes and advice are consistent – do what you love, listen, gain experience and keep learning.

Celebrities are real people too (just living a different version of real than the rest of us) and we’ve put the celebrity spotlight on a few to hear their wise words and career advice. From Big Bang actor, Mayim Bailik (Amy Farrah Fowler) to R&B Artist, Usher to comedian Stephen Fry the messages will resonate with many of us when we think about our own careers.

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And of course we are on Facebook and Twitter if you’d like to follow the adventure of Career Tips To Go (life has to be an adventure doesn’t it?) We’d love to hear what you think, topics you’d like to see posts about and to hear your tips and successes.

Read, think about, try the career tips, and you’ll be good to go…

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– Karen

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