Business travel etiquette

SAICA Admin Nov 8, 2017

If the word etiquette sends shivers of alarm down your spine – don’t let it, at least not when it comes to business travel. That said, although you’re not in the office and the travelling atmosphere may seem more relaxed, you’re still there as a representative of your firm, which means dancing on the table after a few too many is a very bad idea.

Travelling with a colleague – or even your boss – is an opportunity to get to know them better outside of the office – which can be a lot of fun. That said, in a more informal atmosphere, you may end up telling each other things that are overly personal and lead to awkwardness going forward. Keep this in mind, and don’t drink too much or be overly familiar; be friendly and open but make sure neither party is crossing any boundaries or sharing anything they may regret further down the line.

Punctuality, similar to a normal working day, is key. You cannot be late for meetings or other events, which means you should always give yourself additional time to get where you need to be – especially if you’re in an unfamiliar place and will need to navigate. Being late will reflect poorly on you personally, as well as on your firm.

If you’re travelling abroad, it’s a good idea to do some research on the culture and customs so that you know what to expect on the one hand and so that you don’t unintentionally offend anyone, on the other. In a guest post for Forbes.com, UPS president Stephen Flowers recalls how he made a faux pas on a trip when asking a Chinese business associate how many children he had. He had forgotten that the Chinese government’s former one child per family limit.

What you wear on a business trip is also important. Of course, you will want to be comfortable when you’re in transit which is why it makes sense to opt for a ‘business casual’ look. If you’re travelling to a meeting as soon as you arrive, make sure that you have something smarter to change into – ideally you should be dressed as you would for a day of meetings at the office.

Once you are back home, remember your manners. A quick mail to your colleagues, hosts and anyone else who was of assistance to you on the trip will be well appreciated.

One last word of wisdom: when in doubt about how to behave on your next business trip, remember that while you should be enjoying yourself and making the most of the opportunity, you’re still working, albeit in a different environment, and are representing your company. 

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