Despite constant changes in world politics, there is still significant need to travel for business, particularly if you are in a managerial position or need to meet with your team in another region. Perhaps you work as a consultant or on a contract basis which requires you to work away from home during the week. Over the course of my career I’ve had to travel numerous times during the week to client offices in Europe. Stockholm was my favourite destination, despite the extra-long nights. I loved the work-life balance and how the culture encouraged me to enjoy the outdoors. In the colder months, a few of my colleagues would ski into work, which was an extraordinary sight for me at the time.
A lot of the tips I’m going to suggest are the based on having an efficient work wardrobe, but when you’re limited to a suitcase, perhaps even a carry-on, I think they are vital to making your wardrobe work for you.
Don’t over-pack, a carry-on is the best thing you can do for yourself.
Business travel is a different ball game. When packing for a holiday it’s expected for ladies to over pack and have multiple shoes and truckloads of makeup. This will be extremely difficult for you to manage while travelling with your work colleagues. It’s normal for the team to travel in a pack, and if you’re the only female on the trip, be mindful that men are more than likely wearing most of their wardrobe as they board the flight. They will be able to move very quickly through the airport, run to catch the taxi or walk up the stairs onto the small aircraft. You cannot presume that they will be mindful of your stiletto heels and roll-on suitcase. Also note that it’s customary to have a quick drink before the flight or a night cap in the hotel lobby. Think about it, how hard is it to move around the bar after work with your tote bag? Now imagine the same scenario with your suitcase. You just don’t need the hassle, keep it light.
Be mindful of what you are going to do and who you are going to meet.
Your expectations about how you will be hosted should be tied to who you are going to meet, and the business relationship you have with them. Regarding who you will meet, take note of the culture of the country you are going to visit, the culture of the company (Companies originally formed in the US have a very different culture to European companies, for example) and finally the position of your host. If you are a consultant from another organisation, you may not be fawned over on arrival. It’s more likely that you will be given the hot desk at the back of the office and expected to buy lunch at your company’s expense. Understanding the culture of who you are going to meet can help with your outfit choices as well as how your initial greetings go. Gifts on arrival in some Far East countries will be received warmly and will endear you to your host.
Whether you are going to run training or meeting your counterparts in another region for the first time, it’s important to marry what you are going to wear with what you are going to do. This also helps to minimise the amount of clothes you ‘need’ to pack. Ask questions about where you are going. It’s more than valid to query the purpose of the trip, and what usually happens. Don’t suffer in silence, it’s not that no one is interested in helping you. More than often your colleagues are too focused on their to-do list and their own priorities to remember to give a helping hand, so ask questions. Ask your counterparts or people who have already travelled for work within your organisation similar questions as the following;
- Are there usually after-work activities, that require a more casual look?
- Is the office overall more casual than the office you currently work at?
- What are the usual lunch arrangements, where do people usually go to eat?
Use the week prior as an opportunity to streamline at least one aspect of your morning routine.
Once you arrive and settle at the hotel the last thing you need to do is try out that new dress or wear a tight pair of trousers, you’re not sure fit you anymore. Take what you know works with the least amount of thought possible. Try to take items that don’t need considerable ironing but are breathable. I know, almost impossible, but I did say try.
If all else fails;
If there is no way to find out what the informal dress-code is like, I would make sure to wear a blazer or at least a top or dress with some sort of collar and stick to the typically business colour palette, i.e. navy blue, black, white, burgundy, beige etc. just to ensure you’re dressed appropriately for your environment. Make sure you have layers for the office, and keep your heels low enough so that you can navigate through most scenarios easily.
I know this catch all is rather boring but it will see you through the trip well enough so that you can be better prepared for the next one.