Balancing the demands of running a business and raising a family can be burdensome. And if the demands of your job entail traveling often, then that balance becomes even harder.
That’s why I’ve started taking my family with me on business trips. I love my wife and children more than anything in the world. Taking them with me on work travel allows me to continue building Skylum as best I can without having to sacrifice what is truly most important: family.
While both beneficial and sustaining, however, balancing work and family in this way can be challenging. It requires diligence and a unique mindset. Business trips are different than vacations, which are dedicated times for you to reboot mentally and enjoy unencumbered access to your loved ones.
When you’re traveling with your family for business, you have to have a different kind of focus.
Here’s how to do it right — along with why it’s so important in the first place.
1: Remember first and foremost that, for you, this isn’t a vacation — it’s a business trip.
If you travel a lot for business, bringing your family with you on those trips might realistically be the only way you can spend more time with them.
But on business trips, the fact remains that you’re still responsible for making sure your work gets done. And typically, productivity and family do not go hand in hand.
So to make it work, you have to have the right mindset. You have to remember that, for you, the trip you’re on is very much a business trip.
In this sense, your expectations for the experience have to be categorically different than your family’s. Your family should be focused on having fun and enjoying your presence as much as time allows. But your job is to be productive.
This will likely entail some sacrifices on your part. Maybe you stay up late to make sure you complete any important tasks you didn’t focus on during the day. Maybe you get up earlier. Whatever you have to do to make sure your work gets done, do it. Your company and your team are relying on you, and they sent you to wherever you’re going because they think you’re going to deliver value for the business — not because they want you to go on vacation.
2: Taking your family along for trips does benefit them.
This is another important thing to remember: bringing your family with you on business trips can be a great experience for them — and you should frame and approach the opportunity in that positive light.
For one thing, bringing your children with you to new places helps them understand just how large and diverse the world is. It exposes your children to new languages and cultures. Traveling in this way is a gift. To give that gift to your kids is an opportunity you shouldn’t pass up.
Plus, each different place you travel to will likely possess unique experiences that you can expose your family to — experiences they would not have had access to back home. My wife typically connects with her Instagram followers whenever we go to a new city, and my kids enjoy going to museums, parks, and sporting events.
They’ve also come to expect that when we go on these kinds of trips, I will be doing other things — things that allowed for the trip to happen in the first place. Again, it comes down to appropriately setting that mindset.
Business trip to Sweden, meeting with Intel. Picture taken by my 6-year-old son
3: Accept that you won’t be able to focus as hard on work when you’re on a trip with your family as you normally would.
The chief challenge of traveling with your family might be the sacrifices you need to make on the work side of the equation. No matter how great you are at your job and at being productive, when you’re with your family, you simply won’t be able to focus as hard on your work as you would if you were alone.
For one thing, if your children are traveling around a new city alone, ordering Ubers and navigating public transit, you’ll be worried about them. The thought of their safety will occupy a spot in the back of your mind.
Other small emergencies will also inevitably pop up — and that’s OK. You just need to be prepared.
4: Traveling with your family is pricey.
One common misnomer about taking your family with you on business trips is that it’s an opportunity to finagle a vacation on the cheap. It’s not.
Your company likely won’t ever cover your family’s costs, so any activities, meals, or experiences you want to provide for your family will have to come out of your own pocket. This is also typically true of their airfare and hotel accommodations. And if you want to purchase souvenirs while you’re out and about, you’ll need to pay for that, too.
The best way to account for this is simply to budget — just as you would for any other trip or big expense.
5: Since some people might get the wrong idea by you traveling with your family (i.e. that you aren’t working as hard), it’ll sometimes mean you have to overdeliver.
One last unfortunate reality of going on business trips with your family? Those you leave back at your office may think you’re slacking off.
Perhaps this is more of a personal anxiety, but when I go on business trips and I bring my wife and kids with me, I’m always very conscious of what folks back in my office are thinking. I want them to know how seriously I’m taking my work. And I don’t begrudge them if they ever do wonder whether I’m not working as hard as I would if I was alone: it’s a fair conclusion.
Either way, for this reason, I make sure that when I go on trips with my family, I overdeliver on the business side of things.
I do this by holding myself to a high level of personal accountability. I give 150 percent of myself in the meetings I schedule and in the work I produce. And I always make sure to have quality deliverables to bring back with me. That way, no one can accuse me of slacking, and I earn the trust of my teammates to bring my family with me on business trips in the future.
At the end of the day, while challenging, business travel provides a unique opportunity for CEOs and other hard-working executives to work a bit more purposefully at balancing their business and their family life.
It requires personal accountability, focus, and the right kind of mindset, but if you do it right, it really can both improve your life and benefit your family.
Source: Medium (link)