Plenty has been written about mothers juggling the demands of busy careers with the challenges of parenthood. But what about the dads?
Most families today are dual-income, and both parents work. That has meant more men are helping out with tasks traditionally seen as reserved for women, from household chores to child care. In fact, since 1965, fathers have tripled the time they spend with their children, and 57 percent of fathers say parenting is extremely important to their identity, Pew Research reveals.
The research shows that, like mothers, many of today’s fathers find it a challenge to balance work and family life. That is especially true when work takes fathers away on frequent business trips.
While very often both moms and dads feel consumed by guilt if they frequently travel for work, Dr Laura Kastner, psychologist and author of ‘Getting to Calm: Cool-headed strategies for parenting tweens and teens’ says this is a harmful and pointless exercise.
“Remember that parents telegraph to their kids their feelings, spoken or not. Our brains are open Wi-Fi systems. If you feel guilty, sad and despairing, they will know it. Moreover, perhaps they will feel even more insecure with your travel, even if you are terrific at communication upkeep, keeping it to a minimum and spending great times with them when you are home,” says Kastner.
A great way to ease the guilt and reduce separation anxiety, says Andrew Grunewald, Flight Centre Business Travel Brand Leader, is to take the family along on your business travels and create mini ‘bleisure’ holidays.
Deciding to take your family along for the ‘business’ ride is not unusual. Research by SAP Concur shows there is an increasing trend to break out of the confines of a typical business trip. Bleisure trips, as we’ve come to know them, where a traveller combines business travel and leisure travel into one trip,increased by 20 percent in 2017 compared to the previous year. And during this time, business travellers took more than 2.2-million bleisure trips around the globe, making up 10 percent of all business trips.
Acknowledging #FathersDay, Grunewald shares six tips for fathers planning a business trip with the family.
- Follow the rules of the game
Taking your children and family on business trips is relatively common these days, so it’s unlikely your company will object. However, it is essential to be compliant and follow the business travel policy, says Grunewald.
“Make sure you check with your employer whether he or she is onboard with the fact that you are planning to take your family along… It is also wise to check upfront who will foot the bill for the expenses if you’re not travelling solo,” he adds.
According to research by Concur, many companies cover the costs for days their travelling employees are away, as well as for round-trip flights, while the employee foots the bill for anything associated with personal time off. Expense reporting can get complicated, though, if travellers don’t define when business ends and leisure time begins and establish clear processes to separate the two.
- Take some time off
When travelling with your children and family on a business trip, define in advance how you’ll divide your time and the family’s expectations.
Even though they will have to accept you aren’t always available, take a few days off to enjoy the destination with them and participate in activities your children will enjoy. If they are old enough, involve the children in planning and ask them if there’s anything special they would like to see.
A good idea is to consult your Travel Management Company (TMC). They will be able to help you balance your work itinerary and your bleisure trip, ensuring the experience is seamless from start to finish.
- Make sure everyone is covered
An important point to consider is whether your company travel insurance policy covers personal days. If not, consider taking out additional cover for the extra leisure days.
Most South African companies will have an annual policy in place with Travel Insurance Consultants (TIC) which covers staff travelling locally and internationally and includes benefits like Emergency Medical and Related Expenses, Hospitalisation Cover for Pre-existing Illnesses, and Cover for Lost or Stolen Luggage.
However, even if you are covered, your partner and children are unlikely to be included in a company travel insurance policy. It is critical that everyone has adequate cover. Your TMC will be able to advise you on the most cost-effective and reliable options for your family.
- Pick your destination wisely
You probably won’t be able to handpick your next business destination. However, you do have a choice as to whether or not to take your children along.
If your next business trip takes you to a high-risk, high-stress destination where you’ll be caught up in work around the clock, it might be better to leave your family at home. Other questions to determine whether the destination is suitable are: How long and strenuous will the journey be? Will you make multiple stops and change planes frequently? Will I change time zones?
“Keep in mind that a child who wakes up at 6 am in South Africa will wake up at midnight on his first night in New York. Talk to your TMC for advice on whether they can assist with timings and flight options to shorten the journey. However, if the logistics seem overly complicated, it might not be worth your while to take the family along,” Grunewald explains.
- Consider child-friendly accommodation
Not every hotel is designed for children. Without neglecting your company’s travel policy, make sure you do your research and choose a hotel that not only accommodates children and has the right amenities in place to make their stay pleasant.
“If you manage to find a hotel with a pool and stay for a Saturday, you might have more fun than you expect,” laughs Grunewald.
- Leave the nitty-gritty to the professional planners
Arranging flights, hotel bookings, airport transfers, lounge passes, insurance, car rental and loyalty points, while dealing with any problems that might arise, takes a lot of time.
Research by Flight Centre Business Travel shows that travel arrangements for almost 45 percent of all business trips change at least once. Managing those changes – and the knock-on effect – can be a nightmare if you’re not a travel expert.
Working with an expert Travel Management Company like Flight Centre Business Travel, means travellers have 24/7 access to a dedicated consultant who can manage any aspects of your trip and help with any late changes or travel-related emergencies.