Roving Kiwis miss home

By Dionne Christian

Research shows NZ business travellers enjoy being away less than most, writes Dionne Christian

Battling jet lag can be the toughest thing about travelling for work.
Battling jet lag can be the toughest thing about travelling for work.

How luxurious was it to have a whole king-sized bed to myself without a snoring husband, a sleepless 4-year-old, a dog and three cats? Words can barely begin to describe it and I'm sure it was even more comfortable because it was in a newly refurbished and spotlessly clean room I hadn't had to toil over to make that way.

The blissful night's sleep came courtesy of a business trip to Wellington, staying in the Intercontinental Hotel and reporting on the opening night of the musical Annie. After two days of relative calm punctuated with bouts of back-to-back interviews and writing, I decided I could get used to more business travel.

Then again, I'm new to this; it was only my third business-related trip in a decade. Seasoned veterans are a little more nonchalant about it all.

Research from global workplace provider Regus shows NZ business travellers miss their home comforts more than the rest of the world does.

Maybe it's because we Kiwis have to travel further and longer than most others to reach the countries we do business with.

Whatever the reason, the survey showed 80 per cent of NZ business travellers miss their families (compared with 68 per cent globally) while 48 per cent miss their homes (compared to 38 per cent globally).

Brendon Urlich, L'Oreal New Zealand executive general manager, travels for a range of global and regional meetings, including a key one in Paris, to learn about the latest research, world trends and up-to-the-minute product technology.

Urlich says the novelty of business travel wore off many years ago and he finds trying to operate with jetlag the toughest thing of all.

"Sleeping patterns really do throw you out so after feeling exhausted working a 12- to 14-hour day you finally get to bed only to wake up again at 2am," he says. "By the time you have adjusted, you fly back home and the cycle starts all over again.

"One thing that doesn't ring true [for me] is a TV commercial that shows some business people who can't wait to get back to their hotel for a massage or a drink and quality private time. What a load of claptrap!

"The reality is business hotels can be lonely and impersonal; I would far rather be at home with the family.

"I love routine. If I am able to get a good day's work done, get to the gym and then spend time with my wife and the boys when I get home then it's been a great day."

He says technology has made it a lot easier to stay connected because he can chat to his family on an iPad with his kids walking him around the house and showing him their homework and discussing their day.

"I love it and it's the highlight of my day when I am away," Urlich says.

David O'Connor, partner and chairman of audit and tax advisory firm BDO NZ, agrees the most comfortable and well-appointed hotel can't replace the comfort of your own home and surroundings.

"You always have to perform when you're away, so I miss that relaxation time. It's also important to be available to clients and staff at home, to be keeping up to speed, to be making progress on other projects so there's very little downtime."

Similarly, entertainment publicist Sandra "Skippy" Roberts says it's her family and daily routine she misses most when she has to travel to work on shows all over NZ. "I miss my family and my bearings. I wake in the night and won't be sure where I am."

My Food Bag's Nadia Lim recently spent time in Asia promoting a TV show filmed here for the Asian Food Channel and is now Intrepid Travel's food ambassador. When she answered our questions, she was in Beijing for the Gourmand Cookbook awards.

"Travelling has become a major part of my day job and I adore travelling, but it can be a bit lonely and frantic when you have to do it alone," Lim says. "More often than not finding suitable internet to send large documents is a source of annoyance and stress. I think if you're on holiday you can let that go but when you're away on business you need to remain connected to people at home."

She also misses being able to cook.

"I've yet to see a hotel room with a kitchen and sometimes it's such a shame not to be able to use the local ingredients - and I can't bring them back to New Zealand," she says. "Some countries' cuisines don't include many vegetables - well, not as many as I'm used to, anyway - so sometimes I desperately miss having lots of fresh vegetables."

Of those NZ business travellers surveyed by Regus, 30 per cent yearn for home-cooking and 15 per cent want their own type of coffee/tea; 20 per cent want their own pillows and 11 per cent miss pets. But we're not as bothered as our foreign counterparts about speaking our own language, missing favourite TV programmes or certain types of shops, and only 2 per cent of us miss our weather.

So how do frequent flyers make business trips less arduous?

O'Connor says life is easier if he stays in a hotel with a pleasant outlook, a gym or somewhere he can run, Wi-Fi and a comfortable business centre and top-quality room service.

"I'm not the type of person who enjoys sitting alone in a restaurant. I am lucky in that I can sleep anywhere which is a huge advantage."

Like O'Connor, Urlich likes to get his running shoes on and go for a jog. Both men say it helps to clear the head; it's a healthy way to fill in downtime and gives them a different perspective on the city.

"Paris certainly looks different early in the morning and is full of contrasts," says Urlich.

Lim and Roberts advise packing lightly and being open to new experiences. "I recently worked on the Mission Estate Concert in Napier and Billy Ocean, who was performing there, told me that if something doesn't happen the way you planned it, it wasn't meant to be so I'm now living by that mantra," Roberts says.

- NZ Herald

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