You’re off to a three-day work conference with your colleague who talks non-stop. On top of that, you have a schedule full of networking when you’d rather just hole up in your hotel room. How do you survive a work trip as an introvert who needs time to refresh and re-energize?
Business travel can be exhausting, especially for people with introverted personalities who can find crowds draining. With introverts making up an estimated 25 to 40 percent of the population, many of today’s professionals may find themselves dreading the constant meet-and-greets and packed schedules of a work trip.
Work travel is now an important part of the job description for employees across industries, and it’s on the rise. According to the US Travel Association, US residents logged 462 million trips for business purposes in 2017: an increase of 1.3 percent from 2016. So how can introverts advance their careers while traveling without sacrificing sanity?
Never fear: with a plan of action and a few coping strategies, you can turn business travel as an introvert into something you enjoy.
Focus on quality interactions—not quantity
At industry events, you may feel pressure to meet as many people as possible. To an outside observer, events may seem like a game of who can come away with more LinkedIn connections than anyone else.
Instead of trying to shake the hands of everyone in the room, introverts should focus on quality connections with one or two people, says Susan Cain, author and co-founder of the Quiet Revolution and Quiet Leadership Institute. You may foster great long-term relationships out of these connections, which will make your networking effort worthwhile.
Take breaks and time-outs
As challenging as it can be to break away on a work trip, it’s vital for introverts to have some time away from the noise and the crowds. Sneak away for a walk outside in between sessions or even go back to your hotel room quickly, if possible. If you can’t leave the area where you are, find a quiet corner, slip on your headphones for a few minutes to recharge with some music, a podcast, or a meditation app—a book can serve as an escape, too.
If you’re traveling with colleagues or clients and need a break, let them know you need a few minutes to take care of something or make a phone call. Even 10 minutes here and there throughout the day to decompress can help during a jam-packed day. Also, try to travel to your destination separately from your colleagues so you won’t all be together before your official business even begins.
Whenever possible, ask for an early copy of the schedule so you can begin to plan your breaks in advance. If you need to give a presentation, for example, you may want to proactively block off the hour afterward to decompress on your own.
You can also build pockets of solo time in right before or after people-intensive times. Meeting colleagues for breakfast? You can get there 20 minutes early and have a quiet cup of coffee by yourself. Heading over in an Uber to the client site? Head out to the curb early and take a walk around the block by yourself before you meet the team.
Add a leisure component
More business travelers are mixing work and pleasure by adding a leisure component to a business trip and vice versa. “Bleisure” trips may not yet be commonplace, but they are growing in popularity. A Travel Weekly survey found that 17 percent of leisure trips in 2016 had a business component—up from 15 percent in 2015. If your company allows it, consider adding a vacation day or two onto a work trip to take in some local attractions in the area. Knowing you have activities of your choice on the horizon could be the powerful motivation you need to get through your work trip.
Business travel can be great for your career, even if, as an introvert, it’s not so great for your peace of mind. However, despite the energy drain, the connections, visibility and new insights you gain while traveling have long-lasting positive effects on your professional growth. With deliberate scheduling and a plan of attack, business travel as an introvert can be productive and not painful, no matter how much you may prefer to stay home.