Short-term business travel: the unexpected benefits

From the downturn of the oil and gas industry to Brexit, companies are facing both a decreased need for expatriate assignments and potential increases in the cost. To compensate for these changes, companies may begin to focus less on expatriate assignments and more on short-term business trips.

Short-term business trips come with the expectation of being shuttled back and forth from the hotel to the office. There is little time to explore the local area or gain any real understanding of how business is done. 

In reality, business travel can be more than just getting work done in a new location. According to Andy Molinsky and Melissa Hahn in The Harvard Business Review: “As we move from one hotel chain to another and order the same Starbucks drink in London that we do in Shanghai or Tokyo, it can feel like just another business trip as opposed to a personally meaningful cross-cultural adventure.” 

Alyssa Bantle, Crown’s Intercultural and Language Services Curriculum Manager is aware of the benefits of short-term business travel. “Perhaps the biggest benefit is the opportunity to build self-awareness. This critical life competence is also key to working successfully globally. You can know all the do’s and don'ts you want, but without self-awareness, your success working globally will be limited.” 

Per the Harvard Business Review article, other benefits of short-term business travel include:

• Increased confidence from stepping outside your comfort zone

• Expanding creativity and problem-solving skills

• Enhanced “thinking on your feet” abilities

• Increased empathy for second-culture colleagues and employees

More companies are starting to recognize these benefits. At Crown, we’ve seen an increase in client requests for “Working Across Cultures” training programs. Alyssa adds: “We focus on intercultural competence and awareness in our programs, and giving people the tools they need to turn the learnings into actions they can use right away.”

Fortunately, it’s not hard to take advantage of these benefits. Alyssa’s recommendation? “Ask yourself next time you are about to walk into a Starbucks in another country, is there a local café a few doors down that you could choose instead? That local café might not be as familiar or easy to navigate, but it might offer you a golden opportunity to reap the benefits of interacting with another culture.”