Should I take my partner on my business trips? by Deborah Zanke

There are many benefits to having a spouse tag along on business travel and with more professionals able to work remotely, it’s become easier to do. Not only is it a nice perk for your spouse, it’s something that employers should encourage in the interests of the health and wellbeing of their workers.

Frequent Business Travel is Hard

There’s no question that travelling a lot for business takes its toll. It’s stressful even if you’re an old hand at it. Constantly contending with airport security, crowded flights, and changing time zones quickly dispels any glamorous jet setting fantasies. Add to that the difficulties of eating nutritiously in restaurants and getting regular exercise, and it’s easy to see why road warriors are generally less healthy than their home bound counterparts.

If you and your spouse are constantly apart, business travel delivers a psychological hit too. Separation a few times a year for a week or two is manageable, but if you’re finding yourself in an airport departure lounge a couple times a month that’s another story.

Having your spouse tag along at least some of the time can go a long way to easing the relationship strain and can be an added help managing the other challenges that come with business travel too. As the tag-along spouse, I have a long list of benefits on my side of the equation as well.

Almost like home

When I tag along on my husband Steve’s business travel, it’s usually worthwhile to rent an apartment. This allows me to set up my own comfortable remote work station and it comes with a kitchen. We usually choose a property in a residential neighbourhood. Instantly, we’ve replicated some of the comforts of home. Steve isn’t ending his long days with clients by coming back to a cramped hotel room with a bag of take out food. I can pop out to a grocery store during the day and we can cook a simple meal together, which is always vastly healthier. Because we’re in a neighbourhood, it’s easier to get out and take a walk in the evening, or get up a bit earlier and go for a run. Activity is also always easier with a companion.

It’s less lonely

Skype calls and instant messaging go a long way to keeping spouses separated by business travel in touch, but it doesn’t replace actually being together. Even if Steve is working long hours, if I tag along there is always time at the end of the day to talk and we’re at least sleeping in the same bed. This helps to maintain the relationship and eases the psychological strain of being separated from home and loved ones

When time allows, you can sightsee together or go out to a nice restaurant in the evenings. Although business travel isn’t like being on vacation, it’s a change of scene and can still be fun. We don’t have children, but if you do and can swing a tag-along trip without them, it’s a great opportunity to connect as a couple without the demands of childcare.

It can jumpstart a holiday and cut costs

A huge perk of taking your spouse along on business travel is that you only have to pay for one flight to get there. If you’re a frequent business flyer, you can usually use points to further reduce the cost. It’s a perfect opportunity to tack on some vacation time either in the location you’re visiting or somewhere else close by. Even if you’re not travelling to a destination you’d necessarily choose to visit on your own, don’t rule it out as a short vacation spot. There are several low-expectation places I’ve tagged along to that turned out to be absolute gems.

Employers benefit too

I can’t imagine why an employer would not encourage their employees to take their spouses with them on business travel. At the very least, they shouldn’t discourage it. Yet I sometimes get asked about overcoming an employer’s objection to spouse tag-alongs. Is it a concern about the employee not working full hours because the spouse is with them or that they are claiming expenses for the spouse’s travel? Those are the only two reasons I can think of and neither is a reasonable concern as far as I can see.

Every business that includes employee travel should have a travel expense policy. If you have an established per diem for meals and require receipts, that aspect is taken care of. As far as employee time spent on work, you either trust your employees or you don’t. As long as productivity and business goals are met, what does it matter how many hours your employee is putting in?

In my experience, Steve tends to work longer hours when on business travel then at home and I bet that’s a common experience. We’re careful about keeping my food expenses separate from his. As for lodging, the cost of two people staying in a hotel or apartment is generally the same as for one.

So, am I missing something? What’s the downside?

I think that savvy employers know that there is a burden associated with staff having to travel frequently. Recruiting and retaining exceptional people is not easy and retaining their loyalty is just as difficult. Add the work requirement of frequent travel and you’ve really got your work cut out for you finding great workers. Making it easy for them to have their spouse tag along and going as far as having policies that encourage it could provide a slight edge.



Deborah Zanke writes the blog Tag Along Travel where she offers advice, tips, and travel reviews based on the experience of more than a decade of her husband Steve’s frequent business travel.

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