As more of us are commuting long-distance and travelling for work than ever before, Alix O’Neill speaks to the women who have nailed the art of the business trip
Frequent fliers is no longer only a term for the international jet-set, now we’re all expected to get on-board with work travel. For the past 11 years, sales and marketing director Aoife Delaney, 35, has been working at around 30,000ft, averaging four trips a month to far-flung destinations from Cairo to Cape Town. Since having her second child in April, she sticks to a strict routine while travelling for work to maximise her time on-the-go. ‘My biggest issue is maintaining the healthy lifestyle I have at home while on the road,’ she says. ‘I’m all about eating well, practising yoga and hitting the gym, but airports are fundamentally unhealthy places.’ Her ultimate productivity tip is making nutritious boxed snacks for days when she’s flying. ‘This means that when I get to the airport, no time is wasted trying to find a semi-decent place to eat. I park myself in a good spot, connect to wifi, have my snacks and get straight to work writing sales pitches.’
As more of us spend our working day on planes and trains (according to networking site Maiden Voyage, women are the fastest growing segment of business travellers), the patronising trope of a female flier shopping in duty free no longer applies. Women are just as likely to power up their laptop in the lounge or be on the hunt for a charging port to check their emails as men are.
‘I’ve written some of the best business plans after flights’
‘It used to be weird travelling solo as a woman and heading to an airport or hotel bar alone,’ explains Juliet Kinsman, the luxury travel expert who helped found boutique hotel specialist Mr & Mrs Smith. ‘Now it’s much more acceptable to sit on your own with a drink and your laptop without worrying about a travelling salesman trying to pick you up.’ The demise of the traditional 9 to 5 is changing the nature of business travel and, as a result, hotel design. ‘Desks in hotel rooms are less of a priority these days, as when we’re travelling we tend to work from our beds,’ says Kinsman. Meanwhile, airports and hotels are increasingly catering to female business travellers. ‘The line between work and leisure is blurring, so when we travel for business, we demand a stylish environment and great food.’
At Heathrow, there are now a number of initiatives in place to make our working life on-the-go easier. These include independent lounges equipped with wifi, showering facilities and resting suites; a blow-dry bar in T5 Arrivals to help you freshen up for that big meeting; charger points for mobiles and laptops; plus a takeaway food service via the Heathrow app, which lets you pre-order food as you make your way through security.
‘Frequent fliers, book a window seat at the back of the plane for optimum quiet’
What about getting the most out of your time in the air? Don’t be tempted to use the flight wifi, advises Kinsman. ‘It’s always slow and besides, you can often be more productive when you’re offline − flying gives you a perfect excuse to disconnect. I use that time to get admin done instead.’ She also suggests booking a window seat at the back of the plane as it’s the quietest spot, and popping a tennis ball behind your back for a DIY massage.
Sometimes, though, using a flight or train journey to take a break from work altogether can leave you refreshed and ready to hit the ground running on the other side. Lucy Hutchings Hunt, MD of a North Yorkshire-based digital agency, spends her long-haul flights catching up on podcasts with inspirational businesswomen she admires. ‘I’ve written some of the best business plans after flights − that’s when I often have my most profound breakthroughs. On a plane, you physically can’t do anything else other than sit still and focus.’