Business travel in the new economy

I happen to love business travel. It’s allowed me to visit exotic locales such as Delhi, India and Schenectady, NY. It’s helped me accrue airline miles that I’ve used for personal trips. And it hasn’t cost me a cent since my corporate card handles all the dirty work. But recently companies have started to encourage their employees to find cheap alternatives to the normal perks of business travel.

In a recent piece in the New York Times, Joe Sharkey points out corporate travel managers are actually starting to recommend that traveling employees stay with friends or family rather than book hotel rooms. Or, if a hotel is absolutely necessary, they are suggesting that coworkers share rooms. Can you imagine waking up next to Fred from Accounting who loves telling you about his Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Well, you may have to get used to it.

I can completely understand companies attempting to rein in travel expenses. Maybe they’ll make adjustments to the list of preferred hotels and eliminate some of the pricier boutique accommodations. Perhaps they’ll ask employees to share rental cars. But asking people to crash at their friends’ houses or share hotel rooms? That’s tacky and inappropriate.

Look, these are tough economic times. People are losing their jobs. Companies are going out of business. By no means am I condoning a completely irresponsible abuse of business travel. But when you travel for business, you are inconveniencing yourself. You’re leaving the comforts of your home, as well as your family and friends, behind. For that you should be compensated and accommodated. So, while I’m willing to stay in the Holiday Inn Express instead of the Ritz Carlton, I’m not willing to share a bathroom with anyone with whom I will have to share a cubicle the next day. Because Fred’s IBS stories are bad enough experienced secondhand.