Travelling for work can have quite a few perks, but it also presents its own set of challenges. Top of the list: staying productive while in transit. Life doesn’t stop while you’re away from your desk and the best way to keep up is to make time on the road. All too often, business travellers mentally check out as soon as they check in at the airport. But instead of writing off the pre-boarding process as a black hole for productivity, make the most of that free time and check a few things off your to-do list. Here’s how.
Before the airport
- Plan ahead: Arriving at the airport without a game plan is a sure-fire way to kill any chance of productivity. Knowing what you want to work on ahead of time will also ensure you bring along everything you need.
- Prepare for everything: Packing a laptop and phone charger is a no-brainer but don’t take it for granted that you’ll find an available electrical outlet. Consider investing in an external battery pack for those moments when you don’t have easy access to a power source—and don’t forget to fully charge it beforehand.
- Download necessities: Reliable Wi-Fi is something else you can’t count on. Make sure anything you plan to work on at the airport or in the air is downloaded in advance and available offline. There’s nothing worse than hoping to knuckle down on a project only to realise that an important presentation or email attachment isn’t accessible.
- Get ‘appy: There are literally hundreds of apps that can make your work trip go more smoothly. Frequent flyer faves include TripIt (your entire travel itinerary in one place), Flight+ (up-to-date flight information), Expensify (keeps track of receipts) and Boingo (to easily locate a Wi-Fi hotspot nearby).
Before the flight
- Arrive early: Aim to arrive at the airport on time and you’ll likely find yourself running late. The lines at busy airports are unpredictable and even the best-laid plans come undone when faced with the stress of racing to your boarding gate. Choose to arrive early and you’ll have plenty of time to accomplish what you want before take-off.
- Skip the security line: There are few things more frustrating than slouching at a snail’s pace through airport security or getting stuck behind someone who waited until the last minute to remove their liquids and laptop. Some UK airports— including Heathrow, Stansted, Manchester, Liverpool and Edinburgh—offer a fast-track service for a small fee that allows passengers to skip passport control queues.
- Make use of airport lounges: A great airport lounge is the perfect place to set up camp and you should take full advantage if you have access to one via your frequent flier status or first-class ticket. Credit cards can come with lounge perks, too: Barclays Travel Plus Pack and NatWest Reward Black are just two that offer access to more than 700 worldwide. Fast Wi-Fi, snacks, coffee and comfy seating are standard at most VIP spaces, but some of the higher-end ones provide shower facilities and spa services. If you don’t have access to an airport lounge but know a long layover is looming, don’t worry: many offer one-day passes. Do some research on LoungePass.com, which sells admittance to hundreds of lounges across 250 airports, and see which amenities offer the most bang for your buck.
- Rent a workspace: Need a more discrete—and soundproof—environment to make calls or concentrate? Gatwick offers private enclosed “workpods” equipped with everything a business traveller needs to stay productive, including fast and secure Wi-Fi, a desk and chair, chargers, a computer screen, a printer and a telephone. Similar but slightly less secluded workstations known as “thinkpods” are available in Heathrow’s Regus Express business lounge.
- Look beyond your gate: If a lounge or work pod isn’t an option and you don’t need to be at your boarding gate, scout out a spot nearby. Whether it’s an empty gate or a quiet corridor, you’ll have less trouble finding a free power source. Not to mention, minimal foot traffic means less distractions. But if you’re the type of person who gets locked on to a task, think about setting an alarm as a reminder to head back to your gate.
- Tackle the small stuff first: Some tasks lend themselves to being worked on at the airport—like expense reports and clearing an email backlog—and some don’t. If you can get some grunt work off your plate before boarding, you’ll have more time to put toward bigger projects in the air.
- Catch some shut-eye: Sometimes recharging your batteries before a big meeting is the most productive thing you can do in an airport. Several now offer pay-by-the-hour sleep pods where travellers can power down and rest up in private. Look out for Sleepbox in Moscow, Edinburgh and Atlanta, Napcabs in Munich and Dubai’s SnoozeCubes and Sleep ‘n Fly. These tiny rooms have a full bed, plenty of electrical outlets and storage space for carry-on luggage.
- Switch off: A mental time-out can work wonders for productivity. Frankfurt has introduced arch-shaped “silent chairs” that reduce ambient noise by creating a quiet zone around the occupant. Nine airports now offer a designated space for yoga, including Heathrow, Gatwick and JFK, while San Francisco has two as well as a meditation room for on-the-go ohms. If you prefer swimming to stretching, take a dip in Singapore Changi’s rooftop pool.
Staying on top of your work can be a challenge when travelling but proper planning can go a long way to boost productivity. Make the most of your next business trip using the above tips.