I travel for work. Not as much as some people but a lot more than most people. I’ll spend a month or two on the road per year.
- I don’t have to travel as much as I do. I choose to travel most of the time.
- I don’t have to do work that requires me to travel. I could choose to do work that I spend nearly 100 percent of my time at home.
- I don’t have to speak. I don’t have to go to conferences. Most of the time, I don’t have to go meet clients in person.
So as I travel to Orlando this week to attend Globoforce’s WorkHuman, a neat conceptual HR conference that goes beyond what most user conferences try to achieve, I’m forced to examine why I chose the schedule I follow.
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Every time I talk to people who don’t travel that frequently about my travel schedule, there are a few predictable responses:
- Wow, that’s a lot
- I couldn’t do it
- How do you leave your family behind?
So I say, in order:
- It is, but most of the time, it doesn’t feel like that much
- You could but most people don’t have the decision to make
- I kiss them goodbye and know I’ll talk to them on FaceTime while I’m gone
For that last one, it isn’t an either or decision. I love my family a lot and I love traveling for work. I don’t like leaving them behind. I listen to music to keep my mood strong, I text them, I get pictures from Jen and from school, and I focus on what’s between me and my trip home.
I don’t have an office I go to, I live in a place that’s a bit isolated, and I have a community of people I call colleagues who are scattered across the world. I wish I could bring my family with me when I travel but they would be bored most of the time.
Another wrinkle here is that people’s perception about my decision is driven by my gender. It’s easier for me to travel because I’m a man. I resent that point of view while acknowledging that it’s true, mostly because perceptions like that still exist. After all, when Jen travels, very little changes operationally in my household. Being out of town for me means Jen has to adjust her schedule significantly to do drop off and pick ups.
* * * * *
So I’m one of the lucky ones. I get to choose. And if my choice ever changed, I could probably find a career that accommodated that change. I’ve meticulously engineered a really good situation for our family that has compromises and fulfillment for everyone.
WorkHuman isn’t for me. Most don’t get that choice. They are thrust into careers and situations that may not be ideal. They probably don’t think about it much. They probably don’t even know what to ask for.
There’s an opportunity for organizations to do something about it if they want.
Can everyone find meaning at work? No, I don’t think so. But we can do a much better job at instilling meaning, whether it’s working at a great company or working with great people. That might be enough, or it might be a start.
Either way, I don’t think it’ll hurt to add some humanity into work.