Fast Track: Monday? It must be India

Globalisation demands that young executives travel more and more, and it's playing havoc with their sex lives.
Click to follow
The Independent Culture
Lynne Farrage has slept in five different beds in the last week, not because she has an over-active sex life, but because her company told her to. Ms Farrage is a recruitment manager for IT specialists Perot Systems International and is one of growing band of high-flying graduates to whom constant business travel is a way of life.

"I've travelled a lot between London, the States, India, Dublin and Nottingham. It sounds glamorous, but it means that you don't really have a base. My friends think it's really pretentious when I say that I'm sick of getting on and off planes," she says.

Alex van Gestel, 27, regional management supervisor at the advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather, also travels a great deal. He has just taken on a new role running part of the American Express account for Europe and Africa, and usually spends two or three days of his working week abroad.

"It is very exciting. Some of the offices I visit may not have as much experience of marketing or advertising and it's good to feel that you can bring in the experience of the London agency," he says.

Extensive business travel used to be the preserve of top executives, but increasingly companies are sending younger members of staff on foreign trips in a bid to keep more senior executives happy.

"It's not uncommon to find [senior] managers taking four to six foreign trips a month, which can account for 40 to 60 hours' travelling, usually outside normal working hours," says Kevan Hall of the technology company Global Integration, which has carried out research into business travel.

"Managers often come under pressure from their families to limit their travelling because they think the company is making unreasonable demands," he says.

As a result, younger members of staff are increasingly sent in their place, as Fran Wilson of the Institute of Personnel Development explains: "One solution is to send younger staff in their mid-twenties. They will have a few years' experience and be keen to prove themselves, and are less likely to have family ties."

Birkbeck College is currently carrying out research into this area on behalf of the Careers Research Forum. Dr Jane Sturges, research fellow in the department of Organisational Psychology, says that the increasing globalisation of business means that frequent business travel or even living abroad may be almost inevitable when you join a multinational company. And sending recent graduates abroad not only solves problems for the company; it can also put graduate careers on the fast track to the top.

"The experience is likely to be developmental for them, given the increased challenge and responsibility they encounter, together with the broader business perspective they acquire," she says.

There is also an additional benefit for companies, says Dr Sturges: "It will potentially cost the organisation less. Rather than offer an expensive ex-pat package, as they would have to with a senior executive, they can say that it's for your own career development, so we don't have to pay you so much".

Ms Farrage says that the frequent business trips, a six-month posting to Dublin and an imminent move to Nottingham have definitely furthered her career.

"There are lots of opportunities if you can demonstrate that you are flexible, and I don't think I would do as good a job if I didn't do all the travelling," she says.

However, she adds that you have to be a certain type of person to deal with constant professional and domestic upheaval. "You have to have lots of energy and lots of confidence to be able to build a life wherever you happen to find yourself," she feels.

And there are definite disadvantages. "You never really get to see the countries you visit, just the inside of conference rooms and hotels. You also have to make a real effort to sustain relationships with your friends, and it plays havoc with little domestic things such as picking up your dry-cleaning and having anything to eat in the fridge."

It is probably easier, she adds, for some senior executives in her company, "because they have wives who take care of domestic arrangements. I have to do it all myself".

Mr van Gestel agrees: "I haven't been supermarket shopping in 18 months - and usually end up grabbing something from the off-licence. And when I'm in London I work long hours, and then I have to try and pack in lots of other things, such as seeing my friends."

Extensive travel can also play havoc with your health. Those in a relationship can suffer from "intermittent spouse syndrome", the symptoms of which include tension and sexual difficulties.

The usual pattern is a build-up of tension before departure, which is then repeated when the couple are reunited, and the partner who has been left at home feels resentful.

A recent survey of staff at the World Bank found that many of those who travel frequently suffer from depression, nervous anxiety and sleep disturbance due to the pressures of business travel.

Some even become addicted to constantly catching planes. "All too often international managers respond to work dilemmas by taking a flight. Many are travel addicts, for whom air miles are the ultimate badge of corporate commitment," says Mr Hall.

Ms Farrage says that she is not a travel junkie, and that all her trips are essential - but it does take its toll, she admits. "I have just learnt to accept that I don't really have a normal life."

Comments