Are Business Trips Obsolete?

“I’m going out of town for a business trip next week,” one of my friends told me as we attempted to schedule a much-needed guys’ night out. “So those days are out.”

I wasn’t as put off by his inability to find a spot for me in his schedule as I was shocked that he still went on business trips. During the Great Recession, a lot of my friends who used to travel a lot for business started using teleconferencing technology instead; even as the economy has picked back up in recent years, their employers have been slow to go back to the old model of routine business trips for all but the most crucial face-to-face meetings.

Benefits of Business Trips

The benefits of business trips have been debated for years. One of the more seminal studies on travelling for business came from Oxford Economics USA in 2009. The organization reported that companies that bailed on business travel stood to lose 17% of profits in the first year alone. On the surface, it’s hard to understand how using new technology instead of spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on an overnight business trip could cost a company so dearly; however, it just goes to show the importance of in-person meetings.

Are Business Trips Necessary?

But the facts show, business trips also have their downfalls. It keeps employees out of the office – sometimes for several days – for a short meeting. Case in point: I have a friend gave a 45-minute presentation in New York City a few months back, but spent 12 hours traveling to and from the meeting. Traveling for business also keeps parents away from their children, has negative health affects, and employees who travel a lot for business tend to burn out at a faster rate than those who travel infrequently or not at all.

Technology Makes Business Trips Obsolete

Today, new technology makes it easier – and cheaper – than ever for employees to avoid business travel without giving up on the best aspects of in-person interaction. Companies like AT&T and Cisco manufacture and market large-scale teleconferencing systems that include phones, cameras, and touch-screen presentation boards that can be used by individuals in multiple locations. If you don’t want to invest in infrastructure, you can use web-based software to connect virtually. I’ve used GoToMeeting multiple times, and find it very straightforward. I also have friends who have use free software – like that offered by iVisit – for one-on-one teleconferences. There are also software programs that charge you per minute, per teleconference, and per month. The website Top Ten Reviews has a great list of teleconferencing and virtual presentation software programs, if you’re interested.

How often do you travel for business? Has the frequency of your business trips declined since this type of new technology has become more prevalent?

8 Responses to Are Business Trips Obsolete?

  1. Nick @ ayoungpro.com says:

    The only type of “business travel” I have seen in my job is traveling to conferences. I still think there is value in that. Getting that amount of people together to share ideas through teleconferencing would be a logistical nightmare.

  2. There is a surprising amount of travel in my day job. I work in software development and we recently adopted the agile programming methodology, which kind of necessitates in person meetings. I travel once every three months but my boss travels all the time.

    • @Kevin @ RewardBoost, I almost had to travel once, but Hurricane Sandy sort of ruined the Manhattan conference, so I got to stay home. I’m on the phone with people all day, and all of our meetings can be done via phone and/or screenshare.

  3. Interesting points, Daniel! Thanks for the great post.

  4. I’m considering going into management consulting and the travel component is really disturbing to me – both from a work-life balance and an energy/climate change perspective. If I have a choice I’d much rather go to a company that deemphasizes “face time” in favor of teleconferencing options.

    • @Emily @ evolvingPF, Some people go into the business specifically so that they can travel. It’s definitely not something I would want because of the work/life balance, so I’m on your side of this one.

  5. Caesar F says:

    I think the reason why people go on business trips is also possibly because for the sake of going out of town.