We sat down with Melissa, co-founder of Workspace Concierge l Coworking & Shared Space Consultancy, to talk about how she stays productive while traveling for work. Take a look!
What are important things to remember to do before being away from your home office for an extended period?
In my business, I rarely take time off for vacation – other than when there are national long weekends, however I do travel to Australia quite often which has me unavailable for a good portion of 37 hours while in the air. So, as soon as I am aware of any out of office dates, I add them to the bottom of my email signature and highlight the detail in red. I also update my clients before I travel, update my Out of Office and my voicemail each and every time.
How do you communicate with clients while you travel?
Mostly by email and text when I am traveling. It is interesting most of my clients prefer to communicate this way rather than calling. We are all so busy these days that it really can be easier to type out quick requests.
What are your packing essentials when you travel for work?
I am a very light packer and regardless of how long a trip is… I will only take hand luggage (even on a 4 week trip). I’m a genius packer and it also helps that I only wear black clothes. Only on rare occasions will I check a bag unless I am traveling with items I need for a furniture installation or office set up. I will also typically travel in runners and comfortable clothes.
My Go-To’s are;
- My oversized black shawl which seconds as a blanket on the plane.
- Entrepreneur / INC and Forbes magazine subscriptions – I read every word, on every page.
- Beats earphones
- My international travel adapter / converter
- Business Cards (you never know where your next lead comes from)
- Nivea cream (I’m obsessed)
- Laptop, phone, my hotspot, my current unfinished work and a spiral notebook
What are ways to plan ahead when you travel for work?
- I never leave home without my mobile 4G hotspot. You just never know when you will need reliable WiFi!
- I’m also of the old school where I print out my boarding pass, my accommodation & any transportation details before I fly.
- I am a member of Clear and Global Entry to ensure I can clear airport lines quickly and efficiently.
- Another must is to have lounge access at the airport to grab a bite, refresh & catch up on work.
- Traveling with hand luggage also gets you out of the airport before everyone else – without luggage handling delays.
How should you pack electronics (laptop, camera, chargers, etc.) for a flight?
Ooh, this is a great question – I have no I idea! I just use my Kipling over shoulder bag that I love as it has a pocket for everything. I only just bought a cover for my mini iPad actually – and never use my laptop cover ever. Is that bad?
How do you use travel time most efficiently?
I love traveling. Getting to the lounge 1.5 hours before a flight really helps me get any outstanding email responses squared away. My rule to not be available during a flight helps me take the time to relax and think. It is important to give yourself thinking time on how you can better yourself and your business – and I only really get that chance when flying.
When flying on a business long haul – I will travel at night so I can sleep and arrive feeling rested. If I fly to my hometown of Perth, Western Australia – the most remote city in the world (that takes 37 hours to get to, no matter where you are on this side of the world) there is sure to be a 9-12 hour layover somewhere. As I am not one for sight-seeing, I use this time to head to the lounge, shower, refresh and spend the whole day working. This is some of my most productive time and I look forward to it. The hours actually fly by!
What are tips for going from the airport after a long flight directly into a business meeting?
I have done this many times. The trick is to travel in comfy clothes and your business clothes in a suit bag. When I buy suits, I aim for fabrics that do not crease. In July when I was in Australia, I bought an amazing Country Road jacket that is impossible to crease, and it will be my go to for a long time.
Leaving enough time after the flight lands to get back into the lounge for a quick freshen up and to get dressed in my business attire is crucial.
In between meetings, what are ways to stay productive or prepare for upcoming meetings?
This is where my portable WIFI Hotspot device comes in very handy. I have been in situations where I have had a few hours before the next meeting and been able to take a seat in a building lobby or at a local café and pump out some emails is great. We can waste a lot of time trying to find a local hotspot to connect into – so I bypass all of that and get online straight away. Not to mention that public wifi opens you up to all kinds of security concerns.
What work/travel problems have you encountered, and how did you solve it?
I always fly out of Atlanta before 8am. Usually on the first flight out. Recently, I was due in New York for a 12pm meeting, though I still chose to fly out on the 6.45am flight. I am a careful planner and like everything to go my way. This day was not my day. My 6.45am flight was delayed though as the airline didn’t know how delayed they would be, they kept pushing the time back by 30 minutes each time.
As I had not left by 8.30am I contacted my client and advised that I was delayed. Then as the time kept moving further into the morning – I ultimately had to make the decision to cancel the meeting in its entirety. It was not an ideal scenario, though I had to be mindful of my potential client’s valuable time to ensure they were not also caught up in my travel dilemma.
First impressions count – and updating a client on one delay is fine. Updating them constantly so they are dragged into your problem is not okay. So, while not ideal – I rescheduled the meeting for 10 days later when I was to be in New York again. Being mindful of others time is important. Rescheduling allowed my potential client to move on with his day.
How would you compare working in the following three: hotel workspace, coffee shop, coworking space? What is each location suited for?
We are seeing the emergence of Hotel Workspace with creative interior design to not only keep guests in their space but so that they can get some work done. I think it is very clever – however Hotel Workspace in my view will only be a touch down program for hotel guests to escape the confines of their room. I know I certainly look for hotels that have a workspace look and feel to it when I travel. I don’t believe this will evolve further than that unless hotels start to partner with coworking providers and truly deliver a coworking workspace concept.
It is almost impossible to find an available seat in a Coffee Shop these days. It is a constant sea of laptops and people with headphones on skype calls. Most of these people are working there on the regular as well. It always amazes me that these remote workers are not scouting out the local coworking spaces. The cost of a $5 coffee a day x 20 days is a no-brainer to try and get better value somewhere else. Coffee Shops are definitely not collaborative. They are noisy. You get bumped a lot. Most people sit on their own. They actually isolate. Coffee shops should really be for the 15-30 minute touch down space to quickly get a task completed – not for an all-day work environment.
Coworking spaces actually combine the hospitality aspect of both the hotel open workspace and the Coffee house. Coworking spaces however, foster collaboration – which both hotel workspace and Coffee shops lack. If building a network is a high priority, then seeking out a local coworking space should be top of mind. That way you can combine all of the elements – soft furnishings, lounges, workspaces, desks, great coffee, community and monthly events to develop true business relationships with like-minded people in one place. To me, Coworking spaces are a no-brainer. Sure, you may not find a space for $99 a month for fulltime access, though that’s where the disconnect is. It’s not what you pay – it’s the value you get for your money. So, if you find a space for $199 a month let’s say – building a true business network for just $25 extra a week is terrific value and a significant return on your investment. You get none of those in a Coffee shop or a hotel lobby.
What resources do you use to find a coworking space that best fits your work style?
For the consumer – Google is all you need and typing in the words “Coworking Space near me” to find a slew of spaces in your area. I would also try Coworker.com.
The only true way to understand if a coworking space will suit your lifestyle and needs to visit as many as you can then narrow it down to a couple. From those few that you like, I would ask for a free day pass to refine whether they are a good fit for the way you work.
Also keep in mind that there are many “Niche Industry” spaces in existence now that cater to more than just a workspace or desk. Many are true lifestyle choices – so if you are in Media / TV / Arts I would be trying to find a coworking space that speaks to that industry. If you prefer to be in a women only environment – then there are spaces that cater to that too. We will see more and more of these coming to fruition in the next 12-18 months.
What should you take into consideration when working in a coworking space?
There are quite a few Do’s and Don’ts when it comes to working in a Coworking space. I call this Coworking Etiquette. Some really comm=on sense ones that we still need to remind everyone about are;
Talking in loud conversations, talking on speaker phone – all these conversations should be taken to a privacy pod or meeting room. Being mindful of other people working is key. Talking loudly will set you on the path to being labeled the most annoying coworker of the year.
Respecting others privacy is critical. In open plan environments where everyone has their lap top open is already tricky to keep private. So being mindful of people’s space is important. I would also invest in a laptop privacy screen (they range from $20-$40 each) that limit views from passersby and people that may be seated next to you.
Another Etiquette rule is to be mindful of not camping out in the privacy pods, silent zones or phone booths. These free resources are really for 15-20 minute quick conversations and not for full day use. If you need a space for 20 minutes or more, it’s time to book a meeting room.
The last one I’ll mention is be respectful of the space – tidy up after yourself and look after the furniture. You are not at home. Your mother does not work here. No feet on couches, no lounging across sofas and put your coffee cup in the dishwasher when you are finished. 😊
With over 13 years of on the ground global operational & sales experience and previously a Senior Executive in an ASX global serviced office and coworking company, Schilo is considered a veteran of the industry.
Starting her industry career in Perth, Western Australia, Schilo has spent over a decade working her way across the globe from Perth, Singapore, Belgium and Sydney with the past 8 years in Atlanta, USA.
Her diversified background in Global Sales includes working with many of the most recognizable Fortune 500’s and global organizations. Now-a-days Schilo leads the transformation of under-utilized and under performing space into thriving workspaces drawing in a diverse set of clients, revenue streams and solution models.
Specialties include international serviced office and coworking operations, business development, design advisory, sales & marketing, floor planning, profitability and feasibility studies.
USA +1 404 838 8186