(Published August 10, 2009)
Let's say there's an out-of-town business conference that a bunch of employees would like to attend. Like everyone else right now, your employer is trying to be more cost-conscious, so the travel budget's been slashed in half. Rather than denying some of the would-be attendees the chance to go, you decide to have the attendees share hotel rooms. And upon hearing this new policy, all heck breaks loose.
Why??? I don't get it. I've shared hotel rooms many times on business trips and have never had any problems at all. I've even shared rooms with complete strangers from other companies who were attending the same conference. I just treated each roommate with respect and deference, and received the same treatment in return. (I actually found it easier to share a room with a complete stranger than with a co-worker — I tended to worry less about what they'll think of my personal quirks and foibles, what they'll tell everyone about our time together back at the office, etc.)
Is it a perfectly comfy-cozy arrangement, akin to being on a luxurious solo vacation? No, it's not. But on a company-sponsored business trip — emphasis on business — compromises must be made. Besides, on most business trips, attendees spend precious little time in the actual hotel room; it really is just a place for sleeping at night and getting ready in the morning, not the sanctuary it might be on a personal vacation.
If you do decide to have employees share rooms during business trips, be prepared to hear some of these common arguments…and feel free to borrow or adapt my less-than-sympathetic replies!
I always sleep au naturale. Too bad. This is a business trip. Cover up. If you don't own anything appropriate, go to Target and buy a pair of cotton PJs for under $20. Or at least throw on some old shorts and a t-shirt.
I'm a die-hard smoker OR I'm a non-smoker/asthmatic/allergic to smoke. Ideally, you'll be matched with a roomie who shares the same smoking/non-smoking designation as you. If not, well, smokers should be accustomed to limitations by now, what with smoking being banned in most public buildings, airplanes, etc. At the very least, go out onto the balcony to smoke (if your room has one), or else suck it up and smoke outside the hotel.
I'm scared to room with a same-sex homosexual. Oh, grow up. No one is going to jump your bones in the middle of the night. Just use the bathroom to change in and out of your clothes in private (which most roomies do, regardless).
I snore like a bulldozer. Well, that'll be your roommate's problem, not yours! If, on the other hand, you're concerned that your roommate will snore, just pack earplugs.
As much as I enjoy taking a hard line on this, there is a reasonable compromise you might want to offer: Pay for shared accommodations, and give employees the option of paying the difference for a private room.
If all else fails, remind employees that they're called "travel accommodations" for a reason, and that they're expected to behave like a grownup and accommodate their employer's and their roommate's needs for the few days they'll be there.
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