Office Bunkmates

Office Bunkmates

Sharing an office or cubicle is one thing. Sharing a hotel room is another.

"Cost is a major driver as to why firms ask people to pair up in hotel rooms," says Peter Fornal, president of Human Resources Consultants. His personal adventures in business travel include bunking with five other guys in a Miami cabana and sleeping in beach chairs when their rooms weren't ready. "Logistically, you want to avoid those situations so people are comfortable and your meeting is successful. It's respect for your workforce."

Sharing rooms on the road can be tricky. Employees might not like bunking together, regardless of how much the CFO likes the bottom line when they do.

Business travelers whose companies ask them to double up on trips need to keep things professional, even if someone snores. It's possible if you pack these tips along with your toothbrush and earplugs.

Recommendations for Roommates

  • Doubled Up with a Troublemaker? Raise Concerns in Advance: "People should be given an opportunity to choose who they would like to pair up with," Fornal says. Usually companies put junior employees together, while managers get their own rooms. Staffers should never be asked to pair up with managers. And sexes don't mix.

    If you are paired with a colleague you have work tensions with, talk to your supervisor or human resources in confidence. Similarly, if you have a medical condition and need your own room, your company should accommodate you.

  • Set Expectations with Roommates Before Check-In: "Set limits on keeping the lights on to read or how late people come back to the room," says Jodi R. R. Smith, president of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting. "If they come in late, ask them to do it quietly. If you get up at 5 a.m. to use the treadmill, you do the same."

  • Remember, You're Still at Work: "You need to present a professional persona 24 hours a day," Smith says. "Buy a pair of new pajamas. That way no one can go back to the office and say Jodi was wearing an old flannel with a hole in the tush."

    And keep it clean. "Even if you're a slob at home, keep all of your things on your side of the room and the sink neat," Smith says. Don't drink too much, and don't invite strangers back to the room. And please, don't walk around in your underwear. It's work, not college.

  • Make the Best of a Temporary Situation: Snoring aside, bunking together has its benefits. "A business trip can have positive or negative effects," Smith says. "People who have a contentious relationship at the office might find out they have more in common when they get away from the boss and interact."

Be considerate of your hotel roommate, and ask that he do the same. Remember, work is the focus of a business trip. Besides, you both need a good night's sleep.

Key Insight: Debunking the Trend

Some HR professionals think pairing employees in hotel rooms may be good for the bottom line but bad for business.

"Employers like to encourage a businesslike atmosphere and culture in the workplace, and forcing employees into a more intimate setting doesn't do anything to further the goal of ‘businesslike,'" says Deborah Keary, SPHR, director of the Society for Human Resource Management Knowledge Center.

"When employees must share hotel rooms, it seems the employer places the value of a night's hotel stay above the value of the comfort and privacy of their employees -- not good for morale and not good for retaining the best and the brightest of your employees," Keary says. "Most employees would prefer their own room at a less expensive hotel to a shared room at a pricey hotel. Not survey data, just an educated guess."

Quick Tip: Don't Get Caught All Wet

"Even in Vegas or Hawaii on business, don't walk to the hotel pool in your bathing suit," Smith cautions -- no matter how good you look. "Even in a business suit back at the office, people will only think of you in your bathing suit. Wear a shirt and Bermuda shorts."

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