With business travel booming again, many CFOs are away from home for business regularly for the first time in a few years or even in their careers. The shift requires some re-adjustment: the early mornings and late nights and the irritations of airline travel and hotel stays can wreak havoc on productivity, stress levels, and physical and mental health.
Whether attending a networking event, meeting with investors, or speaking at an internal company meeting, CFOs must stay healthy and focused to get the most out of their trip. Between skipping the local fast food joint and prioritizing getting steps in, executives share their takes on how they set themselves up for success while traveling.
We asked CFOs: How do you stay focused and healthy while traveling for business?
Chief operation officer (former CFO) of Brex (business credit card issuer)
I used to travel a lot as a CFO. I'm a red-eye flight guy, so I usually get to my destination pretty early. On planes, I always refuse the food. It's like an extra meal because no one saves their appetite for the meal on the plane. Rather than having an extra meal I avoid it.
There is no excuse not to get a workout in while traveling. At a hotel, the gym is more accessible, as most hotels have a gym inside the building. And you don’t have to worry about your spouse or kids interfering with your workout [regimen].
Business travel comes down to figuring out what type of travel person you are — a morning person or an afternoon/evening person. Determine travel schedules and subsequent workouts based on what makes you feel most productive.
CFO of ServiceRocket (IT tech service provider)
I've been traveling to New York frequently because I am trying to land a board seat. When I go to cities like New York, I try to walk as much as possible. Even as pregnant as I was when I was there last time, I walked quite a bit. For new CFOs who haven't traveled regularly yet, getting in your steps is the most important thing to maintain a healthy rhythm. That sounds very trite, but 10,000 steps a day does help.
Ensuring you're hydrated, especially attending happy hours, is super-important. It's very easy to drink too much on the road. I love wine and fancy restaurants, but it can become too much. You start with cocktails, and then you have wine, and then an aperitif. By the time you're through, you've had four drinks. If you swap out one of those drinks for sparkling water, you’ll probably feel much better the next day.
CFO of Chipotle (fast-casual restaurant chain)
Being on the road can be exhausting mentally and physically. I've done a few things over the years to make it more tolerable.
I like to run. Exercising is important. I know it's harder to do when you have a busy schedule; you may not be able to exercise as long as you want to. So, do a two-mile run instead of a four-mile run, but still get the run in. My head is clear if I'm in an exercise routine and I feel physically good after running.
You have to eat well, too. I know it's tempting to eat in drive-thru's or have a burger delivered, but you must focus on what will make you feel good the next day. Cities have great restaurants, and you can enjoy yourself there, but balance your diet. Have a salad with your meal, and try to eat something that won't [make you] feel sluggish in the morning.
Generally, you also have to prioritize travel. You don't have [to accept] every keynote invitation. I probably do fewer than people would recommend.
Founder and principal consultant of Scarlet Communications (leadership-centric consulting firm)
Many of us can be road warriors; I used to be one of them. Quick turnaround trips used to be a regular thing. However, I realized over time that if I wanted to stay healthy and reflect my organization and message in a way I am proud of, I needed a day’s buffer in my travel to adjust.
I've learned consistency in travel is the key to staying your best self. Ask yourself what you are eating, what you are drinking, and whether those are out of the norm for you. Especially if you're speaking or even keynoting at an event, giving yourself the tools needed to be your best self is super-important. And that is through the foods and drinks that are part of your regular diet.
Traveling may also force you to exert energy in a way you’re not used to. You have to not only have a clear idea of when and with whom you are speaking, but you have to be able to store energy for that moment. On the road, I think CFOs have to be hyper-aware of their energy levels. Choose wisely where to [expend] that energy throughout the trip.
CFO of Goat Hospitality (restaurant and nightclub ownership group)
One word: preparation. You need to be prepared for the limited time you will have on business trips. Before you arrive, you need to know where your hotel is, how you’re getting there, who you’re talking to that day and what you’re talking about. These are critical for success while traveling.
Even if you will have some downtime, plan something to do — shopping, sightseeing, whatever it is. Don’t schedule it on a whim. Prepare for your trip, and things will go smoothly — and you will feel healthy and satisfied.