“Checking in, Mr. Weichmann?”
Such a short, little sentence, yet its absence from my world lately has put a whole new spin on my professional life. In what seems like the snap of a finger, the weekly patterns that so many of us who travel regularly for work were completely upended. We have traded dry cleaning and hotel key cards for fancy pajamas and smart home devices.
During the past year, I have had time to look back and reflect on what I miss about the pre-pandemic hectic travel life and recognize how I have adapted to being grounded. I hope some of this will resonate with my fellow traveling healthcare IT consultants, and I will also share some of the practices and activities I have been able to refocus my efforts on in the creation of new routines.
How It Started
Ten years ago, I changed my career path to pursue a job in the electronic medical records industry. I was blessed to be able to travel growing up, and I had always been intrigued by the “road warrior” style of employee. But until 2011, I had no regular, long-distance flights, nor fancy memberships and statuses. I moved to the Midwest for a new job that would require at least 50% of my time on the road, and all of that changed.
Airport codes were fluently integrated into my vocabulary, and expense packets became a common task. I split my time between Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Tennessee, and while to some this may seem chaotic and unsettling, I found peace in the balance of it all. I was able to grow three sets of roots: I had friends in Omaha, a crew in the Tri-Cities, and my best friends in Madison. Life was an adventure! When I decided to step out and become a consultant, everything was amplified.
I accepted my first consulting role as an application analyst which required an international move. I relocated to the Middle East and did not look back. Being a consultant in my industry was everything I had imagined and more. Sure, having expense accounts and living in hotels seems glamorous, but with the glitter comes the glare: delayed flights, double-booked hotel rooms, small rental cars, getting lost in unfamiliar cities. In my work travels, I have been able to make lifelong friends, work with some amazingly intelligent folks, and grow more than I could ever have imagined. I had become the “road warrior” that I idolized.
I was in a comfortable groove. Sundays were travel days spent in cars and airports, on flights, checking into hotels and navigating different cities. I even had a playlist created for my flights and drive.
Mondays were always my longest workday: It was the day to ensure I had everything mapped out for the work week. Tuesdays and Wednesdays gave me more time to hit some local events like minor league baseball games or book clubs. Thursdays were often known as “Go Home Day”– the whole process, just in reverse.
How It’s Going
That was then, but how is it now? In March 2020, I accepted a position with Impact Advisors and got a placement with a hospital in Florida. Just as soon as I had prepared my luggage and booked my flights, all travel plans came to an abrupt halt. I would no longer be saying hello to people in the blue checked shirts in the CLEAR lane. I would not be swiping into the Centurion Lounge for a quick snack between flights. Getting a different car every week was not in the cards. My office was now less than 20 feet from my bedroom. And, just like so many others, I have had to make major adjustments. Has there been loss? Absolutely! Has there been pain? Yes. Have I loved every minute? No!
But my years of travel taught me to be flexible and amenable, and so I have pivoted. When I look at the positives from my new, homebound status, I see that I have been able to explore hobbies like cooking and hiking. Recipes now fill my search history instead of flight itineraries.
I remember an ESPN commercial featuring John Clayton where he appears to be wearing a suit for his video piece; then, as the commercial ends, he removes what is actually just the top half of a suit and tie, and goes on with his day. That commercial resonates with me now. I keep a couple shirts at my desk for video calls. But for the most part, my attire is a lot more relaxed. I have had more time to explore and invest in my current, new city, and I have been able to save some money.
Even though it might not be as glamourous as my previous schedule, I now have a new weekly routine. Consider if these steps might work for you.
- Sundays: Shop for groceries, meal prep and check calendar for the next day to be prepared for the start of a new week.
- Mondays: Set expectations and goals for the week, best to do first thing in the morning.
- Tuesdays-Thursdays: Progress days. Navigate work and maintain evening time for trying new recipes and catching up with friends via FaceTime.
- Fridays: Wrap up remaining work and wind down. Because I don’t have 10 to 20 hours in transit, I find myself able to take sunset walks, and enjoy my neighborhood with casual drives and strolls.
So, overall, I would say it is going well. What new routines are working for you? In future blogs, I’ll tackle setting up a proper workspace at home, maintaining work/life balance, and making yourself irreplaceable in an office you might never have visited.