Sharing Rooms On Work Travels: The Good, Bad And Ugly

Published 7 months ago
By Forbes Africa | Gary Martin
Interior of hotel room with twin beds
Getty Images

Traveling for work these days is not as simple as booking a flight, packing a suitcase and heading for the nearest airport lounge.

With the price of airline tickets sky-rocketing and the cost of hotel rooms in the stratosphere, companies are encouraging employees to get better bang for their travel buck.

To cut costs, bosses suggest cramming more meetings into the time away, driving to destinations instead of flying and – yes, you guessed it – sharing a hotel room with a colleague.

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Many bosses have tried to dress up shared accommodation arrangements by telling employees that cohabitating is the perfect opportunity to build camaraderie and team work.

Some have been more direct and told staff that room shares might prevent a reduction in head count if they are forced to tighten their belts down the line.

Others have told staff it is not unlawful to ask colleagues to share rooms and recommended that they go with the flow and “buddy up” to save their company dollars.

But just because employees can share a hotel room does not mean they should.

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Sharing with a colleague can be bad under any circumstance let alone if you are feeling unwell, experiencing “gassy” conditions, are prone to allergies or experience congestion during the evening.

And it can be uncomfortable to share a room with an early riser when you are a night owl or when you are forced to endure your colleague’s snoring or realize your roommate is a sleep walker.

Besides, being forced to witness your colleague in a towel or their sleepwear, share their soap when you shower and navigate their toiletries in the bathroom all go way beyond the call of duty.

It is important in the modern workplace that we get to know our colleagues though we only want to learn about work- appropriate aspects, not their more intimate or private sides.

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Sharing rooms erodes the professional boundaries that we spend considerable time establishing.

You will not view your colleague Anna the same way if you become aware that she downs three shots of vodka each evening to help her to sleep. You will probably have a different view of Alan if you have been forced to listen to his raunchy sleep talking. And you will most likely have an alternative view of Alice after witnessing her 10-step bedtime regime, which includes two hours of reading before retiring but leaving a light on throughout the night.

If that is not enough to seal the case against sharing a hotel room with a workmate, there is more to consider.

Some people have medical conditions they would prefer not to disclose or be forced to manage in front of colleagues.

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And of course the risk of sexual harassment is very real when unwanted advances take place behind closed doors in a shared hotel room.

Some employees will get around the problem of shared hotel rooms by paying for their own single room. Yet paying out of their own pockets is neither a reasonable nor fair solution to this escalating dilemma.

What is needed is for more workers to push back and make the point work travel is draining and that it is important to be well-rested to be effective in their line of work.

The more workers oppose shared accommodation arrangements then the greater the chance that employers will listen.

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There is also the prospects of employers reducing costs by using cheaper hotel chains, making greater use of day trips without overnight stays and organizing virtual meetings as an alternative to travel.

But if the boss does require room-sharing, secure your employer’s assurance they will cover the expense of booking a separate room if your roommate’s behavior affects your ability to get a good night’s sleep.

Employees who travel for business to benefit their employer should be treated with the respect and regard they deserve.

This includes privacy and safety, a place for downtime away from colleagues and the opportunity to relax without having to worry about the views, emotions, routines and rituals of their colleagues.

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Forcing employees to get to know each other in such an intimate way is not appropriate and can end up diminishing or destroying otherwise good working relationships between individuals.

To put this matter to bed once and for all, companies must refrain from asking employees to share rooms when traveling for work.

The risks will always outweigh the savings.