Poll: Is it ethical to bring people on business trips?

I have brought loved ones on business trips several times, as have almost all other business travelers I know. As long as they pay their own way, I’ve never thought there was anything wrong with bringing someone along. After all, it’s not costing your company anything extra for someone to share your hotel room or rental car! But a recent discussion on a message board made me realize that not everyone agrees with me.

According to some opinions, if a company sends you somewhere and you don’t spend all of your time working, you are stealing from the company. Another comment was that it may not be unethical, but if having family on a trip distracts you from doing your job then it’s wrong. While I still don’t think bringing family or another loved one on a business trip is unethical, I do see the point that if it’s going to take your energy from the task at hand it’s not a great idea.

So, Readers, what do you think?

Is it ethical to bring someone on a business trip?

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  1. My spouse and I have often traveled together on each others business trips. I don’t see anything wrong with it as long as you are getting the work done. No company owns you especially after work hours so the sharing of a company paid room is a non-issue.

    In my opinion tagging along on trips makes the work better as I am not as homesick as I would normally be and entertaining clients after hours is often enhanced with the spouse.

  2. My wife’s firm send her to periodic meetings abroad, and/or covers her expenses to travel to meetings around teh US. When possible, I always travel with her. My view is 1) I can always keep myself busy during her working hours; 2) her expenses hotel room/taxis) wouldn’t be any greater if she were alone; and 3) she’s probably happier (and thus more productive) if we’re togetherin the evening.

  3. The answer is that it depends on the circumstances. As a threshold issue, you have to make sure that bringing a spouse, partner, loved one or friend doesn’t run afoul of a company policy. (And even if permitted, you should check with your superiors regarding having a guest on each particular trip.) Second, you need to make sure that your travel companion covers his/her own expenses (and yes, that means that if he/she watches a pay-per-view movie after you’ve gone to bed, even if your company would normally pay for that movie for you, your guest should pay for that movie.) Finally, you need to be certain that your companion’s attendance doesn’t distract from your business purpose. As long as you have permission, don’t cost the company money, and aren’t distracted from business, then it should be okay.

  4. It’s perfectly acceptable. You owe it to your company to be 100% and work as hard as you can for whatever event you’re there for, but after hours is your own time, just like after work. Go explore with your spouse.

    I take my wife with me anytime she wants to go. she always comes to the after hours events, and many other spouses are there too.

  5. My husband is a 100% travel consultant and I have gone with him on nearly every trip for the last several years. The bottom line is if someone is a professional, the job comes first.

    In many cases, having a second person along can be beneficial. I often run errands that would distract my husband or take up customer time. Once, I drove 5 hours overnight after we were stranded by a canceled flight. He slept while I drove and he arrived rested enough to be to work the next morning.

    I also act as a personal assistant – book most of the travel, track expenses, reserve restaurants for client meetings, handle laundry and even pack. This frees up a whole lot of time. All of this has allowed my husband time to do more for the company. He has written patents, white papers and training materials and more while maintaining a full client schedule.

    None of this costs the company or the customer a penny extra.

  6. I would never tag along with my fiancee if I would be a distraction, but I’m usually not. I eat dinner on my own with local friends. I play tourist during the day. Sometimes I even take a separate flight. The point is just to be there during the down time and take advantage of free accommodation.

  7. I don’t think it’s even a gray area… your company pays you to be at work 8 hours (or whatever) so you can make the argument that every minute you don’t spend working you’re stealing from the company, but this is clearly not the case.

    I certainly don’t mind inviting / being invited to business trips, as long as the work that needs to get done is being done.

  8. ethical? this is not even worth discussion. it all depends on the person. using your company pc for personal use ethical? if you do it regardless of policy, why even bother with travel? if you don’t then traveling is not even an issue. using an iphone made by chinese workers making $5 a day ethical? these are all non-sensible questions.

  9. How is having your spouse or another companion along on a business trip any different than having them in your life on every other work day? Complete non-issue.

  10. It looks like I’m in a monority (or alone) here.

    This is more of a gray area for me. I always thought that on business trips that the networking can be more productive than the meeting itself. This could well include dinner or drinks after the formal portion, etc. As much as I might try I think this end would suffering with other people along (or I would feel I was negecting them).

    It depends on what I expect to get out of the trip. Some trips are heavier on networking than others.

    I guess I’m not always in the 8 hour work day mindset, especially on trips.

  11. I think Carl P nailed it. If it someplace nice to be, extend your stay over a weekend and pay for the extra hotel/rent car days yourself. In the old days of cheaper fares with a Saturday night stay getting cheaper airfare, some companies were quite happy with that arrangement.

  12. If you’re regularly travelling for work, you’re likely not an hourly employee so 8 hour days may go right out the window.

    Work comes first. For me most of the time that means bringing my spouse is impractical. However, as long as it doesn’t cost the company extra I’m generally free to extend trips over the weekend and do that a few times a year.

  13. I’m with Carl P. Biz travel is not all alike. Conferences, group meetings are not 8 hr per day gigs. Likewise, general biz travel often requires dinners, hours on laptop catching up at the office, and networking. Some trips are ok but generally, my husband would be a distraction (nice distraction) I can’t afford.

  14. I have no problem bringing someone along. Traveling for business is a disruption to my life. If I can minimize that disruption by bringing my SO along then that’s good for everyone.

  15. yes, it’s definitely ok to bring your wife/SO along on business trips and due to the inconvenience your company should pay for it along with any babysitting/dogsitting expanses you may have due to the trip. No company has a right to tell their employees what they can and can’t do on their free time and plus your company should not be burdening you with the extra costs. We all have obligations in our lives beyond our jobs and if we need to hire someone to take care of them for us while we are away (such as babysitting/child care/ dog care) then our company should pay for them as well.

  16. Business travel can wreck marriages. You cannot sugarcoat distraction Kelly H.
    Its the “networking”;) that worries the spouse.

    Two day business trips to central offices can be just as bad but it’s more acceptable to leave the spouse behind. Week long conferences at posh resorts should come with an invite. Jet-setting while your significant other remains grounded will never fly.

  17. I’ve always been refraining from having my wife accompany me on business trips. Last time, we organized for both of us to be in the same city for business while staying in a room one of our companies paid for. I have to admit, my performance was much better than when I traveled alone. There was the additional perk that at nights, we went to the restaurants we yearned to go to together that we never had the chance to.

  18. If the company is paying you in consequence of being available 24 hours a day, (which by the way they won’t)then the company would have a point of feeling that you are steeling from them… (which is far from the case in point) They only pay you for a normal day of work, and try to get out of paying by due time, as usual or with christmas bonuses that really ain’t representative of what you delivered as effort and performance.

    It on the fringe and bordeline of fascism to think that it is unethical to bring family on your business trip, as my experience of it, seems that most is social function mixed with working meetings or lunch or such – while surrounded by luxury and comfort that you don’t usually experience at home which become more like an escape from routine and work and daily life… They will make believe they work long hours, but when they a social event with drinks and you leave around 11pm a little but drunk while meeting people of your network since 6pm because of a working dinner??? You kind of question the ethics and moral of what our society has become. And people there will still say it is the hardest work they ever done and find there is nothing wrong with this picture.

    I don’t always agree with certain conduct of people while on business trips, as when you are single it is your own… but as having a family it can become precarious to be tempted and confronted with certain type of individuals and morals.

    There is a certain maturity level to be able to fulfill a business trip for a company which is not seen that much these days. Gives a feeling that it’s single life all over again. It is ethical that the company respects the private life of the worker/staff/board… and that if they are not willing to compensate monetarily, then they have no business to tell you what to do while on your personal time, even though if bringing someone might affect their dealings during the business trip (which seldom does anyways, and I didn’t day it never does by way, but it is the same with when they stay home and a tragedy struck and you must cancel half way your business trip… such is life)

  19. When I travel for work, I miss out on time with my family, the travel often extends into non-work hours (fly out on a weekend, get back late a night, etc), and causes a build up of stuff at home (yardwork, house repair, etc). I certainly don’t get paid any extra for this and don’t get comp time to help catch up at home. So while the company may not own me for 24 hours a day on a trip, they have certainly affected 24 hours a day.

    My wife has come with me before and it didn’t interfere with the trip anymore than being married would interfere with work while not traveling. I sleep much better in the same bed as her and so if anything I’m more awake and with it on the trip if she is there.

    Really, the key is that both parties need to remember that it is a work day, not a vacation where you go out partying all night. But that is the same as a work day at home too.

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