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One of my staff members is being asked to travel to another city for an 8 hour training and then return the same day with no hotel accommodation with the following schedule.

  • Leave office at 3:00 am
  • 1:30 travel from office to airport (80 miles)
  • 30 minutes from airport parking to terminal
  • Arrive 90 minutes before flight per airport recommendation
  • 6:25 am flight
  • arrive at airport at 7:58 am
  • 30 minutes travel to training at nearby hotel
  • Training from 9:00 am to 5:00
  • 30 minutes travel back to airport
  • Arrive 90 minutes before flight per airport recommendation
  • 60 minutes for dinner at airport
  • 8:10 pm flight
  • arrive at airport at 9:33 pm
  • 30 minutes from airport terminal to parking
  • 1:30 travel from airport to office
  • Arrive back at office at 11:03 pm

This is an exempt status employee who normally works 7.5 hour days with an additional 1 hour lunch. (37.5 hour work week)

Obviously this schedule is unreasonable. My question is, what would be a reasonable ask? I believe they would pay for one night of hotel with sufficient resistance but I feel this would require 2 nights to make the travel comfortable.

  • arrive in the remote city the night before
  • do full day of training
  • fly back the next morning

What is reasonable? Are there any rules or guideline to help with this?

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closed as unclear what you're asking by Jim G., gnat, jcmeloni, ReallyTiredOfThisGame, Michael Grubey Apr 23 at 7:34

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Surely you mean "Leave home at 3:00 am"? –  aroth Apr 22 at 11:57
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If you're the manager and can reject the request, it seems like you should. It's not reasonable to expect anyone to start their day at 3:00am and then sit through training from 9 to 5. They just won't get anything out of it. If it takes 6 hours to reach the training site, they need to leave the night before. With respect to coming back, maybe let the employee decide if they'd prefer to stay a second night or return immediately after the training. –  aroth Apr 22 at 12:08
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Issues with the schedule: (1) That schedule leaves no margin for error. What happens if TSA takes its sweet time, the passenger queue is long and your co-worker misses the flight? Does your co-worker have a chance in hell of making it on time to the hotel by taking the next flight? (2) 3 AM - 4 AM is when the biological clock shuts down, unless your co-worker is a night owl; (3) Your co-worker is most likely to arrive at the hotel, totally wiped out from the flight. Not sure what your co-worker is going to pickup from the training, except for an overwhelming urge to take a nap; (continued) –  Vietnhi Phuvan Apr 22 at 12:09
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Issues with the schedule (continued): (4) the schedule, as written, provides for a 20-hour day, INCLUDING 3 hours' worth of driving. Somebody is playing games with your co-worker's physical safety let alone the physical safety of others on the road; (4) Report to the office at 11:03 PM on the dot, what kind of crap is this? (5) My best guess is that your co-worker's productivity won't be worth much of anything the following day. My assessment: this is a crazy-ass schedule, planned by somebody who is too much of a miser to want to pay for a hotel stay. Two nights at the hotel is reasonable. –  Vietnhi Phuvan Apr 22 at 12:19
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I would be curious about liability issues as well. If employee is considered "on the clock" and gets into an accident because of fatigue caused by the required schedule, is employer on the hook? –  Chip Apr 22 at 15:56

3 Answers 3

up vote 15 down vote accepted

Not pushing for at least one night hotel stay is what's not reasonable, here. You're talking a 20 hour day on the clock, that does not include the time before and after arriving at the office. Even assuming the employee lives 15 minutes away from the office, you're still talking not a 20 hour day, but not less than 21.5, assuming they can get up, eat, get dressed and be out the door within an hour, and they crash as soon as they get home. Heaven forbid they live farther away or need any amount of time to wind down after they get home before they go to sleep.

Do a cost comparison and risk analysis:

  1. Losing even a couple of hours of sleep is akin to driving under the influence. Asking this person to drive 3+ hours total in a time frame with nearly 24 hours without good sleep is risking the lives and safety of both the employee and anyone on the road at that time. Last I checked, the cost of a lawsuit and AD&D insurance payout was far more than one person's salary for a day or two and an extra night in a hotel.
  2. After that kind of day, the employee will be lucky to get up in time to even report to work the next day, let alone be productive, so you're not actually "saving" that day (they're exempt salary, anyway, so you're paying them regardless of how many hours they worked, and they just clocked nearly three days' worth of time for the sake of the company).
  3. Starting at 3am, plus the drive, plus the stress of the flight will make the employee's ability to focus on the training nearly impossible, making the training itself a waste of time and money.
  4. Any decent-sized company will have deals with hotels, bringing the cost of the hotel itself down to as little as $50/night. So even two nights will cost only $100, plus an extra meal or two.
  5. Getting an evening flight the day before will still allow the employee to work the day before (so no lost productivity), while still being fresh for the training, and a morning flight the next day won't cost you any more time/productivity, in reality, than that insane schedule (yes, on paper, it does, but consider the previous points). The employee may even be able to work up to half a day the day after training, depending on flight times (and, depending on the nature of the employee's work, they may be able to work remotely and have a later flight).

Even not taking the above into account, it's not uncommon for companies to account for at least one night hotel stay. Many companies will do that even for people they're just interviewing. At least one night stay is not only not an unreasonable request, but should have been built in to begin with and should be expected, especially in a circumstance like that. As a general rule of thumb - if you're expecting the person to be on the clock in a day for more than what'd you'd normally expect out of an employee, you probably need a hotel.

Two nights (one before, one after) is also not uncommon, but can go either way in a short trip like this, especially if the travel time is reasonable. That would probably depend more on the individual circumstance. Is the flight crossing time zones? How intensive or complex is the training? How intensive is the employee's usual work? If the employee is a high-level knowledge worker, the training is intensive or complex (or otherwise needs a high level of retention to successfully take home), and/or the trip crosses time zones, then you may want to try for the second night. A refreshed employee is going to retain what s/he learned better, and is going to be more productive when s/he's back at work than one who's exhausted by other things. The second night isn't an unreasonable request, but doesn't necessarily need pushed too hard for. It might also be good to ask the employee if they're okay with flying back the same night.

Barring getting the second night, it might be a good courtesy for you to extend to the employee the option to only work in the afternoon following the training, allowing the employee to get adequate rest. Such a courtesy can result in a more productive employee, due to their trust in you to treat them like an adult and a human being (morale boost!), and due to being able to get some extra rest. Having a butt in a chair from 9am to 5pm does not equal productivity.

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I dont know what your rules regarding workhours are, but where I'm from it's simply not allowed to require someone to work 20 hours in one day. Also time required to work outside of normal office hours would usually cost extra, so that alone would pay for a hotel stay.

The employee should travel to a hotel on the night before, spend a relaxing night at the hotel and be able to focus 100% on the training. That is the only sane alternative.

But two nights at the hotel seems unnecessary. I've been in this situation several times, and travelling back directly after the training is rarely an issue, even if it means a long evening of travelling.

Staying an extra night would also mean the employee would loose a day or at least half a day afterwards.

Sidenote regarding the schedule:

If it was me, I'd probably like to trim the schedule a bit and skip the 60 minutes dinner and possibly not being there a full 90 minutes ahead of time if it would mean I could catch an earlier flight.

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There is a 2 hour earlier flight. He could leave the training early and skip eating dinner and possibly risk missing the flight to avoid a hotel charge but that seems like a bad idea. Sorry employee - there is no time to eat. –  ericdc Apr 22 at 12:58
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I flew out of Orlando 4 days ago. Arriving 70 minutes early caused me to almost miss my flight (last one to board) since the friendly TSA took 55 minutes. Trimming that 90 minute buffer is risky. –  ericdc Apr 22 at 13:01
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@ericdc - Or instead of "Sorry employee - there is no time to eat", perhaps it's "guess what employee, go ahead and buy yourself a nice dinner after your plane lands and then expense it". –  aroth Apr 22 at 13:15
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+1. Pretty much exactly what I would suggest. Air travel in the US is different for every airport. If "employee" is leaving from MCO, then yes, less than 90 minutes is asking for trouble, although not that early in the morning. 60m for dinner is silly. I'm sure employee wants to get home. Grab something and eat as you walk, or find your gate then get something and eat while you wait to board. –  Dave Johnson Apr 22 at 13:47
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Thanks @ericdc - I think the overwhelming opinion is that the schedule is too brutal for the training to be of any use to the poor attendee. A lot of larger companies have all sorts of tolerances built into their staff regs for just these very scenarios. Personally, I'd push for a flight/hotel the night before. I don't think any sane/reasonable person would refuse that. Please come back and let us know what happens in the end! –  Mike Apr 22 at 15:01

You should talk to the employee about what schedule he would be willing to go with. What is reasonable to someone with a family may be entirely different than what is reasonable to a single parent whcih may be entirely differnt to someone who is single or someone who has some outside commitment the day before or after. You can't know his lifestyle constraints unless you ask. You definitely should send him the day before if possible just to ensure he actually gets there in time for the training (cancelled flights and delayed flights are common and this schedule has no room for error). The employee might prefer to come back that night and be allowed to come in late the next morning rather that spend another night in a hotel.

I would also suggest that the person who came up with this schedule be required to follow it and take the same course!

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+1 for asking the guy, if he has a family with responsibilities then he may be trying to do a one day turnaround for personal reasons. If it's for "business" or cost-saving reasons, then sure it should be pushed out to 3 days. –  mxyzplk Apr 22 at 16:11
    
+1 for the first paragraph, but the second one is vindictive. I certainly wouldn't suggest someone to literally take that advice and rudely give the scheduler a hard time (but a reasonable talk might be in order). –  Kevin Apr 22 at 16:39
    
I definitely discussed this with the employee to see what he preferred (which is 2 nights stay). I didn't just assume he would want that before balking at the 1 day or 2 day schedule. –  ericdc Apr 22 at 18:21
    
+1 for telling it straight to the Man in the second paragraph :) –  Vietnhi Phuvan Apr 22 at 23:16

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