I work as a software engineer in Eastern Europe. My job description does not involve travel of any kind. Our client is located somewhere in Western Europe, about 1000 miles (1600 km) away.

Recently an unforeseen situation came up which would require someone from my company to travel to the client's headquarters and work from there. They initially thought of proposing this to me. The setup is something like 2 weeks there, then 2 weeks back home, then 2 weeks there again and so on. All this during a 6-month period.

My employer would cover the costs of:

  • hotel(s)
  • airplane tickets
  • local transportation while living there (stuff like taxis, subway tickets etc.)
  • an X amount of dollars/euros for each day while living there (for food and other extra stuff)

This does seem quite generous and reasonable, but there is another issue here.

This would have a very significant impact over my personal/private life. It also involves dealing with hotels, airports, loneliness, big interruption in social life, being unable to do things or attend events because you're far away etc.

All this, from what I see was somewhat studied and documented before.

In order to compensate for all those inconveniences, I was thinking about asking my employer for extra salary during those 6 months. My question is: how much do I ask for ? My thinking right now is something like +25%. Is that too little for something like this ? Or too much ? What is a typical/reasonable amount for such a situation ?

I think it could be interesting to accept this proposal, but I also think it's very reasonable to be compensated for the major inconvenience.

My guess is: if they feel my request is unreasonable, they will simply try to find someone else to do it. Which is something I don't really want because, like I said above, it could be an interesting experience.

Disclaimer: I'm asking this from a secondary account, for privacy reasons. @moderators I hope that's OK.

  • Do they expect you to travel on your time? If so you might be able to negotiate something there. – paparazzo Nov 13 '16 at 9:34
  • How much do they need to pay you to not quit? That's probably your answer. – user42272 Nov 13 '16 at 23:48

what you should negotiate depends on what you are trying to replace.

For singles I have seen them negotiate extra days off. That way they can take advantage of tacking on site seeing to the end of the business trips. I have also seen them negotiate the actual travel days so that the company pays for the hotel over the weekend so they can do tourist things without having to take a day of vacation.

When money is the issue or when more vacation doesn't solve the issue I have seen them negotiate bonus pay while at the customer site. I have also seen employees negotiate a higher per-diem so that they can pocket more each day. The employee looks at this as an extreme case of overtime.

But for those situations where what is lost is not replaceable by vacation or money, you may want to negotiate flexibility. Does it have to be 2 weeks there, and two weeks at home? Can you pick out a couple of events that they will fly you back for? Or can you shift the weeks to avoid missing some big events?

  • Hmmm, interesting suggestions. Thank you, I will take them into consideration. – JohnDoe Nov 13 '16 at 14:41

There are a few aspects to this, so let's go through them one by one

  1. Some people like to travel, some do not. Some would think this is a cool adventure and other's think it's a drag. This is actually a real opportunity for experience, so it's worth thinking clearly through the pro's and cons before you decide against it.
  2. It's okay to come up with the conclusion "I don't want it". For example if you have a family with small kids or if are supporting ailing relatives, it's okay to push back.
  3. Talk to management: They may not know how you feel. Let them know that you are not thrilled about this, state the reasons (if you can) and ask open ended questions like "how can we best deal with that?". Ideally there is some else who's qualified enough and likes to travel. In this case everyone is happy. Think creatively: perhaps you do initial setup and training and someone else does steady state work.
  4. If you are the only reasonable option, you have bunch of choices. You can say "no" and live with the consequences. If you can state good reasons (family constraints, for example) that shouldn't be too much of a problem. If it's more "I don't feel like it", then this will be a ding in your career at this employer. Whether that's a problem for you, only you can tell. In some cases this may be ok too.
  5. If you say yes, make the best out of it: Visualize how your life would look like and write down what you like and don't like about it. Then think creatively how to get more of the good and less of the bad. Do you prefer a hotel or a more permanent apartment with kitchen and where you can have people over? Is 2weeks/2weeks a good sequence or would you prefer a different cadence. Can you work through the weekends at the remote place and take comp days at home. There is a fair bit of flexibility in structuring this, and it's up to you to come up with the version that's best for you. Most employers will be fine with whatever you suggest as long as it's a reasonable approach to get the work done and it's not overly expensive.
  6. It's okay to ask for money, if money addresses a specific problem. Example "I'm helping my old uncle. We would need to get an aid once we week for the weeks that I'm gone. We expect this to cost around XXX, would you be able to cover this?".
  7. Asking for more money just because it's inconvenience to you is less okay. The money doesn't make it any less inconvenient so you just come across as greedy and opportunistic.
  8. You could also ask for a "per diem" rate instead of actual expenses. It's a lot less paperwork and it gives you more flexibility. Apartment and self cooking is typically significantly less expensive than hotels and restaurants (and more fun IMO). Chances are, you are coming out financially ahead already since your cost of living at home will go down.
  9. Ia actually took a quick look at the article that you have linked (since I do travel a lot for work). I was a bit disappointed at the quality, which is usually good on fast company. For example, the "radiation" claim is dubious at best (see for example http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2013/11/14/245183244/cosmic-rays-sound-scary-but-radiation-risk-on-a-flight-is-small). In any case, almost nothing mentioned in this applies to you: you are only travelling twice a month over short distance with only little time on the plane and maybe two hours jet lag max. I strongly recommend against citing this article with your employer: you'll look like a fool.

What they're offering right now seems perfectly reasonable to me and many people would relish such an assignment with all the opportunities for networking and international experience it gives.

You're not really making the same as you were, because on assignment you have no living costs (or drastically reduced anyway). Which for many people is a bigger percentage of their pay than 25%.

However, if you had a skillset which would mean you're relatively irreplaceable for the job it might be worth pushing for more money. Otherwise I would think they would just find someone more amenable to their offer.

Once you have successfully completed this work, you will have unique experience which will give you an advantage career-wise in the future, and further work of this type may well come with better benefits.

First prove yourself, then ask for more money.

  • Interesting answer, thank you. Out of curiosity: what do you think about the issues described in the article I linked ? – JohnDoe Nov 13 '16 at 9:45
  • I didn't read them, I don't click on links, I've worked in several countries and the international experience has been a big boost to me more than once. – Kilisi Nov 13 '16 at 10:24

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