This is the second article in a two-part series on the emergence and impact of home-based business travel agents. Part one, Home Based Agents: A Powerhouse Emerges, appeared in the Feb. 17 issue.
Home-based corporate travel agents come in as many flavors as office-based corporate travel agents.
Some are entirely independent. Some are corporate employees working from home. Some are agency employees working from home. Some are independent contractors working with a host agency.
Some started their agency at home. Some closed a brick and mortar agency and moved home. Some were sent home when their employer closed an office. Some work alone and some have employees.
And some wanted to move home, and some found it was a life preserver.
“I was going to quit because I had to move back to the East Coast for family health reasons,” said Casto Travel corporate agent Claire Adinaro. Casto’s corporate travel office is in San Francisco and Adinaro is in Richmond, Va.
“When I went to HR to tell them I had to leave, they said, ‘No, you’re not going to quit just because you have to leave San Francisco. We’ll make arrangements.’”
Adinaro has been logging into the Casto computer and telephone system from her home office in Virginia for more than seven years. She is on the same telephone rotation as fellow agents in San Francisco and uses the same corporate travel tools as co-workers across the country.
“Logging in from Virginia is pretty much like I’m in the office,” Adinaro told Travel Market Report. “Location is pretty much invisible from the client side, although a few of them know I’m at home. Supervisors still check up on me, as they should, and I keep in touch with co-workers by instant messaging just like everyone in the physical office does.
“We are still accountable to the client, no matter where we happen to be working. Clients understand that, because they all take working responsibilities with them when they travel.
“Friends don’t always see that work connection at first. They don’t automatically understand that I’m just as accountable for my time here as if I were in the company office,” Adinaro said.
Convincing friends, neighbors, and family that work time is 100% work isn’t the only difference between working at home and working in a traditional office. Working at home also means working outside the traditional network of office chatter, feedback, and politics.
Mia Forman, an independent contractor with Los Angeles-based Montrose Travel, works and lives in Florida. She joined Montrose with a stable of long-time corporate clients after having worked in-house and independently in the Midwest, then moving to Florida.
“I still pinch myself every day that I can work from home,” Forman said. “Sure I miss those 2-1/2 hour lunches at the Ritz-Carlton, but it’s worth the trade-off. The great part is being able to work in your own environment. There’s no commute, the overhead is significantly lower, and there are no distractions from co-workers or office politics.”
Not for everyone
But working from home is not for everyone. Cathy Nilsen also brought along a stable of long-time corporate clients when she joined Montrose as in independent contractor — and opted to work in the company office rather than to work at home.
“In some agencies, independent contractors are the orphan children,” she said. “At Montrose, it’s the reverse. We have grown together as a team. The lines are blurred between contractors and employees by design no matter where you work.
“Many people do extremely well in a home-based environment. It’s a matter of personality and working preferences. I see being in-house as an advantage because I prefer in-person contacts. There are always office politics and the commute is an issue, but the trade-offs are worth it to me. There are so many times that being able to walk across the hall to see somebody makes all the difference,” Nilsen said.
Adinaro sees it both ways. She said it took time to get used to the physical isolation after working in the bustling Casto office. She doesn’t miss the commute, but she still misses the easy interaction with co-workers.
“The biggest drawback to working at home is the lack of face-to-face interaction,” she told Travel Market Report. “I miss the energy of an office. It can be positive energy or negative energy, but you lose out by not having it. I could be happy either way, but I prefer working from home overall. It absolutely takes a disciplined personality, but I like the control that working at home gives me.”