Do I have to share a hotel room with my coworker?
May 9, 2013 3:40 PM   Subscribe

Is it common in your academic workplace for people to share hotel rooms at conferences with colleagues?

I have been in my position as an academic librarian at a state university for 7 years. Last year, following a reorganization, my position was reclassified as academic (non-regular academic). Travel policy and culture is different for staff versus faculty, and I've been confused while navigating these differences. My question is about the cultural aspect of this.

I travel 2-3 times a year for conferences, usually staying 3-4 nights. Before I was reclassified as academic, all of my travel was considered administrative, and all of my expenses were reimbursed. (Assume moderate expenses- conference rate hotel, per diem, airfare with shared-ride airport shuttles, etc.)
Now, following my reclassification, I have two types of travel. The first is administrative, as it's part of my job duties, and fully reimbursed. The second is travel for professional/academic development, such as presenting at conferences, for which I am allotted funds (equal to about 2/3 of one typical trip) from which I will be reimbursed.

To save money on this latter kind of travel, most of my co-workers get roommates for the conference. These might be coworkers, an old friend/colleague, or even a stranger picked from a listserv. Recently, I attended a conference with several coworkers. I was the only one who didn't have a roommate. One of my coworkers even roomed with her boss (though they are both in their 50s-60s). This is mostly to save money, but some have noted that they like the social aspect of having a roommate, and that it gives them a chance to chat (say, if they're old colleagues who now live far apart.)
This was the first time that the question of sharing a room on a work trip has come up for me. My boss did ask me about it, but didn't press the issue too much. Because I'd saved a huge amount on travel costs, my allotted funds covered my hotel room in total, so I didn't have to eat the extra costs of not having a roommate.
However, I am concerned that this might be pressed in the future, and that I might be requested to get a roommate for my administrative travel. This is often to conferences where I am the only attendee from my institution and where a roommate would be a stranger or acquaintance at best. While this hasn't been asked of me yet, I see the writing on the wall. I don't have any travel scheduled anytime soon. I want to figure out whether this is something that is so part of the culture that my best bet is to just learn to deal with it, or the kind of thing where I should limit my professional development only for conferences where I can afford to eat half the cost of lodging just to avoid sharing a hotel room with a stranger.

Maybe that sounds a little overkill, but I'm obviously having some issues with this idea. I really do not want to see my coworkers in their pajamas, hear their nighttime noises, or have to have them see/hear me/mine. Conferences are exhausting, and my hotel room is my area of respite. I'm an introvert; sharing a hotel room would mean that I would feel pressure to be "on" when I want to zone out. There are a lot of reasons why I don't want to share a room with people I know professionally. But this is clearly not the case for everyone.

My question: Is this a common cultural aspect of academia? Is it common for academic professionals (not students) to share hotel rooms? Do you? Did you have to get over some mild discomfort with the idea? Do you have any words of wisdom from me on this?

I am also interested in your thoughts as to whether there's a gender thing in play here. Are female librarians expected to share hotel rooms while male librarians might not be? Does a more male-dominated academic field have a different culture of room sharing?
*Sub-question is not intended to provoke an argument. I am purely speculating in that way that we sometimes do when we want to think there are unfair reasons for asking us to do things we don't want to do. I really want to learn about the broader culture of academia when it comes to this, and librarianship is very female-dominated.
posted by aabbbiee to Work & Money (59 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not an academic, but this is pretty common in the corporate world too. Companies want to save money; sharing a room is one way to do that. If you must have your own room, then spend the extra money to do so.
posted by jrockway at 3:50 PM on May 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

Is sharing rooms common for faculty? No, but it's not rare enough to be weird.

Sharing a room with a stranger or bare acquaintance? Well into the land of the fucked up.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:50 PM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm a woman in academe, in a career center, and I do not ever share a room with anyone at conferences. But I've had to fight for it, and there was some grumbling, to the point that I would pay out of pocket to not share a room. I really need my room for quiet time.

When I worked in a center with a female director, I had to fight for it a little bit harder because there does seem to be a sense that 'women will share'. Since then I've worked for male directors, while I had to fight for it, usually not that hard.

For me it got decided years ago, when I went to a conference with career counselors, and all the women shared rooms and none of the men did. That was it for me. Now, my assumption for my staff is that if they want to share, they can, but if they don't want to, they don't have to. It's an expensive perk not to have to, but it's one that all of my staff appreciate.
posted by anitanita at 3:52 PM on May 9, 2013 [8 favorites]

A lot of academics are ridiculous cheapskates. As a student, it was pretty much expected that you'd share. As a "grown up" I think you have every right to expect your own room.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 3:59 PM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm in the biological and computer sciences. Some conferences or departmental retreats are at remote locations and there are just a limited number of rooms. So the conference expects you to share. If you don't name a preferred roommate, you'll get a random stranger.

Elsewhere faculty usually get their own room. But in the sciences they are also often the principal investigator on an external grant that's paying for the travel. Students and postdocs in the U.S. have to share, in my experience. You will see trainees send emails to conference mailing lists looking for a roommate.

When I was in the UK there was much less of a culture of sharing rooms with other people than the U.S. across the board. People were horrified when I told them that I shared a room with someone as a freshman undergraduate. And students seemed not to have to share a room as often for academic travel.
posted by grouse at 4:03 PM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

When I worked for a large company we were strictly forbidden to share rooms at conferences an similar events. I was told that this was because the company didn't want any liability for anything that might go awry between the two people sharing the room. IANAL, but it seems to me that if the company forces you to share a room, and your coworker does something uncool, that the company would be on the hook for it if you decided to pursue a lawsuit.
posted by bashos_frog at 4:04 PM on May 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

I am not a room sharer, except in extraordinary circumstances. However, I am in the tiny tiny tiny minority in my academic library. I have colleagues who not only share rooms, but will without hesitation put three or four people in a room with just two beds. I have known many librarians who look for conference roommates on listservs. I get the impression that it may be more common for librarians than in other fields, which certainly runs against stereotype. So, the writing may indeed be on the wall for you.

That said, I fully support just drawing a line in the sand and saying you won't share a room. I won't. I can't imagine being forced to. I'd just continue to book single rooms without comment until the issue actually comes up.
posted by donnagirl at 4:04 PM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Never had to share a room on a work trip (corporate) and would be pretty pissed if expected to.
posted by sweetkid at 4:04 PM on May 9, 2013 [10 favorites]

It's been quite a few years but when I worked in a staff position at a university, I was expected to share a hotel room with a coworker when we went to conferences. I ended up always opting to pay for my own room.
posted by jamaro at 4:04 PM on May 9, 2013

My school has always given me my own room when I travel with students for state conferences or competitions, to conferences with my colleagues or when I am traveling alone.

I really do not want to see my coworkers in their pajamas, hear their nighttime noises, or have to have them see/hear me/mine. Conferences are exhausting, and my hotel room is my area of respite. I'm an introvert; sharing a hotel room would mean that I would feel pressure to be "on" when I want to zone out.

This could have been written by me.
The only people I know that share rooms are the super social people and the people who want to save money. If I was asked to attend a conference and my employer wanted me to share a room, I would offer to pay for my single. All those reasons above and more are worth the extra money.
posted by NoraCharles at 4:05 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm a librarian, I have gone to conferences, I have been encouraged to share a room with colleagues in order to cut costs. In my experience, (I've worked in both Public and Academic libraries) this is quite common. I like to have a room to myself, so I pony up the extra $$ to get a single. Then I can eat Room Service and watch Storage Wars all night long in my undies and nobody cares.

When I send my staff to conferences, I give them a travel stipend. If they want to pair up and get a room full on the Library's dime, awesome. If they want to each get a room and pay out of pocket extra for rooms to themselves, that's cool too.

note: All of my current staff are women. I am not sure what I would do if there were a man in the mix.
posted by Elly Vortex at 4:06 PM on May 9, 2013

I'm organizing an academic conference where our remote conference site isn't big enough to accomodate all attendees in single rooms. The de-facto priority for single rooms goes to faculty and invited speakers with trainees expected to share rooms. Not sure how this fits your status.
posted by u2604ab at 4:08 PM on May 9, 2013

In my experience from two different universities, it was standard for faculty to get their own room (because their grant contained funds for that), whereas postdocs/grad students/staff were expected to share with each other. It was reasonably common for someone to choose to pay the difference to have their own room - but somewhat awkward, if doing so meant that someone else who had been willing to share a room, then also had to have a more expensive single room because there was no one left to share with.

I don't think I ever heard of someone sharing with a stranger, though.
posted by Stacey at 4:11 PM on May 9, 2013

I'm pretty sure the sales force in my company room together for national sales meetings -- but they're extroverts almost by definition. It was touch-and-go for a while that I (an introverted techie) would have to room with another techie, but I managed to decline. I've heard from older folks in other professions that rooming used to be much more common and no big deal; maybe the crap economy will bring the practice back.
posted by seemoreglass at 4:12 PM on May 9, 2013

I'm an academic. Most of our group just went to a major conference where ~25 of us rented a large house together to save money. We all had to share rooms (including the very senior, highly respected leaders of our lab). A couple people opted out and decided to pay a bit out of pocket for their own hotel rooms. Nobody was offended.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 4:13 PM on May 9, 2013

In the corporate world, I've never heard of people being asked to share rooms.

I'm also a doctoral student and attend/present at conferences. My school offers students a stipend for travel, but not a full reimbursement. At academic conferences students on a per diem stipend often share rooms, but I have not observed that faculty are asked to do so.

BTW, if you're bearing work costs out of your own pocket then ask your accountant if these could be deductions on your taxes.
posted by 26.2 at 4:14 PM on May 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

It's common enough that some conferences will offer to match up roommates. In my experience, though, no one will press you to do anything like that. As far as Faculty, I think that's why you get x amount - you can manage it however you want, but when you're out of money, the rest comes out of your pocket. For overnight retreats with our first-year class, we have indeed stayed in places where we shared double rooms (both men and women were asked to do so). The person coordinating it knew of some anxiety issues I had about sharing and just worked it out where I conveniently got the solo room.

In short, not uncommon, but I think people understand when people aren't comfortable with it.
posted by bizzyb at 4:15 PM on May 9, 2013

I'm a female academic librarian and have not shared a room. It was suggested once that a coworker and I share but she pushed back and it hasn't been mentioned again since. A male coworker does tend to share a room with a friend at another institution but I'm pretty sure that's by his own choice.
posted by kbuxton at 4:15 PM on May 9, 2013

FWIW, it's not common in the corporate world, but it's not unheard of, either. At IBM, if we were traveling on client business, we got our own rooms, but at our annual all-hands off-site meetings, we were expected to share with a co-worker. We were allowed to pick our own roommates if we cared, otherwise we just got assigned to one by whoever was in charge of the spreadsheet. That was a male dominated environment.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:21 PM on May 9, 2013

Principal Investigators pay for conferences out of their own grant money. Because of this, many of them are, as mentioned above, ridiculous cheapskates (money spent on their own room means less money for equipment, for example), and so even then you see PIs sharing a room at conferences. So because of this, you get a "culture of cheapness" and it will be a cultural norm to share a room at a conference. Like anitanita said, though, sometimes you might want to simply fight for your own room.
posted by deanc at 4:23 PM on May 9, 2013

I'm a female academic librarian and at my previous job everyone shared rooms, and at my current job no one shares rooms, except if my one coworker and her significant other (also a librarian) go to the same conference/event. Definitely I meet a lot of people (from big-name institutions, even) at conferences who are sharing rooms, and who have expressed envy at my non-shared room, and even at a week-long professional development training I attended there were a lot of people who had to share dorm rooms with (same-sex) strangers due to institutional policy.

That said, my current place of work is kind of flaky about professional development travel in general - everything is on a case-by-case basis. If I were at a place where I had $X to spend on conferences, and I really liked going to conferences, I might go the roommate route so that I could squeeze in another conference. I *have* stayed with friends/family when attending a conference in their city, but that's as much my personal preference as it is to save money. Also I tend to not stay at the conference hotel if I can help it (I know, I know, I'm killing the conference).
posted by mskyle at 4:24 PM on May 9, 2013

As a social science research center staff member at a Big Ten school, the faculty and administrative staff almost always shared rooms, sometimes even finding roommates who were coming from other schools. I think they would have been accommodating had I raised concerns about such arrangements, but I never questioned it and it probably would have meant I'd have had to travel less.

I now work in the private sector doing government services; a coworker and I shared a room at a conference we went to (because I thought that's what you did when I booked it) and several coworkers thought it was weird when I mentioned it offhand. Other trips where someone else booked the rooms, they got me my own room without having asked my preference.
posted by substars at 4:25 PM on May 9, 2013

Social science professor at a large state university here. I know that there are huge differences in the amount of funding faculty receive for professional development activities like conferences. I used to get a max of $800 per year while peers of mine at private universities had annual guarantees of thousands of dollars.

In my field, a lot of people do share conference hotel rooms, but those with the funding to cover it generally avoid it. I know I'd rather have a private room myself, but sometimes finances make that impossible.
posted by DrMew at 4:27 PM on May 9, 2013

I'm an academic librarian as well, but weirdly anti-conference for some reason. However, I do sit on the budgeting committee for my library. We have a fixed line for our staff's developmental travel and conference attendances, so a single room for one staff member might mean that another staff can't go to the conference she wants to go to. So while we wouldn't force someone get a roommate, we might opt to say no to expenses next time around so that the other staff can get a turn. When members of the same department go to the same conference, they tend to room together as a matter of course.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:30 PM on May 9, 2013

I worked in student life until last year. I was the only person in my office to go to my main professional conference each year. It was expected that I would share a room with someone simply because I started to do so to save money, but it wasn't specifically required. However, we had a limited professional development budget and our conference travel had to be approved by a supervisor. Therefore, if the travel was too expensive it could be denied.

The conference I went to was highly social, and a lot of people roomed with friends from other campuses, so it's not exactly the same situation as yours. I'd say continue to book single rooms until told otherwise, but also be willing to pay for half of your room if you want a private. That savings in the budget may be the deciding factor in whether you get to attend the conference or not (mine was always about airfare...some places were more expensive to fly to than others. Some were cheap enough I could go in a day early and still save money). I think it would heavily depends on costs and budget.
posted by MultiFaceted at 4:40 PM on May 9, 2013

I'm a humanities professor (philosophy) at a CC. Generally speaking, we get reimbursed up to a specific amount. So, just as with your food per diem, if you spend more it comes out of your pocket. I imagine this encourages some faculty to share, but at my college it's not expected.

I've only ever shared a dorm at a summer institute, because that's how the NEH set things up for everyone. Even then, it was a suite and we all had individual bedrooms.

My suggestion, should the school bring it up, is to explain that you understand that the institution faces certain budget realities and that you don't expect to be given more than your fair share. So, while you are willing to pay out of pocket (for the likely small) extra cost of going solo, you will not share a room.

From the colleges perspective their wish to be frugal is still being met. So, it shouldn't be a problem. (You didn't mention whether you're tenured or not, but if you are, you've got quite a bit of leverage.)
posted by oddman at 4:46 PM on May 9, 2013

Very common in corporate.
posted by pakora1 at 4:51 PM on May 9, 2013

We have a lot of (academic) conferences in a remote place with limited rooms and most people have to share. The room assignments are usually decided by the conference organisers and people are preferentially put with friends, but sometimes with strangers if the pairings otherwise don't work out. If there are any single rooms available, they get assigned to the top of the hierarchy (senior professors, visiting speakers).

In a place with sufficient rooms for no-sharesies, I have never been told I have to share or had any issues with reimbursement of a single room (although the reimbursement comes from my own grant funding, so there's that.) It's not uncommon for two friends/colleagues to double up to save money if they don't have full funding, but I don't know anyone besides grad students who has shared with a stranger by choice.
posted by lollusc at 5:00 PM on May 9, 2013

I was never forced to share a room, but often did when I was a graduate student and beginning postdoc. No one would have expected me to share with a male colleague (I am female), but I have done that once in a hotel in expensive NYC. It was fine, but it was my choice.

I never ever share now. Conferences are too exhausting and I need to rest in my room. In my experience, faculty never ever share.

I am in the hard sciences.
posted by pizzazz at 5:02 PM on May 9, 2013

I am a male academic librarian. I usually share a room with a regular roommate. First that was a male coworker. Then I moved to a new job and kept rooming with him. Eventually his convention schedule changed, and I started rooming with a female coworker (and former library school classmate). That went on through a job change, then our schedules rifted apart. Now I room with a female librarian in my professional society. In all cases, we shared to save on costs, since we each had 2-3 regular meetings a year and fixed travel budgets. I have a few coworkers who think I am weird for sharing a room with a female roommate, but it has never bothered any of the people actually sharing.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:02 PM on May 9, 2013

As a data point my wife, who has been an academic in the United States and the UK and now the US again, has shared rooms at conferences with friends for about 20 years. Mostly to save her money since part of the cost comes out of her research grants or dept funding and she would spend it on research. Sometimes it is also to help out colleagues with less funding who need a roomie so they can save money. I think she has had here own room only a couple of times.

However, this is a choice.
posted by srboisvert at 5:07 PM on May 9, 2013

At some of the academic conferences I go to, there are usually a lot of people there I'm friends with who I don't get to see very often -- sometimes I will share so I can actually spend time with some of them.

In other situations, it depends. Since I am a historian working in a non-academic setting, I only get conference travel paid when I'm on the program (I don't have a pool of research or travel funds to work with). When this happens, there's no expectation from my employer that I will share. However, I occasionally go to conferences where I have to pay totally out of pocket -- you bet I'm sharing then.
posted by heurtebise at 5:12 PM on May 9, 2013

Heh... I thought I was the only one who hated room sharing. I have gone to the extent of paying for my own room to avoid it. Get use to it and be prepared to pay. It's not unusual at all.
posted by brownrd at 5:16 PM on May 9, 2013

Last roommate I had at a conference snored loudly. Sleep is essential, so never again.
posted by theora55 at 5:22 PM on May 9, 2013

I'm organizing an academic conference where our remote conference site isn't big enough to accomodate all attendees in single rooms. The de-facto priority for single rooms goes to faculty and invited speakers with trainees expected to share rooms. Not sure how this fits your status.
posted by u2604ab at 6:08 PM on May 9
[+] [!]

Just curious, u2604ab, since this somewhat addresses the "what is the norm about sharing rooms" aspect of the question, why was that particular conference site considered acceptable if it did not have enough rooms for all attendees to have their own? It seems like having too few rooms would have ruled out that remote location.

In planning that conference, was it accepted by you as the conference organizer that the norm is to share rooms? What was the thinking there?
posted by Unified Theory at 5:26 PM on May 9, 2013

I am an academic (faculty) and in my experience, some people like to share hotel rooms to save on costs and to make a collegial connection seem a little friendlier; some people don't like to share, which is fine too. There is no expectation one way or the other, but funding varies even within the same dept. -- some people have larger research and travel accounts than others. I share a room occasionally, though I usually prefer to stay alone mainly so that I can have control over when I want to sleep without someone else moving around the room, even if it costs more. I have been asked to share and said no, sometimes. On the other hand, I have I let a graduate student (also female) crash in my room because she had no funding for the trip; it was a gigantic room with two queen beds on opposite sides of the room. So in my experience of academic conferences: there is no expectation, only preference.
posted by third rail at 5:26 PM on May 9, 2013

Is this a common cultural aspect of academia? Is it common for academic professionals (not students) to share hotel rooms? Do you? Did you have to get over some mild discomfort with the idea? Do you have any words of wisdom from me on this?

I had to do this when I was a traveing librarian on the library's dime. However with my former institution (a large public library and this was a small conference) if there wasn't a same-gender person available to share a room, that person roomed alone. That is, I roomed with the other female librarian and the male librarian roomed alone. I think it's pretty normal in the library conference world for people to have "conference buddies" who are the people they room with year after year even if they are not from the same institution. I know both male and female academic and public librarians who do this because they only get reimbursed a fraction of the room rates (or are paying for it out of pocket).

I don't think I'd do it, at this point, because my room-time is my downtime and I wouldn't want to chat with anyone and I am a finicky sleeper. However, I'd fully expect to pay the difference between a double rate and a single occupancy rate room if my institution wasn't going to support it. Often there are cheap dorm-y alternatives at big conferences like ALA where a single room would be inexpensive enough that no one would care. So maybe the way to finesse this is to ask for a stipend and then you can figure out what you want to do. Often the conference hotels at library conferences are crazy expensive but you can stay often in the same several block radius (or AirBnB it and share a house with a few people which is tons different form sharing a bedroom) and easily pay half which might be a great compromise for tight budgets and not wanting to room share.
posted by jessamyn at 6:42 PM on May 9, 2013

This thread is surprising me. I am an art historian and have worked at a series of public universities and have always shared a room with a colleague if two of us were going to whatever conference it was. If I was traveling by myself, I got a room by myself. I have never questioned this and have never been asked to room with a stranger. I have been fully reimbursed every time.
posted by obliquicity at 7:01 PM on May 9, 2013

I am a male staff (not faculty) member at a public University in the United States. Much to my pleasure, I am always reimbursed for a single-occupancy room on business trips and am never expected to share a room with anyone; neither colleagues nor strangers.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 7:14 PM on May 9, 2013

Upon further thought, if two (and only two) people of opposite gender are traveling for work for the same employer, would *they* be expected to share a room? Or, what if the two travelers from the employer are of the same gender, but one of them is homosexual? Would they be expected to share the room then?

Wow... I bet this is part of why my employer just doesn't make people share rooms.

Honestly, the first time I went on a business trip, I expected that I *would* be asked to share a room with a colleague. But now that I have been on a couple trips where that is not the case, I think I would be pretty upset if I had to or was expected to.

I go to work to do my job, not to have slumber parties... Maybe I just value my privacy more than some, but I dunno...
posted by Juffo-Wup at 7:24 PM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

In my field, which is museums, it's a mix. Senior staff usually do not share rooms. Junior staff, graduate students, fellows, etc. often do. There can be a great deal of pressure to share to spare impact on the budget line. It's not uncommon, and most of our conferences do match-ups. The academics who attend often do share, but I would say this about that: academics attend a lot of conferences, a lot more than people in my field usually do, and so I think their budgets are more strained. I know some institutions cover travel up to X amount, say $1000, and after that people pay their own way. So often they have a personal incentive to double up and save a few bucks.

I used to not mind this at all. I have one good friend I like to get a shared room with at one conference, but she's now an exception. I don't want to do it any more. At this point I ace decided to consider it kind of a line in the sand - I have good reasons for not wanting to share (I snore and nobody needs to endure that; I'm a late-night person and that's not cool with everyone) and at this stage of my career I don't feel it should be expected. I'm an introvert, and conferences are very intensive, social, networky, and busy with little downtime. THe room is my downtime, the only place where I can go at the end of the day and know I don't have to do any more interacting. It's essential to my healthy function. So I get where you're coming from. For me, this means that sometimes I'm going to pay the difference between my professional development budget's room rate and what a single will cost. It's worth it.

A bigger issue to me is how freaking out of control expensive most conference rooms are. I routinely find these lame business Marriots and similar charging $219 a night, etc., and still nickel and diming you for WiFi, printing, etc. That's something I wish academia/nonprofits would take on by just choosing different kinds of meeting venues. But keep in mind: you don't have to stay at the conference hotel. You can often find something cheaper, an AirBnB, a bed and breakfast, etc. So maybe your budget would cover it if you found a place at a lower rate.
posted by Miko at 7:26 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sharing rooms definitely happens in my line of work (video games).

Once I even shared a bed with a coworker, but that was because they assigned us a one-bed room and we didn't know it was a mistake.
posted by danb at 10:01 PM on May 9, 2013

I teach at a (Canadian) CC and am occasionally required to travel for work meetings. I have never once been expected to share a room with a colleague, even when I was very junior. The culture for work travel at my CC is that everyone gets their own room. My institution makes the reservation and automatically pays the (really quite cheap) provincial government rate for a single business hotel room and that's that.

I am wigging out a little at some of the stories of being expected to share rooms with strangers, or a BED with a co-worker. Whoa!

However, when I travel for conferences or other professional development, I pay for it and then I am eligible for reimbursement, up to a certain amount per year. That means my conference budget would stretch further if I decided to share accommodations with someone. Some of my more social colleagues like to do this. However, no one thinks it's weird to get your own room. I am a friendly introvert--I like being with people but dear lord I really need to be able to go chill out in my own space after being with others ALL DAY LONG which is what conferences are like. I will gladly eat the difference in cost to get my own room, and really it's never that much more.

Also, Miko is damn right about not staying at the expensive official conference hotel. Unless they're offering a good deal, I don't stay at the conference hotel; I find a less expensive alternative that is usually just as nice but smaller and maybe an extra 10 or 15 minutes away by transit. Soooo worth it. (I've found some great recommendations through Ask Metafilter threads, actually!)
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:30 PM on May 9, 2013

Sharing would be unheard of in my corporate experience, and I would not find it acceptable at all.
posted by hazyjane at 10:36 PM on May 9, 2013

I am an academic. I never get my own room unless I pay for it myself. I once had to share with an administrator, and yes, I have shared with strangers. Ugh.
posted by buzzieandzaza at 11:26 PM on May 9, 2013

Your field sounds a bit different than mine, but in my field it would always be OK to save money by finding my own lodging via AirBnB, Craigslist, hostels, or staying with local friends, as long as I could do better than half the conference's paired room rate. I'd be pissed as hell if I were forced to spend several days with a roommate because someone else was unable to do the same and they happened to share my gender. If someone of the opposite gender got an automatic free pass, I'd be doubly pissed. (Female in computer science so case #2 is unlikely but case #1 is often assumed in the rare instance of even parity).

In a venue with far fewer rooms than attendees, all bets are off of course. The organizers of those conferences are usually those who lurved their undergrad dorm/sorority/fraternity living experience and want to recreate it in a professional context. The senior attendees are of course exempted from the oversharing living experience, and the rest are split on whether it's the best thing evar since grad school or simply hell on earth. Conferences like that tend to have very fast turnover on their organizing committees. Almost everyone prefers attending a conference where everyone can room (or not) as they please.
posted by SakuraK at 12:23 AM on May 10, 2013

I have worked in the academic and the corporate world, in the UK, and I'm shocked that this is even a question. NO I have never had to share a room, even for the stingiest of project sponsors.
posted by tel3path at 2:25 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm a doctoral student in information and library science, and pretty much all the students share rooms at conferences. Faculty do it, too. In fact, sometimes the PhD students share rooms with faculty.

However, most of us pay out of pocket for conference expenses, and we share rooms of our own accord because it makes conferences affordable. I don't think anyone would think it was weird if someone roomed alone, although people may be a bit privately jealous that they could afford it. No one would ever talk about it or make an issue of it, though.
posted by k8lin at 4:33 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm in academia and we do not have to share rooms, but we only get reimbursed for half of the room rate. So if you want your own room you have to pay half.
posted by interplanetjanet at 5:59 AM on May 10, 2013

Response by poster: I really appreciate everyone's thoughtful responses to this so far!

For what it's worth, I am classified as academic faculty, but not as tenure-track or even non-tenure-track- we're a strange gray area. (I know this also varies for academic librarians across the US.) I would not be an invited speaker at these conferences, but just your basic garden-variety poster or presenter or committee member.

I am not at all surprised to hear that students share rooms, and I was also aware that sometimes certain kinds of corporate (sales, for instance) would be required to share rooms at conferences.

I definitely want to work on being more social at conferences (I tend to work, work, work and avoid all the social functions), but this is a line into my privacy that I feel compelled to defend.

Those of you who have pushed back or paid for your own rooms regularly give me some hope that I won't be seen as not-a-team-player for pushing back on this myself. I do have some leeway in the way my professional development funds are offered (an allotted amount per year) so I can be choosy in how I spend them and try to stretch it so that it will cover most of my hotel room. There are lots of good ideas above!
posted by aabbbiee at 7:06 AM on May 10, 2013

I think in this day and age, knowing yourself is something people understand -- that is, saying "I can't enjoy the intensity of the conference unless I can get some solitude back in my room" doesn't seem like a "non-team-player" thing, but just somebody who's grown up enough to know their limits.

There are events where I would love to share a room with an old friend who now lives far away, but much more often I'd like my own space, and would be willing to pay for it. Alternatively, you could investigate the possibility of finding cheaper accommodation by going off the ranch -- for example, I used to go to giant meetings in New Orleans, and could find cheap places in B&B's (or even "backpacker rooms" in regular local hotels) for a pittance. Similar options exist in most dense cities, although obviously not in more remote conference centers.
posted by acm at 7:20 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I work in finance and it's expected that we'll share a room. Basically, the company will pay for half a room and I can either find a roommate for the other half or pay it myself.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:51 AM on May 10, 2013

Wow. Sharing a room sounds horrifying. I work in a corporate office and no one shares rooms. Could you get a doctor's note saying your anxiety prevents you from sharing a room? For instance, at my company, I originally had a cubicle in a very busy area and it was breaking my concentration. I had my doctor write me a note and then HR had to move my cubicle.
posted by parakeetdog at 10:26 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Academic librarian at a state university. Like most of my colleagues at other schools, we're given a travel stipend with the discretion to spend it as we wish. Since it's only $1000, though, you share rooms with friends or coworkers unless you want to have to pay out of pocket, or you got a really sweet deal on plane fare. No one cares whether you share a room or don't. It's completely your choice on how to spend the limited budget you're allotted.
posted by MsMolly at 10:45 AM on May 10, 2013

I work in the non-profit sector, and was NEVER asked to share a room. I'm not even in management. The times we had to travel it was assumed by everyone we would all get our own rooms, they didn't even ask us about sharing.

I have learnt that in most cases you set the standards of how uncomfortable you can be made for the benefit of others. This may be the reason why men tend to get their own rooms. Authority and assertiveness are encouraged in men. In women...not so much. Just be firm and say you need your own place or it won't be possible for you to attend. Stick to your guns.

In my case... I would not attend any sort of work related event if I were expected to share a room. I am already losing my evenings, and maybe even weekends, isn't that enough? Depending on how rational people were in HR, I would invent a mental health/embarrasing problem/imsomnia excuse if I had to, and would not feel bad about it.
posted by Tarumba at 10:56 AM on May 10, 2013

sweetkid: "Never had to share a room on a work trip (corporate) and would be pretty pissed if expected to."

Ditto. And I just took my first big-boy business trip to the HQ in a foreign country a few weeks ago along with another co-worker. We both stayed in separate hotels (only because he stays at Hiltons for points and I stay at the 'hip hotel' which got our corporate rate).
posted by wcfields at 3:14 PM on May 10, 2013

Someone once suggested I share a room (library industry). I laughed. And when I was done laughing explained that I snore like a logger, trucker, and almighty Zeus himself combined. Hasn't really come up since.
posted by susanbeeswax at 1:03 AM on May 11, 2013

Last uni I worked for, as a software developer (position was treated like faculty for most benefits) we shared rooms. But we generally didn't just send one person to a conference and expect them to share.

Now I work in a unionized position in IT for a different university. A lot of relevant conferences are a LOT closer. We don't share rooms, but I suspect this is a consequence of the dept director's preference than anything else.
posted by pwnguin at 10:49 PM on May 11, 2013

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