Please help my very private husband navigate a (maybe weird) work trip
February 6, 2020 3:56 PM   Subscribe

My husband's first work trip for a new company involves sharing a house with 2 other men that he knows just a tiny bit. He is *very private.* He wasn't asked or warned about this - just kind of heard it through the grapevine. Is there a way to just pay for his own place without it being even weirder?

Hi all! My husband just started a new job with a 100% remote company. Great! They are getting together later this month and he will be meeting a couple of his co-workers in person for the first time. Both of these people traveling to the same location as him are (male) managers in the company (above him in position and seniority).

Without warning, apparently the person arranging the trip booked a rental house for the 3 of them to share for the few days they are together. They will have their own bedrooms, and he isn't sure but believes there will be a shared bathroom. This is unexpected and is something that will make my husband very uncomfortable. He is a very private person - he has never had a roommate except for me - he just prefers to be by himself. We don't want to do anything to jeopardize his role with the company, and he definitely isn't the type to ask for special accommodations - ever. We are happy to pay for his own hotel room nearby, I just don't know how to address this with his managers. Is there a polite/professional way to decline this?

Notes if they are relevant:
everyone is flying there, he is renting a car
he is a contractor with the company (but so is everyone else) so he doesn't have the same protections that an employee would

Throwaway email good for a month:

Thank you!!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (23 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
He could claim to have a friend or relative with a house at the location. Of course, he wants to take the opportunity to catch up with them in the evenings when he's in town! (books a hotel somewhere.) Or, perhaps better yet, he could say that he has some sort of free hotel deal with credit card points that he's wanting to use up before they expire. People will feel less insulted if he's not paying money to avoid them!
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 4:00 PM on February 6 [40 favorites]

It’s not that unusual. Often finding an Airbnb type rental is cheaper than renting separate hotel rooms
And many people find it more comfortable. I have done this on a few work trips. There will
Likely not be an expectation that everyone hangs out. He can keep the focus on work and if ever needing an excuse, just step into his own room to “take a phone call” or whatever.
posted by Miko at 4:03 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]

Is this a small company? If it is there may not be much wiggle room. In my experience with larger companies this is very very rare and a gateway to a conversation (ie, may not be typical business practice).
posted by hijinx at 4:18 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]

He has a trade-off. Stay with the other fellows and have his behavior adjudged unusual. Or stay by himself and have his behavior seem odd. Which does he prefer? If he could create a good lie as to why he needs to stay by himself, that would be okayish for awhile. But he has a choice with no truly good option.

Depending on his personality, he could make of this a quirk that everyone talks about, laughs about, and doesn't give a rip about.

That is, no difficult option about how his fellow workers feel about him. But if he doesn't care about that, everyone's a contractor as you write, he should stay on his own.

If some of the employees were women, he could generate a convincing alibi. Hell, it works for VP Pence.
posted by tmdonahue at 4:34 PM on February 6 [2 favorites]

he isn't sure but believes there will be a shared bathroom. This is unexpected and is something that will make my husband very uncomfortable

To clarify, is the shared bathroom a specific source of anxiety or just the whole situation?

If he does try to get through the experience sharing the house, it's common for business travelers to excuse themselves to call/video chat with their SOs, so he can use that as an excuse to go hermit in his room.

He might ask someone who's been on these trips before what goes on in the evening. Renting an Airbnb might be a cost savings thing but they also might intend for the bonding sessions to continue in the evening in the shared spaces.
posted by Candleman at 4:46 PM on February 6 [6 favorites]

As long as you're paying for it yourself I wouldn't worry in the least.

Tell the straight truth "I prefer to have my own place."

As quirks go it's pretty tame. About the same level as being vegetarian or really into an obscure sport.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:51 PM on February 6 [23 favorites]

If it were me I would lie and say I have IBS and would strongly prefer to arrange my own separate hotel stay so I don't disrupt my new colleagues with an embarrassing situation.

YMMV but I find bringing up poop to be a pretty good conversation ender. It's hard to argue with and no one ever wants more information.
posted by phunniemee at 4:52 PM on February 6 [29 favorites]

...Though I will say, back when I did the travel arrangements a simple "I prefer this" was plenty for me and I didn't give a fuck about the whys as long as costs were contained.

It was everyone else (managers, other people on trips) who would ask why and just not let it fucking rest. (Which is why I suggest the poop thing but again YMMV.)
posted by phunniemee at 4:56 PM on February 6 [3 favorites]

I've been having trouble sleeping and I think if I was in this situation I would just say I'd sleep better with my own place; maybe he could say this if it applies. I do think it's totally fine to just say "I prefer this," but depending on the team, some people might read this as being unfriendly/unsociable. If you think that might be the case, I don't think a white lie about visiting a relative or some other excuse would be a huge deal. I would make an effort to seem as friendly as possible with the colleagues. Working remotely, one reason to have a meeting like this is for people to spend as much time together face to face as possible.
posted by pinochiette at 5:02 PM on February 6 [2 favorites]

When I've been presented with this situation, I say firmly but politely that I am a very light sleeper and really prefer my own space. However, if there is a strong push back because they have already paid for a house for three, I would be prepared to deal with it and settle for having your preference noted for the future.
posted by frumiousb at 5:04 PM on February 6 [10 favorites]

Since he has not been officially told, only heard it through the grapevine, I would call the person making arrangements and proactively tell them that he made his own hotel arrangements (which he will be using points so no cost to the company). Ask what the protocol is for his flights. If/when they say they made a reservation for 3 in an AirBnB, play naive and say that won't be necessary for him. If they insist, ask why. If it is for bonding or to discuss business, say no problem, he has a rented car and will hang out until the evening is over and meet them there to pick them up in the morning. If the booker keeps pressing the issue, then say something along the lines of what phunniemee said about a minor but important medical issue or IBS.
posted by AugustWest at 5:18 PM on February 6 [17 favorites]

Whenever I’ve applied to jobs with fully remote companies, they invariably mention on their website that they have company get-togethers where everybody flies to the same place as a bonding experience. The idea is that, since they never actually see their co-workers, the week they spend together is basically condensing a year’s worth of social life into a few days.

I’m going to guess that, if it’s a fully remote company, he’s probably not the only introvert there. And this is speculation on my part, so disregard if I’m wrong, but if it’s a software company, he definitely won’t be the only person with “weird” picky issues. He’s probably being a little self-conscious because he doesn’t know these people very well, but I can’t imagine that this will be a big deal.
posted by kevinbelt at 6:14 PM on February 6 [8 favorites]

YMMV but this would be highly atypical in all of the industries/workplaces I've worked, although I know a few colleagues who would really love this idea and would absolutely expect to spend a large amount of time together. I think it's truly unusual that there was no discussion and he hasn't officially been told yet. I think AugustWest offers some solid advice.

I also think it's worth finding out whether shared accommodations are the norm for this company, if there is travel associated with his position, or this is just kind of a one-off.
posted by sm1tten at 6:15 PM on February 6 [3 favorites]

I work for a mostly remote company that used to do things like this, but they changed the policy a year or two ago and now booking and sharing a house is not allowed. Everyone must be given a room at a hotel now. I'm not sure why the policy was changed but I appreciate it.
posted by jordemort at 6:43 PM on February 6 [2 favorites]

Re-reading my comment, I want to clarify my last sentence: I can't imagine what your husband wants to do will be considered a big deal by the company. I would expect his request to be honored.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:44 PM on February 6

Ask a Manager has addressed this topic.
posted by SisterHavana at 8:14 PM on February 6

Without warning, apparently the person arranging the trip booked a rental house

Thoughtful, but he's already booked his own accommodations nearby, as is his custom when traveling for work. Moreover, he snores extravagantly and/or talks loudly in his sleep -- he's actually doing the other two fellows a big favor.
posted by Iris Gambol at 8:42 PM on February 6 [12 favorites]

That sounds awful. I've literally NEVER had to share accommodation like that in my very travel heavy work life.
posted by uberchet at 6:16 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]

As a data point, this is exactly how it is at my workplace. We all work remotely and once per year, get together in person for strategy meetings for a week. We all live in the same house (or two condos, separated by gender) for the week. We have meetings all together, cook meals together, socialize together after hours.

I'm a hardcore introvert and it takes me weeks to psych myself up for it. I work with lovely people, we all get along really well, but 12 hours together, day after day, is often agonizing for me.

I get the uncomfortable aspects of sharing space with relative strangers for the week completely. But if I would've requested separate accommodations I do feel it would have jeopardized my role with the company, even if I would have paid for it.

I make it work by going to bed early every night (and every year, I have to fight their gentle protests), take breaks during the day to go for a walk or call home or whatever. We rent cars and I can always come up with an excuse to run to the drug store to get gum or lip balm or whatever to have some quiet time.

I'm not saying that he shouldn't ask for something different that better suits him, just the opinion that it might hurt him professionally and have him come across as not being a team player.
posted by Twicketface at 6:22 AM on February 7 [13 favorites]

My multinational wants us to use serviced rental accommodation for trips of 5 days plus. The keyword here is serviced. Their rationale is that it tends to work out cheaper than a large chain for x days for x people and that many people like the ability to eat more normal food etc. For work though I would absolutely expect that it’s serviced daily and that no more than two people share a bathroom etc.

The same employer has decreed that Uber is our preferred way to get around if local public transport is not an option. Admittedly in my jurisdiction the drivers have to be licensed like taxi drivers.

Anyway, it is not clear what exactly the cultural expectations of the team are so he could explore, asking innocent questions, especially as he has not yet been told the arrangements officially. But depending on what he learns it may be very disadvantageous to insist on doing his own thing.

How to navigate this would probably depend on what exactly is making him anxious. If it is the company of strangers full time - he has a habit to go for a walk, a run, hit the gym or meditate or read or talk to you for x amount of time.

Sharing a bathroom - shower at whatever time he has to shower to get the freshly cleaned bathroom to himself, this may be upon returning from work/before dinner. His personal items live in his wash bag that lives in his bedroom so as to minimise clutter for everybody etc. He has flip flops for the bathroom, a tiny bottle of sanitizer for toilet seat cleaning. Outside his room he walks around only fully dressed etc. Whatever he needs to feel better.
posted by koahiatamadl at 8:23 AM on February 7

This is also a thing that happens sometimes (not always, but it's more likely right at the kickoff or completion of a project where there's a lot of planning going on) in my company, and the point of the airbnb is to have a place to work together since we have no office to go to except the customer's, which is who we don't want overhearing. We also don't meet very often, so it is often a bonding situation with shared meals and entertainment.

I'm with your husband on how extreeeeemely non-optimal this is for introverts and private people. I loathe the idea and have to psych myself up for it. It's never as bad as I fear. I do bring as many accommodations as I can - a white noise machine, a body pillowcase to shove some extra pillows into, company-acceptable lounge clothes. I stop at the store on the way there and get my yogurts and diet cokes and a couple packages of snacks for the house plus a gallon or two of spring water and some interesting beers (or, apparently in my company so many of us are low carbing in some way that hard seltzer has become the traditional cocktail). I make sure my phone's got my meditation app on it and my podcasts are refreshed. Since there's often evening drinking I don't rely on benzos to get me through the anxiety but I do make use of chewable children's benadryl (which is a half dose, and you can then break it into an additional half, for just a tiny bit of chill) if I need it to mellow my nerves or get me to sleep.

It's not the same as being endlessly idle with strangers, generally, because we're so busy. It's more like going on a hiking or skiing vacation with other people in a house-share, where yes you're together a lot but not just staring at each other, there's things going on.

I do think he's going to stick out if he refuses, and if that's a risk he's willing to take because he can't possibly deal with this, then he should. But if he can try it once and tough it out, he might find it's not completely terrible OR he'll know for sure he needs to draw a line in the future (or maybe ask for slightly different arrangements with more bathrooms or whatever).
posted by Lyn Never at 8:37 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]

Piling on with another possible lie. Can he say he has a sleep disorder and prefers the more controllable (or something) environment of a hotel room?
posted by Morpeth at 10:42 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]

"I have health issues." Mental health is a valid excuse, and doesn't require further explanation (per federal guidelines). Don't lie about it, but do make your own reservations and push forward to human resources if they have a problem with it.
Accommodating their plans does not overrule my health needs.
posted by TrishaU at 8:33 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]

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