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Susan M. Heathfield

Should Employees Share Rooms?

By October 13, 2013

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Since I am, once again, receiving this question with some regularity due to the economic downturn that continues, I want to reiterate my position and solicit the opinions of readers on the issue of requiring employees to share rooms during business travel.

Should employers ask employees to share rooms on business trips? (It's a regularly received question because readers are uncomfortable with the prospect.)

This reader had been asked to attend a four-day conference and room with a fellow employee. The reader was upset and uncomfortable with this request. However, she felt that attending the conference was also important. She was looking for my thoughts on the subject of companies requiring employees to share rooms on business trips. I'm also sure she was seeking reasons to share with her employer about why this is a bad practice.

As with any HR topic, various practitioners have differing views. My normally appreciated AHI Newsletter offered a rather snippy view about employees sharing rooms on business trips with which I completely disagree.

Here's what I believe about whether employees should be asked to share rooms on business trips including conferences, professional meetings, training, on-site work, or sales calls.

Image Copyright Jack Hollingsworth / Getty Images

More About Respecting Employees

Comments
August 13, 2009 at 5:42 pm
(1) Vicki says:

Susan,

Although I can undertand your position on the above scenerio, there are certainly additional scenerios to consider. Our cableing guys would much rather share a room and have the work then to turn down the work due to the costs. I think employees should certainly have a say instead of assume. Some employees just don’t care how the next person spends their down time or shares the soap!

August 13, 2009 at 7:13 pm
(2) Shelli says:

I recently was in a situation where I shared a room. A group of us arrived at the hotel to find that one person’s room had not been reserved by the admin. The hotel was booked, and there were openings down the street at another hotel. As we were sharing a rental, I said that I would share.

After doing so, I realized it has been quite sometime since I had a roommate other than my husband, and it is not something I want to do again. All the little inconveniences are enough to drive you crazy- whether it is sharing the bathroom or the TV remote!

August 13, 2009 at 8:38 pm
(3) virginia says:

Just because you work together, doesn’t mean that you should have to share a room and sleep together at a convention !
No company should even suggest that employees share rooms. If the company cannot afford separate rooms, then don’t send a many people to the meeting. I think that is very brazen of a company to even suggest that employees share a room. That’s stepping over the line. Everyone needs privacy.

August 14, 2009 at 9:20 am
(4) Dave says:

I retired from the Air Force after twenty years. I traveled for almost ten years as a consultant and as a direct hire. I have now served seven years as a State employee. The only time I was required to share a room or apartment was during my time in the Air Force. After I obtained the rank of Senior Non-Commissioned Officer, I was afforded the privilege of having my own room on temporary duty assignments. I have never shared a room with another employee unless I voluntarily did so. A person’s privacy is the only thing they have and violation of that “privacy” during non-duty hours should never be a condition of employment. Employers who cannot afford the expense of a single room for an employee that has to be away from their domicile should rethink their value they place on the “Human Resource” who is generating the “Revenue” for the company or entity.

August 16, 2009 at 1:05 pm
(5) gypsyj1 says:

Walmart is famous for this. I have had to share rooms with complete strangers that range from one who had her friends show up and drink in the room until 2am; another who talked on the phone until ndawn, when I asked her to please stop, she went into the bathroom and just got louder, others who left the room a wreck, used all of the towels. I just hated to travel and tried to get out of it anytime I had to go anyplace when working with them. I was a regional manager in HR I would have expected better treatment. It was just awful and one of the many reasons I resigned. No respect for their employees, It’s all about profit and making money for overseas companies.

August 17, 2009 at 7:36 am
(6) bims says:

My company recently had her retreat and some employees were asked to share rooms. What we did was to pair friends together and they all didn’t mind at all. My opinion is that if they get along, then you let them share.

August 17, 2009 at 10:33 am
(7) Paulette says:

I worked for a company where you were told you would share a room. I snore and it can be quite loud due to a medical condition. I shared a room with a co-worker and all I heard was how loud I snored and was teased all the time about it. I have thick skin and can take it, but I don’t think that I should have been asked to share a room with someone I didn’t really know very well. Needless to say, I am no longer with that company. I don’t have to share a room with my new job and when I asked about it, the HR Director looked at me strangely and said that we get our own rooms! And the company is a small company. Great place to work!!!

December 17, 2009 at 9:50 am
(8) frank says:

We are crossing this bridge right now. My question is: They are requiring department heads to share rooms with subordinates (It fell that way due to same sex rooms). As a department head, are wet putting ourselves in a situation where a subordinate could falsely accuse a supervisor of inappropriate actions. Then this Department head/supervisor’s career could be devastated. There would be no witness no way to combat the accusation. Then the company would also be included in a lawsuit for forcing the room sharing?? Am I off Base with this…seems like basic risk management would avoid supervisors “Sleeping” with subordinates??

December 17, 2009 at 10:01 am
(9) Susan Heathfield says:

My position on employees sharing rooms has never changed. Employees should not be required to share rooms with another employee – ever. You create more problems than you solve and it is insulting and uncomfortable for employees.

December 18, 2009 at 1:41 pm
(10) Tim Orr says:

I agree wholeheartedly. There is no valid excuse for forcing people to share rooms – even when someone suggests that the profit margin on the work would force them to turn down the work (which I *strongly* doubt).

Privacy is a necessity of civilized human life.

The excuses given are lame rationalizations.

December 18, 2009 at 2:04 pm
(11) SH says:

I worked for two large retailing chains…one did require shared rooms and one didn’t. While I wasn’t thrilled with the one who did, as I’m a private person and like my own space, I figured I could suck it up for a couple of nights and share a room with someone else, if it meant that more coworkers at lower levels would be able to enjoy the educational and networking opportunities…vs just reserving them for higher-level directors/managers only – which is typically the case.

Yes…you’ll always have issues with a few rude or clueless people – or incompatabilities due to certain things like snoring, but usually last-minute workarounds can be managed in those circumstances. Most shared rooms work out fine – especially when you proactively convey a few rules, expectations and standards upfront to prevent the more common problems. Again it’s just for a couple of days…not a month!

In today’s brutal enonomy, staying a bit more flexible may mean the difference between a company being able to provide many more invigorating training/development opportunities for all employees, vs what I’ve seen happen too often…these sorts of trips reserved for certain director levels – or worse…limited to one “boss’s favorite” per dept – which is too often the case.

December 18, 2009 at 3:14 pm
(12) Tonya says:

I completely agree with #4 (Dave) as well as Susan – when I have been with my co-workers from 6:30 am breakfast to working at a trade show all day to dinner with customers ending at 10 pm I truly need some down time and privacy. With my employer, if you don’t want to share a room it’s fine, but you have to pay the cost difference out of your own pocket.

There isn’t much else that can rapidly change your opinion of a co-worker as rooming with them. Discovering that they don’t shave their armpits or have a cutting disorder are just examples of things I’d rather not know!

January 16, 2010 at 3:43 pm
(13) Brooke says:

I was recently forced to share a room with a co-worked who I thought was a good friend. There are large age and cultural differences between us which I thought would not matter but apparently they did. She was not happy sharing a room with me and wanted more privacy- by the last day she was not speaking to me. It damaged our work relationship and started impacting our ability to work together. I do not recommend this unless employees are good friends and request to share a room- too much business risk.

January 24, 2010 at 10:15 am
(14) peggy says:

I find being told I must share a room is a violation of my privacy. I have some medical issues that would be apparent if sharing a room. No one should know my medical history as I travel with medications. I believe there should be a HIPPA regulation regarding this issue.

This doesn’t even cover all of the other possible intrusions into privacy or the fact that if I am sharing a room with someone I am basically working 24 hours, so a 3 day conference turns into 72 hours of non stop work there must be a Wage and Hour Ruling on that.

Personally violated is the best description of how this feels.

May 23, 2011 at 8:54 am
(15) Eric says:

I have voiced my opinion to the owner of my company on this topic before,after having simular issues.
On one trip,which was 7-10 days,the guy was constantly on the phone arguing with his girlfriend,slaming the phone before hanging up,only to have her call right back all Night Long…
Another instance(And BTW,That guy was on that trip too) I opted for a different roomate,only to be kept up all night by his sleeptalking,Farting,and snoring….I was not happy at all about this arrangement either.
About a week or so later,I told the owner I simply could not deal with it,and up untill Now,he has arranged for our own rooms.
Now I am back to square one,and while I have never considered working for a compettor of his,that has recently crossed my mind,and He won’t like that.
I feel if you are driving with someone (Although they don’t believe you should stop at all switching drivers) If It is just a crash and go scenerio,I would be ok with that,but when you arrive at your destination,Separate rooms should be afforded.

November 14, 2011 at 6:17 pm
(16) Christopher Blanchett says:

Today I attended an employment tribunal because I had claimed constructive dismissal from my employer in May 2011. I had been subjected to months of personal abuse by my line manager that culminated in his stated aim to ‘get rid of me as soon as he could’. His opportunity arose when, at the beginning of a new project, I arrived on site at 7am to be told I would be sharing a room with a 20y/o lad I had never met (I am a 46y/o man). I flatly refused to share a hotel room with this stranger as was immediately called into head office by the General Manager to be told that I had to accept the new working conditions or resign. I was given just two days to decide whether to return to work and share a room or resign from my position. I had never been asked to share a room whilst on company business before.
The tribunal decided that even though the events of the prior few months to this event had had an accumulative effect on my position within the company, the ‘final straw’ of being forced to share a room, although serious, was not serious enough to determine that a breach in my applied terms and conditions of employment had been affected, and my case was dismissed.
It seems that some companies can hide behind legal loopholes and force colleagues to share a room, or force them out of the company.

January 29, 2012 at 4:34 am
(17) Ian says:

My employer is doing this and has not even had the respect to ask if anyone is ok with this. I see it as a form of harassment as, if you disagree, you are accused of not being a team player.

March 9, 2012 at 4:33 pm
(18) Lois says:

I’m in a sticky situation, although I know the answer I am still uncomfortable. My male boss and I (a female) are going to a conference in Maine in a few weeks. He called me today to tell me that the hotel the conference is in only has one available room and that he was ok with it if I was. Of course I told him I was not – I’m not sure how to react that he even felt it was OK to ask me that question. We are a small company, and I’m sure that his trying to share a room is strictly from a cost stand point, but, really? I’m not sure what to do – if I just ignore that he proposed this or to try and explain to him that this is not ok. This goes way past the inconvenience of having to share a room with a co-worker. Any advice?

March 13, 2012 at 11:48 pm
(19) Susan Heathfield says:

Lois,
This is so inappropriate that I had to think about it for a couple of days. I’ve not run into anything like this in the past. Here’s what I would do. Insist on your own room and all transportation costs incurred if you have to stay off site. Get your name on a waiting list for a room at the conference hotel as people do cancel.

Go to your boss and tell him that you felt his request was inappropriate. Tell him that you don’t expect to ever have him remotely say or insinuate anything like this again. This is the basic requirement in a sexual harassment situation – that you need to tell him the behavior was unwanted and inappropriate. On the other hand, as your comment seems to perhaps imply, maybe it was all about saving money – but, really? You can talk with HR to let them know, if you have HR.

It may be just me, but I probably would look at my options for leaving since the individual who is involved is your boss. Perhaps you can change jobs or find a new one. I would probably be too uncomfortable to remain. Some readers will likely disagree with me as you were the victim, not the perpetrator, but especially depending on your conversation with your boss, and his reaction, it is one option to consider. On the other hand, if everything seems okay and comfortable, perhaps you can stay. Best wishes with this one. Thoughts anyone else?

April 27, 2012 at 3:46 pm
(20) jim says:

Gender is always a factor when assigning roomates however sexual orientation is never considered and everyone is afraid to address it.

May 2, 2012 at 2:08 pm
(21) skippydog says:

After a day of travel hassles, conferences, workshops, round tables, seminars, networking, receptions, dinner, speakers, introductions, social pleasantries, and all the other things that go into attending an off-site professional event there is absolutely no way on this green Earth that I will share a hotel room with a co-worker. Absolutely. None. Never going to happen. I would flat out say I am not going to attend, or pay out of pocket for my own room if absolutely neccessary. I need my downtime. My “me” time. My veg time. My time to make personal calls. Heck my time to watch a naughty movie and play with myself if that’s how I like to unwind. I cannot be productive the next day without these things. It IS a big deal.

June 3, 2012 at 10:21 pm
(22) Brenda says:

My company is wanting me and my husband to share a room with 2 other men. (I hope that you refuse.)

June 25, 2012 at 6:09 pm
(23) TCAT says:

I had to share a room with a (same sex) colleague I had never met before at a conference. I am straight btw. She ‘her words’ thought we had a ‘special relationship’ due to the room sharing, turned up on a subsequent work project which she wanted to be assigned to be cause I was on it ‘her words’, & essentially committed a low level assault, essentially grabbing/pushing while making it clear she intended to perform certain acts (border line I know but it freaked me out, upset me big time). All IMO because I was forced to share a room with someone who was clearly unstable.
point is – you never really know your work colleagues.

July 25, 2012 at 12:50 pm
(24) dlk says:

I have heard of this happening but have been fortunate enough not to have to worry about it from past employers. I just accepted a new position with a company and was given the option to share a room with someone that was assigned by the company or pay half the cost of the hotel room to have my own room. I do not think that I should have to pay any money out of my own pocket to travel for company business. I need my privacy and I don’t want to have to figure out a bathroom schedule in the morning when we have to attend a conference at the same time along with the many other reasons I don’t want to share a room with a total stranger. I think that it’s very unprofessional.

August 23, 2012 at 2:44 pm
(25) A. says:

I worked for 2 companies, sharing a room whilst on travels. First was a company where I was an onboard attendant and, while all managers had their own rooms, attendants had to share. It was okay for me, since they mixed us up quite a bit and not with the person you had to work with or with friends. They really tried hard. If you had a medical condition (snoring or so) you could hand in a doctor’s notice. I, however, had to spend one horrible night with a drunken and smoking 40 year old, who snored and sleep walked and climbed into my bed while sleepwalking. I had to make her stay awake, so as to get at least 2 hours of sleep.
Now, I am working for a small company with just a few employees. I still have to share a room. And I still see my only other female coworker drunken, stinking of smoke, turning the AC to freezing cold, waking up early, reading for a long time in the evening, and getting into fights with me because she needs to still talk about work at midnight… It’s so annoying, since it’s always her and I really want to keep this work relationship on a normal level, but this sharing a room totally crosses a line for me. I am in another position today. She is older and I definitely get the feeling she feels the same, since she is with the company way longer and has a certain position herself. I can totally understand if she felt not respected to share a room with a younger girl who just joined the company and took over some work that she did years ago.

No way I would treat my employees like that. Especially not in let’s say “Management Positions”. It’s just not helping anybody, neither a team building practice. But I can understand that in certain condition (same job, one night, okay from both sides, signed agreements) it could be considered.

(Frankly, I’d refuse to share a room and look for other employment if that was the requirement. It is totally an invasion of your personal space and time – and that of your coworker, too. Susan)

September 7, 2012 at 1:18 am
(26) Angela says:

I’m, oddly enough, closer to the other end of this scale. I’m the only female in a small installation company and I am losing work because I’m not allowed to share a room with my co-workers. I have expressed multiple times my apathy at having to share with a male co-worker, but I still lose out. I can’t afford my own room, so I get left behind. I can kind of understand how not having to share a room might be a bonus for people making a high wage, but it’s common for lower wage workers to share and I’m more than willing and it’s discrimination.

October 17, 2012 at 2:45 pm
(27) Jane D. says:

This recently happened to me. For two weeks I was to room with someone and then on the 3rd week I was to room with 3 people and get this…. I was supposed to sleep on a cot.

Not only was my privacy put to the test repeatedly but it is unacceptable for me to have to sleep on a cot. If your business can not afford rooms for your employees going to trade shows let me suggest that you do not go to them! Not having a bed after being on your feet for 12hrs or more is abusive. Plus weeks on end having to room with people you don’t know and in one case did not like is absolutely ridiculous. This treatment caused me to quit this job in a start-up software company. Clearly I was just a piece of cattle. So funny that they keep winning the best place to work awards. If people only knew!

January 26, 2013 at 10:35 am
(28) Mohamad Berjawi says:

Maybe proposed as an option, but not to be forced.

April 3, 2013 at 12:40 am
(29) Ann says:

I am a county employee and we are required to get 20 hours of post licensing training per year. Because we are a small remote town (county) we have to travel for 100% of our training. Our county will only pay travel expenses (mileage) for one vehicle so if you don’t have the funds to pay for gas in your own vehicle, you are forced to drive an hour or two with a coworker. That’s ok…BUT…

They try to get the biggest bang for their buck by sending FOUR of us at a time for a training and will only pay for ONE hotel room. This means that not only do we have to share a room, but we have to share a BED!!! (We are all females.)

Is this legal?!!! I am not only uncomfortable sharing a room with someone that is merely my coworker, I am EXTREMELY uncomfortable sharing a BED with one!!! I think this is going too far.

April 7, 2013 at 12:01 am
(30) Susan Heathfield says:

I don’t believe that there are laws that govern this. I think it is an extremely poor employee practice. Personally, I’d be unlikely to work there. At minimum, I’d forcefully object. I don’t even think that employees should share rooms.

May 6, 2013 at 10:28 pm
(31) Leah says:

I just started a new job and found out that during an upcoming week long business trip, I will have to share a room with a co-worker, whom I have never met. The thought of sleeping four feet from a complete stranger really skeeves me out and is giving me major anxiety. Of course, all the executives get their own rooms. Only us peons are forced to sleep like we are 13 and at camp.

July 3, 2013 at 2:25 pm
(32) john says:

I was told to show up for new hire training and was not told until 2 hours away from home for the training that the hotel rooms were shared with other new hires, total strangers during one of the biggest races of NASCAR season, so every hotel was booked. Sleaze bag hotels were 100 dollars a night plus. Was promised reimbursement which is now not happening. How can they expect you to share a hotel with someone that you have never met, heck that hasn’t had more than a phone interview and a back ground check.

July 11, 2013 at 3:48 pm
(33) Steve says:

I think it is a pathetic idea that people should be forced to share rooms – more so if they are not of the same sex. The employer has a duty of care to the employees and this includes in my view their privacy.

What would the employer do if an allegation of harassment was made against one party sharing the room – The employer should stump up the extra cost if the employee wishes to have a single room.

If your employer refuses to listen to your requests – refuse to carry out the job and slap in a grievance and fast.

October 25, 2013 at 2:59 pm
(34) natalie says:

I am in a committed relationship with a man who works for a non-profit organization. His work partner is a young woman, and they have been working together for about two years now. Occasionally these projects are away from home, and require an overnight stay. Recently I learned that they have shared a hotel room on several occasions. I told him that I was not okay with this, and he thinks I just don’t trust him. To me it’s not a matter of trust, but a matter of what is right and wrong, and this is very wrong. The organization they work for encourages their employees to either camp out or share rooms when working away from home, but I can’t believe that they would expect male/female to share the same hotel room. I told him they should have separate rooms, even if he has to pay for his own, but he is is very frugal, so he goes along with it. His partner doesn’t seem to have any issues with this arrangement. I have asked several friends, both male and female, their opinion on this, and they are in agreement with me. The fact that he continues to do this appears very disrespectful toward me. Should I speak to his co-worker directly, or be more assertive when I address this issue with him?

October 25, 2013 at 4:08 pm
(35) Susan Heathfield says:

I have only heard of one other company asking unmarried males and females to share rooms when traveling. I oppose this practice on every level: legal, ethical, personal comfort and more. The company risks a serious lawsuit. I don’t really support employees being asked to share rooms, period. Business travel is stressful enough without the employee worrying about a roommate – even same sex. It is not up to you to talk with your fiancé’s partner. You need to work through him to stop this practice. http://humanresources.about.com/b/2013/10/13/should-employees-share-rooms.htm

Regards,

Susan

December 11, 2013 at 11:35 pm
(36) Will says:

I work for a small company which requires me to travel every week for about 3 to 4 days at a time. My boss travels with me most weeks and we always share a room. For the most part I genuinely like my boss, with that said I absolutly hate sharing a room with him. Right now its 11:30 pm and he has all the lights on, typing on the laptop, tv on. In the morning he takes his shower and opens the door to let the steam out, all while wearing an entirely too small towel wrapped around him. He then leaves the door open to complete his grooming routine. The lack of privacy and the fact that my hotel room is turned into an active office till all hours of the night (and early morning somtimes) is absolutly killing me. Is there anything legally I can do?

December 16, 2013 at 2:05 pm
(37) Susan Heathfield says:

Hi, I’d sit the boss down and tell him that the two of you have very different needs for privacy and very different work styles. Tell him that you’d like your own room in the future. At the same time, assure him that it has nothing to do with your relationship. I don’t think that any legal issue covers this as described. But, I certainly recommend that employees not share rooms for all of these reasons:

http://humanresources.about.com/od/motivation/qt/should-employees-share-rooms.htm

Best wishes when you have the talk.

December 18, 2013 at 12:26 pm
(38) Jim says:

My wife recently went on a business trip with a good friend and coworker. After the work day, the entire office decided to go out for drinks, as the night went on her friend and roommate for the night started becoming very friendly with a coworker from the local office. My wife explicitly told her that nothing was to go on in her room that night when she began to sense what was happening. When my wife went to bed, her roommate said she was going out to IHOP with the guy, and when she woke up, she found her roommate had slept with the man, who was still in her bed.

I am probably way more upset than her, she does not want to stir the pot and get her friend fired, but am I wrong in thinking that this is completely out of line? Is there any possible recourse I could attempt to convince my wife to take?

December 20, 2013 at 2:42 pm
(39) Susan Heathfield says:

Hi,

Yes, this is wrong but especially wrong because your wife specifically told the individual not to let this happen. She should file a formal complaint with her HR office. She does need to understand that the result of the formal complaint might be that her friend is fired. The behavior probably violates the company code of conduct or ethics policy. It may qualify as sexual harassment. It is certainly wrong on every level. That said, I understand that if your wife is a good friend to the individual, she may want to say nothing. At the very least, she should not put herself in the position of having to share a room with her friend again.

February 6, 2014 at 11:08 am
(40) Dave says:

There is no problem with male / female room sharing now that gays & lesbians are so accepted. Same goes for bathrooms, showers, organizations, all that doesn’t make much sense in today’s world really. It is all the same in today’s world because who knows who is attracted to you or not, no difference. It is just a matter of trust, and if you don’t trust the people around you, you probably have bigger issues with where you are working than just whether you should share a room with your boss/coworker for a night. The only thing that is likely to happen would be based on the consent of both parties, and that is a matter of trust, and so on. If my wife stayed with a male co-worker, no problem, her feelings are the same for me. If you don’t have this much trust, or agreement, then you have something you probably should be working on.

February 10, 2014 at 2:38 pm
(41) Athos Pelekanos says:

If cost isan issue for employers, why don’t they consider <a href=”http://www.lettingservicedapartments.co.uk/serviced-accommodation-for-employees/”>serviced apartments</a>? Surely this would allow them to save on cost, hence allowing for one employee per room in a larger apartment? And it would be highly effective for team building and morale.

February 17, 2014 at 11:15 pm
(42) BFay says:

My first travel experience with a large corporation was horrible. I was basically forced to share a room with another woman that I had never met before. She had such bad sleep apnea I thought she was going to stop breathing. The next day I promptly contacted the district manager and forced them to get me another room. It was awkward and no one should ever have to be in that position.

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