As business travel cautiously resumes, many organisations are re-thinking how they prepare their employees for work-related trips.
However, forward-thinking companies have been investing in better travel management and training for some time. Even before the outbreak of Covid-19, business travel was a major contributor to work-related stress—and that’s far from the only problem caused by some traditional approaches to work travel.
In the course of developing resources to help organisations improve their employees’ travel-preparedness, we’ve learned that five aspects of traditional approaches to travel have the potential to undermine an organisation’s values and performance. Below we’ve shared an overview of these aspects, to provide a starting point for HRs and travel managers looking at this issue.
1. Business travel impacts employee wellbeing
Writing in the Harvard Business Review, epidemiologist Andrew Rundle reports his finding that frequent business travel is associated with a wide range of negative health outcomes, including obesity, anxiety, depression, alcohol dependency and insomnia.
This is unlikely to come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the strains of frequent long-distance travel: lost sleep, unhealthy meals, greater difficulty maintaining healthy routines. While Covid-19 has highlighted the link between travel and infectious disease, it has always been the case that frequent travellers have an increased exposure to disease.
For companies in the U.S, this means higher employee insurance claims. For companies everywhere, it means reduced wellbeing and lost productivity.
2. Business travel raises safety concerns, and the risk is not spread equitably
Frequent business travellers are more vulnerable to crime. These risks—and the associated stress—impact women more severely than men. A survey by the Global Business Travel Association found that as many as 8 in 10 women have experienced safety concerns during work-related travel. Organisations determined to make their working environments safe for all their employees cannot afford to ignore this disparity.
3. Business travel can undermine data security
Business travel frequently involves working outside the office, whether it’s at a hotel, airport or client site. Beyond the virtual security net of the office, employees are more vulnerable to cyber-attack of all kinds, from phishing to hacking.
These attacks can potentially be very costly to their employers. A recent study by IBM found that the average cost of a single data breach is $3.9 million.
4. Business travel has an impact on a company’s reputation
Employees travelling on business represent their organisation wherever they are. When your employee arrives at a client meeting relaxed and fresh, they’re likely to make a better impression than if they arrive exhausted from a red-eye flight. Similarly, employees who are prepared to navigate cultural differences are better placed to avoid giving offence.
More broadly, the way an organisation as a whole approaches travel can be leveraged to reputational advantage. Taking care of your carbon footprint can strengthen your brand and create good will.
5. Business travel impacts employee recruitment and retention
Given the health and wellbeing issues raised above, it’s not surprising that frequent business travel—if it’s not properly managed—can push employees to look for alternative roles.
Conversely, where business travel is well-managed, and employees feel prepared and supported, frequent travel can be a perk which helps organisations to attract and retain talent.
How can these problems be avoided?
A two-pronged solution can tackle all these problems. The first prong is effective travel management: organising employee travel to avoid the worst impacts. The second prong is effective training. There are lots of ways to implement this, but we’re advocates for interactive elearning tools, which are engaging and empowering as well as informative. At Real Projects, we’ve been putting together a suite of courses which any organisation can use to guide their people towards safer, smoother business travel. You can see our suite of business travel courses by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a demo.