As we explore in a new white paper, “Why Business Travel Is the Center of the New Company Culture,” how and where we work are changing. With a record number of American workers vacating their jobs last year, companies are trying to accommodate employees’ desires for more flexible hours, four-day workweeks, sabbaticals, and work-from-anywhere arrangements. These rising expectations are also spilling over into the realm of business travel.
Now accustomed to nontraditional hours and a remote setup, employees who travel for work crave more autonomy in the way they book and conduct their business trips. With health advisories and country entry requirements continuing to evolve on what seems like a daily basis, travelers need the capability to amend or cancel a trip at a moment’s notice.
Due to these shifting attitudes and circumstances, travel managers are in a position where they must adapt the travel program to meet employees’ growing desire for freedom and versatility – and here are some ideas on how they can deliver.
Ease stringent policy guidelines
As we note in the white paper, with the advent of remote and hybrid work, autonomous workstyles are no longer exclusively associated with unorthodox career paths such as the gig economy. As a result, employees can become increasingly resistant to strict travel policies. More and more, travelers want their individual preferences to be taken into account and to be given more choice within travel programs.
This may create tension for travel managers, who must balance traveler satisfaction with the company’s duty of care obligations. Fortunately, they can fulfill both objectives when they view their role as travel enablers, not policy police.
While there need to be boundaries in place on when, if, and where employees can travel, by taking a fresh look at policy guidelines while keeping the traveler top of mind, you can unearth new opportunities to reduce moments of friction in the end-to-end experience and boost employee autonomy.
You can also give employees the diverse array of booking options and choices they are seeking by adopting a less stringent supplier program and relying on your travel management company’s (TMC’s) relationships to expand your inventory.
Think beyond the traditional business trip
As virtual collaboration tools make companies more discerning about why and where they send employees, people may look to see how they can maximize a trip’s purpose when they do travel. This may entail combining multiple journeys under one itinerary – an appealing option for many. Fewer trips back and forth mean fewer preparations and entry requirement hassles for travelers and is also a win for the company’s sustainability goals, cutting emissions tied to the travel program.
So you may want to encourage employees to consolidate trips, whether they arrange several meetings during the same trip to a single destination, make an extra stop on their way home, or extend their stay and use personal time off to explore a nearby city.
Having an extensive array of travel options is essential for successfully building these more complex trips. If the choices available through the program are somewhat limited, take advantage of the options and discounts available through your TMC. You also might allow employees to take advantage of a TMC’s corporate deals for a blended trip that combines pleasure and business if that is something your organization would permit.
Employees need to be able to amend a trip in a world where plans can change at any given moment, whether it’s due to a newly implemented travel restriction, a flight cancellation, or a person contracting the virus during a trip. Many industry players have made shopping and booking travel more adjustable and accommodating with lenient cancellation, rebooking, and refund policies, but your company also might consider purchasing insurance for additional peace of mind.
Use technology to open up a traveler’s world
To give employees the flexibility they not only desire but need to navigate today’s ever-evolving environment, they must have access to the right tools. It is imperative to equip travelers with robust digital technology that empowers them to confidently make decisions and changes on the fly wherever they happen to be – whether that’s 3,600 miles away from home or 36,000 feet up in the air.
A corporate booking tool that enables travelers to easily add a layover, extend a trip, or tack on a company-approved leisure component is the first must-have. Another necessity is a mobile strategy that keeps duty of care responsibilities and itinerary changes within one easy-to-access app.
An app that features “know before you go” information, including the latest travel advisories and destination-specific details, is recommended for those times when travelers want to take their trip in a different direction and need to figure out what’s what immediately.
But the real icing on the cake? When that same tool provides instant access to an experienced traveler care team that can guide travelers the moment plans change.