While many industries across the globe have been seriously affected by the lockdown and restrictions imposed because of the Covid-19 spread, the business travel industry has been probably experiencing the greatest setback.
People have canceled or postponed their family travel plans quite indefinitely, and businesses all over the world have grown used to employees working from home and videoconferencing, and most of them have canceled trade shows, long-planned conferences, business meetings and have imposed restrictions on business travel.
Over eight months later, the situation hasn’t changed much regarding business travel. And despite it is the most profitable for hotels and airline companies, the truth is that it may never fully recover to pre-Covid levels.
Besides travel limitations and requirements for travelers and social distancing expectations, both managers and employees are still doubtful regarding tripping between offices, attending conventions, or trade shows not to mention spending hours in a plane whether locally or internationally.
However, the truth is that companies won’t be able to say goodbye to business travel for good any time soon.
Video conferencing can replicate much of the experience of an in-person chat, but for many business people, there is nothing quite like seeing clients in person, especially when building relations or defining the finer details of a sensitive deal, or understanding how a business works from the inside.
If that is so, let’s explore what business travel may be like in post-pandemic times.
Business Travel and the Corporate World
Most organizations have embraced more flexible travel and expense policies for the safety of their employees and they have instituted new trip approval procedures to ensure that non-essential trips are postponed or canceled.
In those cases where they have corporate travel teams, they are now continually monitoring public information from organizations like the CDC or WHO in order to be able to communicate timely updates to their employees.
Business organizations are not taking travel decisions lightly. They go on a case-by-case approach after consulting the WHO or the CDC. And if the trip is finally approved, corporate travel teams do their best in assessing the safest routes for their employees.
This more cautious approach to corporate travel will be the new normal sooner or later. In the long run, this will be advantageous both for employees and employers, leading to a better life-work balance for ones and a better ROI for the others.
In this scenario, travel managers will have a prominent role in organizations as CEOs increasingly lean on them to rebuild the confidence of their workforce in traveling. Travel experts will promote a shift in focus, from being on controlling costs towards traveler wellbeing and care.
By adopting more empathetic policies, relaxing others, and increasing the investment in technologies that support their employees while on the road and make it easy to dynamically respond to an ever-changing landscape of regulations and restrictions while on the road, travel experts will become valued players in the corporate scene.
Traveling for Business Safely
Even though trans-oceanic travel may not be in the plans of any manager or employee yet and Zoom meetings between European and American branches or American and Latin American offices will be the norm for the near future, it is true that many companies have started to plan brief business trips within the same country or to nearby countries.
Since safety is a top priority for everybody involved in the process, here are some major tips for an easy and secure business travel experience in this post-pandemic world:
1. Keep Business Travel On The Grid
Once managers and employees agree on the importance of doing a particular trip, make sure that any booking or reservation is made exclusively via your travel management company.
This is essential from a traveler security and safety standpoint as if the employee books reservations outside your trusted TMC they may find themselves in a precarious situation and the company may face potential liability issues if something happens to the traveler and the organization is unable to respond promptly and in a timely manner.
2. Follow The News on the Destination Area
Apart from constantly checking the CDC and the WHO sites regarding travel restrictions and regulations applicable to the city or town where your employee is traveling, it is an added plus to follow any news from the area you are traveling to.
If they’ve had a recent rise in COVID-19 cases you may consider rescheduling the trip altogether or taking extra precautions.
3. Avoid Planes
Despite that flying in a plane is not necessarily a health risk at the moment, it is advisable to avoid planes whenever possible. If you can choose another means of transport to reach your destination, do that instead.
If traveling nearby, buses and trains will be your greatest allies. Public transport is always an option as long as all the well-known safety and sanitization measures are in place.
If as a manager you’d rather not rely on public transport, renting a car can be a good alternative and it definitely offers plenty of advantages to travelers:
- They can avoid public transport.
- Keeping social distance can be easier.
- Rental car companies stick to the strictest rules and protocols to ensure the correct sanitization of the rented vehicles.
- It is much more affordable than buying a plane ticket.
- Rental companies offer corporate plans to companies, which makes finding competitive rental rates much easier.
- You can find affordable and complete insurance policies for rented cars in the market.
4. Know Your Hotel’s Prevention and Cleaning Practices
It is very likely that traveling employees will need to spend at least overnight in a hotel.
Instruct your employees to check the COVID-19 prevention procedures that hotel chains generally post on their websites and to use as many contactless options at the hotel as possible: online check-in, mobile room key, contactless checkout, etc.
Advise them to take the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible or to wait for an elevator so that they can ride alone.
5. Keep Safe While Away
Both managers and employers need to constantly monitor the environment and ensure effective, two-way communication throughout the trip. If needed, the organization may need to provide medical and security assistance to employees that are away.
Since travel restrictions can change unexpectedly, organizations have to make sure that the traveling employee communicates effectively and determines the best course of action, whether it is sheltering in place or returning immediately.
Traveling employees should also be reminded of following some general safety tips that include: washing their hands regularly for full 20 seconds, avoiding touching their face and handshakes, using hand sanitizer and a face mask, covering mouth and nose while sneezing or coughing.
Avoiding any form of contact with sick individuals, keeping 6ft distance, sanitizing correctly and regularly surfaces that are touched more often, keeping hydrated, and getting plenty of sleep.
6. Promoting A Safe Return
It is advisable for companies to have a screening program in place for employees returning from a business trip.
Employees can easily self-isolate automatically for a fortnight and work from home provided that there are no symptoms. If any suspicious symptoms arise, employees need to know that they will receive all the support they need from the organization.
Business travel in post-pandemic times is not impossible. Provided that both employees and managers follow these guidelines and understand that corporate travel now demands implementing additional precautions.
It is still possible to have mobile employees while nurturing an atmosphere of trust within the company.
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