The days of the ‘road warrior’ might just be numbered. That once, near universal willingness to accept wasted time while on the road, to put up with inconsistent travel management, ineffective mobile travel management tools, bad interfaces and design, and a lack of adequate customer support – gone. Business travelers are asking for a more robust business travel experience and companies are listening. 2018 has seen the conscious business traveler step forward to voice their wants and needs, and it’s a trend set to continue into 2019 and beyond.
Those of you who travel frequently for work – who are often, week after week, giving up your own time up for the success of your company – will be pleased to know that companies are increasingly looking for the best solutions to reduce on the road pain points for their employees. They’re realising that putting the needs of the frequent business traveler first to ensure their happiness requires a travel policy that isn’t solely focused on travel expenses and vendors, but takes into consideration employee wellness. From traveler to CFO, it just makes everyone’s working lives that much easier.
So, if you’re currently in the middle of bad business travel habits at your company, or looking to make your next career move, here are 3 reasons why it’s important to ask about company travel policy. And, what’s more, we thought we’d back it up by putting our own travel policy where our mouth is! We spoke with two of our most frequent business travelers, TravelPerk sales team stars Felicia Williams and Brandon Smith, and our HR Director Albert Alabau, about their thoughts and experiences in this area.
1. Job satisfaction
For good or for bad, business travel influences how employees feel about their current job and company, as well as how they feel about accepting a potential job offer in the first place. For example, if you know you’re going to be traveling a lot as part of your role, it’s helpful to know up front what the conditions are going to be – the company are going to be the ones profiting from your trips after all. What procedures will be in place from the initial travel booking, all the way up to that inevitable moment when your 3 hour flight delay turns 7 hours old, and your airport chair starts to morph into your bed for the night? You want to ensure that you’re going to be able to feel good about your job and supported in doing it.
The Global Business Travel Association has reported seeing a high correlation between satisfaction when traveling for work and how satisfied an employee is with their job overall, a trend that appears to be global. 83% of business travelers in Europe have indicated that their business travel experiences impact their job satisfaction to some extent, with that number rising to 88% for millennials. In North America, the number is 79% for business travelers with the same number (88%) for millennials.
The reality of this is being seen by HR departments globally, with candidates increasingly asking questions about, or even requesting to read through, a company’s travel policy before making a firm decision about a job offer. The Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE) did a recent study which surveyed 174 European and Asian travel managers. 28% said corporate travel policy was becoming a definitive issue in employee satisfaction and having an effect on retention. An additional 28% reported that it is causing either a significant or growing issue. With the amount of business travel expected to increase over the next few years, business travelers are set to continue shaping the industry.
What Brandon says: “Business travel impacts my job satisfaction a lot. I’m more satisfied in general when I travel, and then on top of that, even more when I have a successful meeting. For me, it’s a mindset. You can either wake up thinking ‘Argh, I have to travel for work again this week’ or ‘Oh! I get to travel for work again this week!’ That more optimistic feeling is definitely one that is helped by the company, with the support I get both in the office and on the road to do my job. Our travel policy definitely provides the flexibility I need to feel optimistic about my job.”
What Felicia says: “For me, it’s good because all the juggling and the professional development of being on the go and having face to face meetings takes a lot of adaptability, and it’s a great way to build up a skill set. The ‘glamor’ in business travel for me comes through that sense of what you can achieve through it.”
“I’ve never asked a question about whether a company has a corporate travel policy or not, but in future, if I’m in that situation, I definitely would. It makes a huge difference. In my last job, I ended up traveling every week and it was an absolute pain! I had to pay up front and be reimbursed, or ask the office manager each time I needed significant funds. It wasn’t an easy process – you loathed doing it when it came around. so it definitely had an impact on how I felt about the job. Here it’s completely different. You don’t have to worry about whether you have the funds in your account to book a trip or cover expenses. Having a clear travel policy – which sounds like such a boring thing – actually brings business travel closer to that glamorous lifestyle people see it as!”
What Albert says: “For younger people especially, traveling can have a very positive impact on their job because they enjoy it and feel like the company is investing in them. They see that by traveling they can make a bigger impact, make a difference, get results and experience other realities. They often come back with fresh ideas and stories and it provides an enriching environment for everyone. You need to nurture these positive effects with a travel policy that makes employees feel that you’ve put their needs first.”
2. Work/life balance
Remember the days when commitment to your company meant late, thankless nights spent hunched over unfinished reports in the office while eating dinner at your desk (the last third of a far from fresh sandwich or partly wilted salad you saved from lunch)? Let’s hope the answer is no! While remaining silent about your workplace dissatisfaction for fear of losing your job used to be a real worry for many employees, businesses are now the ones living in fear of losing you!
To do a good job, employees need the right conditions and the right balance. This doesn’t stop at having an overall corporate wellness policy – more and more, travel policies also need to reflect the flexibility employees want and often need regarding their schedules while on the road, especially when they have families. This can be anything from wanting to get a business trip done and dusted and get back home, or, alternatively, being able to have some leisure time to relax and explore a new location.
The same ACTE survey saw 31% of travel managers respond that they’d received requests for exemptions from existing travel policies from employees. This also included threats and implications that employees would leave to find employment in another company if elements of the existing travel policy were not made more flexible, or were not able to be opted out of entirely. Flexible, intuitive elements in a travel policy are what allow for employees to coordinate their business trips in a way that fits their own schedules, and maintains the work/life balance considered so essential nowadays.
What Brandon says: “My work/life balance is phenomenal. The company is very flexible and trusting when it comes to travel. If I have a meeting both on Friday and Monday they’ll encourage me to stay the weekend. The words are always ‘Ok then, stay and relax.”
It’s great that we can use the airport lounges too so that you can get work done on the go and have access to food – it’s easier, it helps. Generally, I get what I need on the road to do my job well. I can finish up early, maybe decide I want to go home and the company often arranges that. I play American Football, travel for work and work in the office and can do all of this because TravelPerk gives me the flexibility to manage my life how I want.”
What Felicia says: “Being on the post-sales side, I have the flexibility to combine meetings and make it work for both myself and the client – it helps to keep a balance. It’s also helpful that I have freedom when I get to the locations, and it gives me a chance to see friends if I visit London or explore the city I’m in. Bleisure is definitely encouraged! Plus there’s the freedom to do flexible hours when in the office – for example coming in later and staying later. I’m never worried about my work/life balance.”
What Albert says: “I see that more and more of our employees are looking for flexibility if they have to travel a lot. They’re looking for bleisure travel, the chance to take a day off if they want to explore or relax. Some companies have very rigid policies in place where you don’t have the opportunity to do this but we do the opposite. We hire grown ups and we treat them as such. That means we give 100% trust to employees from day one and build from there. When you do this, trust your employees to work and manage their own schedules you get an amazing return – engagement, commitment and loyalty.”
Business travelers have been referred to as the mobile elite. Messaging friends and family from various locations every month or posting pictures of yet another trip can make traveling for business seem glamorous. And, at times, we’re sure you’ve probably had a few ‘this is the life’ moments, but as always, there are two sides to every story. Business travel can have a lasting impact on health, leading to physiological and psychological repercussions that can be long and short term, show up later down the line, and/or have an immediate effect. Employees should be safeguarded against these as much as possible by their employer – travel policy to the rescue once again.
Previously mentioned bleisure and flexibility on trips tie into encouraging and improving employee wellness, but there’s more that can be done. Policies can stipulate for certain accommodations (hotels closer to offices, with gyms or close to good, healthy dining options) and also for alternative accommodation, such as an Airbnb, which may be more in line with what a business traveler is looking for. Companies should opt for travel booking solutions that have 24/7 customer support so that employees don’t have to endure too much stress when issues occur on the go. Considerations can also be made for employees once they return, such as being able to work from home or resting the next day before coming in to work again. A smart company will be creative with their travel policy in making sure they’re looking out for your needs!
What Brandon says: “People ask about my sleep and say it must be crazy, but I sleep on the plane. I’m out before we even take off! I get my downtime on the plane and fortunately I’m not a big sleeper so I don’t feel any effects from my travel. With the flexibility I get from the company I have time to do sport, and on the road I eat well because the accommodation is usually in a good location and there are various food options around. And if I ask for some flexible time on the other side of a trip it’s never a problem”
What Felicia says: “Having taken trips with Brandon, I can confirm that he has an insane ability to fall asleep immediately! My problem usually comes down to stress from delays when I’m traveling. But thank God for the TravelPerk Customer Support team. And I’m really not saying that just because you’re recording!”
“I was meant to fly to Paris on a trip and said bye to Brandon who went to another terminal. Later he sent me a picture of him eating some sort of delicious food before his flight. My terminal didn’t have any delicious food. What it did have was a 7 hour delay. I would’ve been stuck so I messaged the Team to ask if they could help figure out my plans. They got back to me immediately with options. Just knowing there’s help for you, someone checking all options when you have limited wifi and signal so that you can get out of a far from ideal situation is amazing. So much stress is avoided in knowing you have people to help you get to where you need to go when you’re in dire straits!”
What Albert says: “As much as business travel can be exciting and provide job satisfaction, it’s tiring. Luckily I haven’t experienced it here, but at other companies I’ve seen people have a burnout. Finding a way to make things work so that people are happy and performing in a sustainable way is key. We make travel less stressful on the road by giving our employees all the tools they need – including a corporate account – so they don’t have the stress of having to be reimbursed. Of course they have access to the same 24/7 customer support we provide our customers and we allow for flexible accommodation possibilities, among other things. Whatever they need to help them we figure out a way to make it happen. You can’t limit your processes and policies in fear that someone will abuse the system and you can ensure compliance with the right policy and travel management platform. You need your employees to be fresh and comfortable wherever they go!”
The benefits that come from having a company travel policy are undeniable, and as someone who has to travel as part of their job, this area is bound to have the most impact on your experience of it. A company lacking a good travel policy is unlikely to have the right measures in place to ensure an employee can not only do their job well, but have a great time doing it. Essentially, it’s a no brainer – what’s good for the employee is good for the company! The trend is evident and travel policy is starting to be seen as part of an overall benefits package. In asking to see what your job entails and the benefits you’ll get as part of it, make sure to include your traveling conditions in the negotiations. Both you and the company will be better off for it. And, if you’re currently in a company without a travel policy, there’s plenty of evidence and guidance you can present as to the advantages of implementing one for everyone involved in the travel process.