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SME Business Travel Insights: Balancing cost vs Wellbeing (Part 2)

Cost Vs Traveller wellbeing AS Part 2

Businesses whose employees travel as part of their job roles, recognise that if they wish to retain talent, support employee longevity, and diminish burnout, need to invest in traveller wellbeing, in a way that balances cost and employee welfare in equal measure.

With the elevated awareness around wellbeing, business travellers may be less willing to make the sacrifices that were expected previously, and organisations must acknowledge that traveller wellbeing is a key priority for them.

With business travel expected to accelerate in 2022 driven by increased demand for global meetings and events, as well as practical travel such as in the marine and energy sector, there is a need to balance the cost of travel and rising fuel and energy costs alongside the need for flexibility and choice. So how do SMEs balance the cost versus traveller wellbeing?

Our Strategic Account Manager, Andy Sison, has focused on some practices within two parts which travel managers can use to deliver both value and service, to support balancing cost with traveller wellbeing.

If you haven’t already, you can read part one HERE  

Risk Management Processes – Traveller Wellbeing

Duty of Care is the legal obligation to research, plan and implement a strategy to mitigate risks involved for companies travelling for business. Travel Risk Management is one of the key duty of care strategy processes to uphold related to the well-being and security of your travelling workforce.

Such risk management strategies could be as simple as new processes you introduce within your workplace, updates to your travel policy if you have one, partnering and outsourcing your travel expenditure to a Travel Management Company or a dedicated risk management company based on the nature of your work.

Let’s look at some of the practices used by businesses to balance cost with traveller well-being.

Full itinerary Management means being able to see and support your colleague’s full trip plans and ensure trips are booked through an approved channel. So, do you have someone in your business who has a record of all travel trips your business makes and who is where in the world?

  • It could be someone in HR who needs to see a copy of travel itinerary and keeps a record of them.
  • Or someone in finance who has all expense receipts of travel booked.
  • How about a person responsible for booking travel as part of their job responsibilities?

The advantage of having travel booked through an approved channel provides visibility in times of travel disruption; so, you can locate and contact a traveller to check that they are safe and assist them with rebooking and getting them home safely. There is a big benefit of purchasing your travel requirements through one central point, as opposed to through different channels or setting up a process that enables you to pull it all together to be centrally located and quickly accessed in the event of an emergency for rebooking purposes.

Traveller tracking tools are a great way of viewing the actual whereabouts of your colleagues on business to make sure you know where they are meant to be. Such tools can be as straightforward and cost-effective as using ‘find my iPhone’ software if you and your colleagues set up on the same ‘family network’ if it’s a small number of you. Alternatively, if you have larger numbers, we recommend you invest and arm your travellers with GPS Traveller tracking software available with instant updates on travel disruptions and strikes linked to the destination they are at or travelling to.

A recent innovation has led to the development of some advanced ‘risk management tracking software more focused on organisations travelling to high-risk destinations which connect to web-based dashboards, so you can view your colleague’s live whereabouts and can text or email them securely through such software. Such options are available if you work with a travel management company. Some areas to think about around GPS traveller tracking tools:

  • Culturally, people are less sensitive to being tracked since the pandemic.
  • Some organisations only require GPS location to be turned on in high-risk areas
  • For GPS tracking of your colleagues, you need the agreement of an employee for privacy reasons

24-hour emergency assistance. If your employees encounter any difficulties during travel, they shouldn’t have to deal with it purely themselves. Whether you manage it yourself, or outsource and pay for a specialist service, we recommend you provide assurance too and make sure your travellers have access to a 24/7 support function. This support can point travellers to someone in your business to help them outside of office hours for rebooking and travel policy advice and assistance or if there needed to be any insurance support or claim. You might have an internal risk management team or work with a Travel Management Company that provides this function as part of their services?

Automated disruption and Risk alerts – It’s hard to keep up with all travel disruptions happening, so it is good to have a process in place to receive automated risk alerts through email or text that could impact a traveller’s trip. Updates can be requested from airlines, hotels, foreign office advice networks and risk alert systems which are sent automatically.

Travel Policy

There is no doubt that integrating well-being into any corporate travel program and policy is a difficult matter and requires making a range of decisions. The challenges are very often balancing the cost with what you would like to provide - there is always going to be a trade-off.

With this in mind, we want to provide some key areas to think about:

Flexibility. We are in a transition period where organisations have made their travel policies ‘more flexible’ to accommodate traveller welfare and allow people to change travel plans easily considering recent travel disruptions. However, these trends are changing with some buying habits shifting to purchasing cheaper restricted farers with restrictions being loosened. Across air and rail, some businesses have changed their travel policies to allow travellers to upgrade from economy to premium, or businesses to reduce risk and enhance comfort to support traveller welfare. Some UK rail services still do not have catering in standard, so either be prepared or consider an upgrade. Although this creates an additional cost to a business traveller welfare is put first given the extra space and comfort for travellers. Travel Managers still need to embrace employees’ desire for flexibility, personalisation, and convenience and use technology to ensure visibility of all bookings

Lead time. Historically, organisations who travelled for business promoted advance purchase policies, to secure lower inflexible fares by booking in advance. With temporary changes, businesses have reduced their policies to limit the number of days required to book ahead of travel even if paying a higher cost to help travellers change their plans last-minute stress-free because of travel disruptions. Over recent months are starting to see a return back towards the sort of lead times we saw as standard pre-pandemic. Our data partners – Travelogix – tracked this in Q1 2022 and by April the average advance booking period was close to its 2019 levels.

Wellbeing standards. It’s always good practice to promote and recommend certain hotel chains to be included in your travel policies if they meet wellbeing standards. For example, some properties now provide ‘natural’ lighting to help with sleep problems which business travellers repeatedly face, or you know they provide specific facilities or support that make a stay more comfortable or productive.

Making things easy and taking away the stress of finding out how to make a booking. Are your colleagues familiar with your travel policy and processes? Do your colleagues know what your travel policy and booking guidelines look like? Your travel policy guidelines should spell out the basics of how travel bookings should be made, the class of travel, spend limits etc. They should detail approved booking channels (whether booked through one central person at your business/or via a Travel Management company). Invest and educate your colleagues on the correct channels to book travel within policy and you will see the benefit of a more streamlined and clear approach. Uncertainty is not helpful and causes anxiety so being as clear and supportive as possible helps your travelling employees.

Cost increases - Recent rising fuel and energy costs have seen some flights rise as some airlines pass increases through to the end-user. Naturally. Higher demand for flights also drives up costs so make sure this is reflected in your policy and adjust any travel budgets within your policy. Consider some temporary adjustments to pricing limits to allow travellers to book travel requirements without the stress of their requests being rejected against travel policy caps that don’t reflect current inflation levels. This is particularly important if you use a personalised Online Booking Tool.

 

As we’ve discussed in Part One and now here in Part Two, Traveller wellbeing is critical and supports your company’s workforce whilst travelling on a business trip. We`ve highlighted various tools and strategies which can be implemented to balance cost versus traveller well-being whether this is by communicating, taking control, and using risk management processes along with your business travel policy to create the right balance.

It’s clear, travel trip ROI, employee retention and welfare all come into play. Therefore, each company must work out a balance based on its own business strategies whilst supporting the well-being of its travellers, but we hope the tools and ideas we`ve discussed can help you.

Want to discuss this in more detail? We’d love to hear from you! Contact the team today:

T: 0330 004 0520

E: sales@good-travel.co.uk

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About Andrew Sison

Andy is our Strategic Account Manager and works with a number of high profile businesses to manage their business travel more effectively. Andy’s track record is enviable and he works hard to deliver savings, add value, help companies consolidate their travel programmes and manage change.
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