There seems to be a common misconception that travelling for business is nothing more than an excuse for ‘a bit of a jolly’; lush hotel rooms, business class seats on enormous planes, michelin star meals, free drinks, the works.
However, if you were to relay this misconception back to frequent business travellers then you’d find that, at best, they’d laugh in your face.
Frequent business travel often involves upsetting a traveller’s work/life balance to some degree and it’s something that more and more organisations are becoming conscious of. A recent study concluded that business travellers lose an average of 6.9 hours due to stress and that the financial cost of such a loss of time amounts to £527 per trip, which would suggest that organisations have good reason to re-examine just how much of a toll travel can take on their employees.
In an effort to cultivate an enjoyable and rewarding company culture, organisations are now giving their travellers more of a say in how they travel for business and as a result more and more travel managers and procurement departments are levelling the needs of their employees with the needs of the organisation as a whole, as a way of boosting employee satisfaction and engagement.
Although increasing the comfort, convenience and simplicity of business travel as way of thanking your travellers for their time ‘on the road’ might seem like a nice idea in theory, realising and implementing these changes in a way that doesn’t undermine efforts to reduce travel spend or compromise your organisation’s duty of care is a much greater challenge.
That’s why we’ve pulled together this short, but realistic, guide to improving the traveller experience.
1. Simplify the booking process
The amount of wasted time that goes into booking travel can lead to travellers feeling frustrated at the mere thought of organising even the simplest of trips and so it’s well worth looking into single solution booking options. These are online booking tools that search the web and GDS for the best deals and allow travellers to book flights, rail, hotels and even taxis or hire cars in one place, meaning that much less time is spent booking.
If you’re currently using a travel management company (TMC) and are finding that travellers aren’t content with the process of booking their business travel then have an honest discussion with both your TMC and your travellers. For example, travellers may be avoiding using your TMC’s booking system because they don’t feel confident that they know how to use it properly – something that is easily fixed with a little extra training.
2. Smooth out payment and billing
Payment can be a significant source of stress for some travellers, particularly when it comes to hotel stays; anxiety regarding whether a hotel room has been paid for or the fleeting moment of panic upon being asked to pay for the room at reception can leave a sour taste in the mouths of travellers who then have to go through the process of claiming unexpected expenses.
Using a TMC who offer central billing to a credit account is a great way of avoiding this stress, as well as saving the time of those who have to claim and process expenses. Knowing that payment has been sorted ahead of time and that they will not be left out of pocket for a period of time can make a real difference to travellers and make them less resistant to travelling for business.
3. Provide wellbeing training and support
Travelling to unfamiliar places can cause feelings of displacement and anxiety amongst regular business travellers and can sometimes leave them feeling isolated. This creates an environment and atmosphere that is not necessarily sensitive to their wellbeing; for example, they can make unhealthier food choices due to lack of knowledge of the area or find themselves in noisy hotels that disrupt their sleep.
One way to support your ‘road warriors’ is to provide travellers with a list of recommended or preferred restaurants, hotels, or airlines that support your organisation’s wellness objectives, meeting company expectations and travel wellness criteria for healthy food, exercise and stress and sleep management.
4. Measure stress with data
Measuring data is always the key to getting a greater understanding of how your organisation travels. Although data is more commonly used to gain clarity on travel spend or travel patterns, it can also be a useful tool in understanding how happy your employees are with current business travel arrangements.
Start the process by holding regular traveller surveys that enquire into their ability to manage travel-related stress and to stay healthy whilst travelling.
Most of us experience gamification every time we receive a stamp on our rewards card when we buy a coffee, or receive a discount code as a thank you for purchasing an item online, and introducing these concepts into the arena of business travel can be a really effective way of encouraging travellers to book within policy, be mindful of their travel spend or even just as a way of giving back to travellers who travel often.
Some organisations operate a points system, with travellers who book 3 weeks in advance receiving 50 points, 1 week in advance earning 10 points and so on. The more points that they have the more they can use to buy rewards such as trips or cinema tickets at the end of the financial year.
Financially, a bleisure trip can make sense; the employee isn’t increasing spend by extending their trip, as your organisation will already be paying for the travel. In fact, if a traveller’s decision to extend their trip means that they can return at a less popular travelling time then a spot of bleisure could actually cause a reduction in travel spend. Of course, the benefits of bleisure extend far beyond cost and allowing an employee to enjoy some recreation time is a surefire way to increase employee satisfaction, as well as reducing the likelihood of ‘burnout’ and other stress-related health problems.
However, the primary concern with bleisure is that organisations are fulfilling their duty of care obligations to their employees and the only realistic, practical way to mitigate against difficult situations is to explicitly address the matter of bleisure trips within your corporate travel policy; that way, both employer and employee know where they stand and what they’re accountable for.
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