Both leisure and business travelers have had one question in mind: When will it be safe to travel again? You can now send your team members back on the road confidently — if you have the right COVID-19 rebound plan.
There’s been nothing close to business travel as usual since March of 2020 when COVID-19 started to change the way we live. You’ve probably been wondering: When will it be safe to travel again? Well, the time has finally come, but it’s essential that your business put into place the right plan for re-engaging in business travel in a post-COVID-19 world.
As an Executive, you will only have one opportunity to revive your business travel program properly. To ensure that you make the most of this opportunity, follow the tips below as you begin sending your team members back on the road for face-to-face meetings, events and other gatherings.
Review Your Travel Policy
You have heard this from us before, but it can’t be said enough: Whatever travel policy you used prior to the pandemic is no longer suitable (in its entirety) today. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a host of new considerations into the business travel process. It’s essential that your post-pandemic travel policy reflect these new considerations.
What types of considerations should your new travel policy address? It should address the following:
- How will your company stay in touch with Travelers while they are away from the office?
- What expectations do you have of Travelers to stay in touch with the office while they are away?
- What pandemic-related emergency procedures do you have in place?
- Will team members be required to travel as COVID-19 remains a threat?
- How should the threat of future pandemics impact your risk management strategy and the tactics used to live up to your duty-of-care responsibility?
These are weighty questions that deserve thoughtful answers from Executives. Before you start recrafting your travel policy, spend a significant amount of time coming up with satisfactory answers to these questions. Starting with answers to these foundational questions will help you revive your business travel program successfully.
Evaluate In-Person vs. Virtual Meetings
To answer the question: when will it be safe to travel again? We also need to ask: when is it necessary to travel? It’s time to take a closer look at the meetings, events and other gatherings that require business travel. In most cases, companies have gotten much better at facilitating productive virtual meetings. These virtual meetings could and should continue if business travel is not absolutely necessary.
As an Executive, you should work with your team to identify the meetings that deliver the most value when held in-person. You should also work with your team to identify the meetings that can still deliver value if held virtually. After more than a year working remotely without business travel, your team members are now experts on in-person vs. virtual meetings (to the point of having Zoom fatigue, in many cases). Use that expertise to your advantage.
Also, make sure your company invests in the right technologies to make virtual meetings as productive as possible. If you have the right decision matrix in place to choose between in-person and virtual meetings, and the right technologies in place to support virtual meetings, you will find that your overall business travel spend optimizes naturally in the coming months.
Decide on Vaccination Requirements
All companies will have a tricky decision to make around vaccination requirements. Can you require team members to get a vaccine? If not, can you require team members to travel? These are questions that only your company can answer based on its unique circumstances — and in tandem with a legal department or a third-party legal expert. Your state may also have in place guidelines and regulations that influence whether or not you can enforce vaccination requirements.
While it’s important to get legal advice in this area, it’s also important to be compassionate toward your team members and to maintain your company culture. Simply put, do what feels right for them. Use your best judgement as a foundation for crafting your policy on COVID-19 vaccinations and how you will address vaccinations as part of your business travel program.
Prepare Your Staff for Travel
Before you start sending your employees back out into the world for business travel, make sure they are over-prepared to work while on the road. After you update your travel policy to reflect the realities of a post COVID-19 world, make certain traveling team members are aware of all the updates you made.
Consider hosting a series of webinars or in-person trainings where someone from your team shares the following:
- Best practices for Business Travelers during this time of uncertainty
- Resources available to your Travelers while they are away from the office
- The options available to employees who still feel uncomfortable traveling
- A road map of future changes to your travel policy based on changing dynamics around the world
You will want to customize these trainings to match your travel policy and the unique nature of your business. But, when in doubt, do more rather than less on this front. You want your team members as prepared as possible before they start traveling again.
Give Risk Management Renewed Attention in a Post-Pandemic World
Risk management and duty of care are more than just buzzwords in a post-pandemic world. Your company has a duty-of-care responsibility to all employees as they travel for work. The series of approaches that you use to live up to that duty-of-care responsibility is called “risk management.”
In past years, risk management and duty of care have often been associated with travel to dangerous areas or travel where unexpected natural disasters may occur. (Think, for example, of travel to war-torn countries or travel to areas that experience tornadoes, hurricanes and tsunamis.) That’s not the case anymore.
Your company and its Executives have to be serious about the risks to Traveler health and safety, no matter the destination. If you work with a travel management company (TMC), it’s likely that it has in place risk management and duty of care services, ensuring that you are able to keep tabs on your employees while away from the office and that there is always a clear and open path to two-way communication when needed. If you do not have this level of service in place, you should consider getting it.
Get Support From JTB Business Travel
At JTB Business Travel, we offer a complete duty-of-care service that you can depend on as your employees travel the globe. We emphasize reducing our clients’ overall travel spend while creating comfortable, productive itineraries for your Travelers. Behind everything we do is a common-sense approach to business travel.
Get in touch to learn more about our services and how we can help your company live up to its duty-of-care responsibility.