As companies rip up the rule book to embrace flexible working, business leaders and HR managers are taking another look at travel policies to cater to this new hybrid world of work.
Of course, no one’s been doing much business travel over the past 18 months. Client meetings, team get-togethers and conferences have instead been reimagined through the mediums of Zoom, Google Meet or Microsoft Teams.
But as the world slowly opens back up again, it’s expected this will change. While video conferencing is all very well, it’s thought face-to-face communication is up to 34 times more powerful. What’s more, the return on investment of business travel has been estimated at £9 ($12.50) for every 73p ($1) spent.
So, it’s no surprise that businesses are rethinking their travel and accommodation policies. Distributed teams will need to connect with one another, sales managers will once again visit prospective clients, and in-person industry conferences will be planned down to the minutest detail.
As businesses evolve towards a new way of working, we’ve put together a guide on how best to create a travel and accommodation policy for your remote teams—after all, we are the world’s first hybrid workplace platform!
We’ve covered where to start, what to include, the questions businesses should address and some great case studies to give you inspiration.
Where do I start?
In a world where half (or more) of your team continues to work remotely, you may be wondering what your travel and accommodation policy should now look like. There’ll be a whole array of questions swirling around your head, such as:
- How can you construct the policy so that it’s fair for all?
- How can you make it easy to understand?
- How can you make it straightforward to manage from an administrative perspective?
- Will you use technology to embed your policy into a chosen travel tool?
- Can you automate approval where necessary?
It’s a fine balance, for sure—and there are a myriad of options. But establishing clear guidelines in advance will save a lot of confusion down the line. It’s also always worth remembering that your travel policy should work for everyone—from the CEO and Head of Operations, to the software engineer and marketing assistant.
This includes keeping in mind that travellers like a certain degree of flexibility, so they can tailor a trip according to their own needs or preferences.
A good place to start is reviewing your existing (pre-pandemic) travel policy—what worked and what didn’t work? What did employees like, and where did they try to work around it? What changes do you need to make to account for a more dispersed team? These are the sort of questions that’ll help you start on the right foot.
Remember, team members want opportunities to travel with work. Research has found 75% of millennials see business travel as a perk —and almost 40% of millennials and Gen Zs said they wouldn’t accept a job that didn’t include some form of travel.
So, what should I cover?
Almost half of business travellers say they’d prefer to make arrangements themselves, with the flexibility to make changes if necessary. If you are able to facilitate this, it’s worth considering:
- Whether you have a preferred platform, system, or approved list of vendors you’d like employees to use?
- Whether you should keep things simple by using one system where employees can book everything— such as flights, hotels, car hire, for example—in one place.
- Will you have a recommended booking window? Some companies specify that employees should ideally book travel arrangements at least two weeks in advance—to take advantage of the best rates, for example.
It’s always a good idea to set reasonable budgets for expenses, such as flights, accommodation, car hire, meals, coworking space and other costs. Key questions to ask include:
- What is your per night budget for hotels, or do you want to specify a particular class (or star rating) that employees should book?
- Should employees fly economy or business class? Are there certain travel times where an upgrade would be permitted?
- Do you have a daily budget for meals?
- Will you reimburse mileage if an employee uses their own car?
- Will you offer an incentive if employees stay with friends or family instead of booking a hotel (such as at Gitlab, for example)?
- Will there be are any expenses you’re not happy to cover? This could include alcohol, dry cleaning, massages and mini bar costs etc.
Maybe there’s a big conference in town that day and all of the hotels are three times the usual price, or a team member needs to fly out the day before a meeting so they can acclimatise to the new time zone—it pays to have a procedure in place in case there is an exception to the rules specified above. It’s a great idea to ask yourself:
- If you can adjust the hotel budget for more expensive destinations, such as New York, San Francisco or London, or within certain travel dates?
- Can you include a ‘who to contact’ section with a designated contact within the policy if employees have questions before booking?
- Can you help with changing arrangements, organising visas, or booking work space while on the road?
- Are there any instances where you would like employees to check expenses while they’re on a business trip, or is this better dealt with on their return to work?
Perhaps you have a travel platform set up so that all costs are invoiced to the finance team automatically. But even if employees have been able to book the majority of their travel beforehand, there are still likely to be expenses they need to be reimbursed for.
- Be clear about what receipts you need team members to keep
- How quickly should employees file their expense claims once they return?
- Could you use an app—such as Rydoo, Expensify, Zoho Expense— to make the process simpler?
- How long should reimbursement take once a claim is submitted?
Despite the best laid plans, it’s easy for something to go wrong while travelling. Missed or cancelled flights or train connections, overbooked hotels, illness, theft and other issues can all arise. Make your employees feel supported, even when they’re away from their usual work hub by including a detailed emergency procedure in your policy:
- Define what the business would class as an ’emergency’
- Who should employees contact in the first instance if there is a problem?
- What are your insurance details and what information should they provide?
- How frequently should your employee keep in touch?
- In a crisis situation, how will you support your team members once they’re back at work?
Companies have a duty of care to employees while travelling for business reasons, who should be covered by the company’s insurance policy. This is also a good place to answer any other miscellaneous questions. For example:
- Be clear about whether employees are covered under the company’s pre-existing policy or whether you expect them to have their own travel insurance.
- You may want to specify safety measures you expect colleagues to take, such as taking a taxi late at night instead of public transport.
- Should employees use a VPN when connecting to public Wi-Fi networks if working away from the office?
- Can employees use leave to extend a business trip for leisure reasons?
- Are they able to keep any frequent flyer points they rack up while travelling?
Once you’ve constructed your travel and accommodation policy, it’s worth uploading it to a place that’s easily accessible to all employees—even while they’re in transit. You could do this via Notion, Google Docs, Evernote, or Microsoft OneNote, while also ensuring you make an offline version.
Above all, keep the communication channels open with employees and be prepared to regularly review your new travel policy. Employees should feel as if they’re able to give feedback and raise concerns as they arise.
But all in all; the best travel policies are easy to understand and empower team members to make the choices that suit them, while being clear about company expectations. In need of inspiration? Gitlab and Basecamp are good examples—and TravelPerk even offers a free template for companies to download.
Accessing on-demand workspaces such as meeting rooms, event spaces, or coworking desk space while travelling is hugely beneficial to the modern business traveller—and you can easily do this with the Hubble Pass; your all-access ticket to a global network on-demand workspaces.