It’s no secret that COVID-19 will change the face of travel as we know it, redefining travel risk management to a whole new level. What started as a seemingly harmless virus escalated into a global storm within weeks, forcing travel managers around the world to get to grips with a 'new normal' of travel risk management. As the impact continues to spread with no quick wins in clear sight, in order to come out of the pandemic stronger than ever it's essential to watch, listen and learn from each other. So how have successful organisations steered travel risk management during COVID-19?
How did successful organisations approach the crisis?
The pandemic has caused many organisations to step back and re-evaluate their crisis management and business continuity plans. When looking at how the most successful organisations approached the crisis, they had the following in common:
- A crisis communications team including senior management and key stakeholders from across the business, put together at the onset of the crisis
- Access to accurate and relevant traveller data
- A constant review of the organisation’s business continuity plans
- Well managed and controlled employee communications
Keeping employees front of mind
It's crucial to understand the state of mind and wellbeing of employees, whether they're working on-site or from home. Many businesses are having to balance that fine line between ‘business as usual’ operation mode and caring for employees’ mental and emotional well-being. The most successful organisations have:
- Kept employees motivated through engaging internal communications, for example user guides on fun ways to keep sane at home, or how to keep your children busy
- Prioritised communication to prevent mis-information: taking responsibility as a company to allay panic and anxiety by filtering the noise from disreputable sources and providing employees with one true source of information
- Balanced transparency with a positive tone and narrative to ensure employees are both informed and engaged
Business travel beyond COVID-19: Prioritising safety and security
As lockdowns begin to lift, employees might find themselves questioning whether they really need to travel to do their job effectively. If the answer is yes, it’s essential to make sure staff feel comfortable getting back on the road and confident that their safety and wellbeing is prioritised. So with travel processes and policies expected to look significantly different post-COVID, how can businesses restore travel confidence in their employees again and prioritise their safety?
Here are eight practical thoughts to give you a head start:
From a company’s perspective
- Be prepared for different travel requirements and restrictions from every country. As we're seeing already in China, restrictions could also vary between cities even within the same country
- Re-introduction of travel may need to be in geographical waves; align company plans with country or cities’ re-opening
- Review whether your travel technology is working for you, for example facilitating pre-approvals without any additional bureaucracy
From a travel manager's perspective
- Review you health and safety processes and procedures; from airlines and hotels and land transportation, ensure your suppliers have clear hygiene and sanitation practices and relevant certifications from accredited health safety organisations
- Help build employee trust and cyber confidence by ensuring there are there context-specific, flexible, dynamic and adaptable travel options within your organisation’s policy
- Re-evaluate travel expectations, for example essential versus non-essential travel or the number of employees allowed to travel at any one time
- Assess your data and how this is communicated. The 'new normal' of business travel is likely to have a number of complex variables, such as changing country entry requirements. It will therefore be critical for companies to be able to communicate accurate data to employees in a timely manner
- Consider your existing 'bleisure' policies: before COVID-19, bleisure was a hot topic in the industry and popular with many employees. If you already have a bleisure policy in place this may need updating; if your company is yet to implement one then post-COVID may be the time to support employees’ intentions to reduce health risks from travelling to the same destination twice
Whilst business travel will become tighter in the short term, companies will soon shift their perspective and start to focus again on growth; in a post-COVID-19 world there will still be a need for travel to drive businesses forward. To prepare for this new world of business travel, it's essential to learn what we can from the pandemic. Individuals and companies across the world might be facing one of the biggest challenges in the history of travel, but this has helped us to gain a much deeper understanding of travel risk management and how to adapt to fast changing landscapes. These are rare and valuable lessons that don't get offered very often.