Remote working risks to weigh up in your travel policy
When we think of travel risks we typically think about large catastrophic events, travelling to dangerous locations or the risk of illness. Yet the last two years has seen the travel landscape change and, as Matt DeMaris, FCM's Global Safety & Risk Product Leader advises, travel and HR policies need to adapt to limit the exposure of other risks.
“While the majority of travel programs have contingency plans in place for significant incidents, like illness or bodily harm, you actually have to take responsibility risks such as cybersecurity, wellbeing and labour laws. These are some of the ‘hidden’ risks associated with wherever you work,” says DeMaris.
Regulatory and policy
Remote work means working from a different place other than the office; perhaps at home, abroad, from a holiday destination…literally anywhere. With so many physical locations, it’s a different playing field to navigate than just the traditional office locations.
Remote work exposes organisations to risks that affect both the traveller and business. Ask yourself questions such as:
- Are you aware of labour laws in the country your employees are working in?
- Do you know the tax obligations on both the employer and employee?
- Do you have the right insurance policies in place?
- Do your travellers have the right to work in the country they’re in; do they need a visa?
- Have you checked VAT regulations?
- Does your travel policy reflect your company’s approach to WFH, remote or hybrid working?
- Do you have the ability to update travellers with urgent alerts, and know how to contact them in an emergency?
Cybercrime is another risk plaguing unsuspecting travellers and their employers. IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach Report 2022 found 83% of organisations studied had more than one data breach, and where remote working was involved, costs were an average of nearly US$1 million greater in breaches compared to where remote working wasn’t a factor.
This is partly because travellers are tired and distracted when on the road, making them vulnerable to cyber-attacks and phishing scams. Also, those public Wi-Fi spots in hotels, airports, cafes and restaurants aren’t often secure, and can read and store critical data. Even hotel business centres and hard-cable internet access in hotel rooms can’t always be trusted.
Work with your security and IT teams to ensure travellers are trained and up to date with the latest guidance. Are they taking the proper precautions, and are they aware of their role and responsibility to protecting company data?
With the shifts we’ve seen in the last few years, there’s an increasingly blurred boundary between work and home life.
“Work-from-home employees often find it difficult to switch off,” says DeMaris. “After all, you’re just steps from your desk at any given time. Similarly, in our ‘always on’ world, travellers expect to be connected while on the road – meaning work-life balance can take a back seat.”
Frequent fliers also face unique challenges that other employees do not, including feeling isolated from their homes and family, and missing their regular routine. Changing time zones plays havoc with sleep patterns, while jet lag can sometimes take up to a week (or more) to shake off. All of this impacts employee productivity, health and morale.
For DeMaris, companies need to adopt a proactive approach. Look closely at your company culture, travel policy and data to keep travellers happy. For example:
- Do you allow long-haul passengers to book premium economy or business class fares?
- Do you monitor the number of trips employees take to ensure that the load is evenly spread?
- Or do you ease the burden by prioritising direct flights, convenient flight times, upgrades and lounge access for frequent fliers? And, importantly, are you able to track your travellers should things go wrong?
- How do you treat bleisure travel – and who is responsible for your traveller’s health and wellbeing (incl. insurance and related costs) on the ‘leisure’ leg of their trip?
When designing a safety and risk policy for your company, it’s important to consider all possible travel risks: big, small, current and emerging. Work closely with your TMC to identify any gaps – keeping in mind that there are many risks beyond illness or bodily harm. They’ll be able to help you design the best policy to meet your needs, ethos and company culture.