A starter kit to travel risk management #BEYONDcovid-19

business traveller woman on phone

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic will transform travel dramatically and redefine travel risk management to a whole new level. What started as a seemingly harmless virus has escalated into a global storm within a couple of months with corporates and their travellers trying to make sense of the new normal in travel risk management. As the impact continues to spread with no quick wins in clear sight, it is important to watch, listen and learn from each other to ensure we step-up and get-out of this storm to the best of our ability. So how have successful organisations steered travel risk management during COVID-19?  
 

The approach of a successful organisation  

This pandemic has caused many organisations to take a step back and re-evaluate their paper-perfect crisis management and business continuity plans. Among them, some of the more successful organisations had the following common denominators:  

  • A crisis communications team was put together at the onset of the crisis. Many of them comprise of management team as well as key stakeholders represented by equity regions and business functions 
  • Access to accurate and relevant data of the travellers within the organisation 
  • Constant review of the organisation’s business continuity plans  
  • Manage and control employee communications   

 
Keep employees and internal communication at the heart of all decisions  

It is crucial to understand the state of mind and mood of employees, whether they are working on site or from home. Many businesses find themselves in uncharted waters, having to balance that fine line between ‘business as usual’ operation mode, in addition to caring for employees’ mental and emotional well-being.  

  • Evaluate work from home situations to achieve realistic optimal efficiency 
  • Keep employees motivated and engaged such as user guides on fun way to keep sane at home or your children busy  
  • Prioritise communication to prevent mis-information: taking responsibility as a company to filter the noise from unreputable sources and provide employees with one true source of information to allay panic and anxiety 
  • Be transparent but also allay a positive tone and narrative to balance negativity surrounding the bleak outlook

Transformation of business travel #BEYONDcovid-19: Safety and security of employees as key focus and number one priority 

Much as it might sound scary with some resistance from employees to take to the roads (and skies) in the immediate future, there is no doubt that travel will continue to be an everyday part of many organisations. However, the process and policies of travel are expected to vastly differ from what it used to be before the pandemic. 

So what is travel expected to look like and how can businesses restore travel confidence in their employees again? Though there might be numerous ideas on this topic, we pick out eight practical thoughts that can give you a quick start into this headspace.   
 

From a company’s perspective  
  1. Be prepared for different travel requirements and restrictions from every country: restrictions could vary between cities even within the same country. This has started to take root in China 
  2. Geographical re-introduction of waves in travel: align company plans with country or cities’ re-opening 
  3. Digital innovation such as pre-approvals without additional bureaucracy  
     
From the perspective of an employee  
  1. Process and procedures with health and safety: Ensure suppliers in the travel ecosystem from airlines to hotels and land transportation companies have clear hygiene and sanitation practices and relevant certifications from accredited health safety organisations 
  2. Context-specific, flexible, dynamic and adaptable travel options within an organisation’s policy to build trust and cyber-confidence  
  3. Re-evaluate expectations across functions moving forward: essential versus non-essential travel continue to come under scrutiny from the perspectives of safety and convenience in addition to costs    
  4. Critical need to be able to communicate accurate data to employees in a timely manner in a ‘new normal’ business travel world with complex variables: especially #BEYONDcovid-19 where there may be varying restrictions for different nationalities in different countries.  
  5. Seriously consider policies supporting bleisure: before COVID-19, bleisure was a popular topic for business travel industry and some organisations. Perhaps it is the right time #BEYONDcovid-19 for organisations to support employees’ intentions at reducing carbon footprint and health risks from travelling to the same destination twice  

As we begin to hope that the resilience of the business travel community will soon bury the pesky virus, what’s important is that we come out of this stronger. Individuals and corporates might be facing one of the biggest challenges in the history of travel, but this has helped us to gain a much deeper understanding towards business travel and the risks involved, and how to adapt to the changing landscapes. These are rare and valuable lessons which doesn’t get offered to corporates very often.   

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