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Key to every successful travel policy is that it reflect the reality of your company. Often, when determining travel policy, a critical element is company culture: a hard-line policy on not reimbursing bookings made outside your designated travel management company might be successful at combatting leakage, but it is often ill-suited to a company’s culture and allowances with expense reporting.

The reality of your company today, right now, is impacted by the ongoing pandemic. Particularly as corporate travel continues slowly resuming, it is time to think about whether your policy, as it stands, reflects our new reality.

Does Your Current Corporate Travel Policy Reflect the New Reality?

Duty of Care

Duty of Care should be once again on the forefront of all organization’s minds.  For companies with Travel Management Companies in place, now is a good time to ensure your travelers understand the duty of care rationale behind booking through your TMC. While we may want to believe that COVID will be all the encouragement an employee needs to comply with policies, we know in a world of one click apps, brand loyalty and a millennial sense of DIY, any increased compliance is unlikely to last.  Including the “whys” in your policy documentation helps employees to understand what’s in it for them.

What About Upgrades?

Does your corporate travel policy need to account for cost-cutting, in the current environment, perhaps restricting upgrades? On the other hand, some company cultures may consider relaxing elements to accommodate or assure their limited travelers who may have feelings that a more expensive provider is doing more for their safety: what is your approach if a traveler requests a first-class upgrade? What if your traveler feels more comfortable with a specific vendor’s social-distancing and cleaning efforts? Airlines are working to make travelers comfortable by blocking out certain seating—but if your traveler elects to book an additional seat beside him/her, to ensure their space, is that extra seat something your company is willing to reimburse?

What is Essential Travel?

Travel policies, at their best, are preemptive. These specific questions may not come up, for your company. But we recommend preparing your stance and eliminate as much confusion as possible, for your travelers.

One question that KesselRun recommends every company, in every industry, address internally: Most U.S. companies beginning in restricted all but “essential travel.” Fewer companies define “essential travel” in their policy.

We recommend first and foremost taking a look at what “essential travel” for your company is right now and beginning to think about how you will define it in the future.

Even if your company culture is such that “essential travel” will always be a shifting, unwritten definition, we believe that having that conversation internally, and affirming who makes the judgement call on whether travel is essential, be that an employees’ line manager or higher-level decision, is, in fact, essential.  And even if you as an organization deem the trip “essential,” is it allowable by origin or destination?  Are there quarantine restrictions in place? How does your employee feel about the trip?

One aspect of this conversation is travel approvals. Most mature corporate travel programs only require approval when a trip is out of policy: if this is your approach, will this continue to work for your company moving forward? How can it be most effectively and efficiently implemented?

Travel Management Company and Travel Risk Management

If you don’t have internal travel management in place, we recommend reviewing internal responsibilities against those of your Travel Management Company. TMCs are working to provide their clients with up-to-date information on the world situation and industry response, but there are considerations and communications, critical at the moment, that do not fall under standard TMC responsibility.  Do you have a Travel Risk Management provider in place that covers domestic and international travel?  Does that company also look after your entire, non-traveling employee base?  Do you need it to?

Here are a few questions your company should be asking internally:

  • Are we going to supply our travelers with basic PPE? Where can we source it from and how can we get it to them if all employees are remote?
  • As an organization, are we going to have company-wide guidelines for mask wearing, travel and onsite attendance or are we going to review country-by-country, state-by-state requirements?  How do we communicate a varied policy to an employee who may travel between two locations?
  • Are we going to require health screenings for our employees?
  • If an employee needs to be tested for COVID, are we allowing that individual time out of the office to wait at a testing site?
  • What if an employee becomes symptomatic at the office?
  • What is our position on contact tracing or other tracking devices?
  • What if our employees refuse to comply with health screening requirements or contact tracing/tracking devices?
  • How do we consult our travelers on pre/post trip health screenings they may encounter?
  • How do we address employees who are not ready to start traveling again?
  • How can we educate our employees on what to expect at airports and certain destinations?
  • What resources can your employees reach out to if they become symptomatic when traveling?
  • Does your travel insurance cover pandemic circumstances?
  • How will we communicate the travel information our employees need to them, both on a general and destination-specific level, particularly as they are ever-changing?

Although these are travel questions, note how many of them are issues you may want to engage on with Procurement, HR, Legal, Finance, IT, Communications— travel touches every aspect of your business, and so does its policy.  You may have already asked these questions internally, but we hope our insight helps further your conversations around corporate travel policy.  These are not something to address once and put them away in a filing cabinet.  These are questions that will need to be addressed in an ongoing manner for the foreseeable future.

Why Work with KesselRun Corporate Travel Consulting

If you previously had an unmanaged or relaxed travel program or policy, if you’re unsure how to begin answering these questions, or if you want to discuss what a best-practice travel policy looks like, as we all try to find a roadmap in these uncertain times: KesselRun is here to help you create the most successful corporate travel policy. KesselRun has built a solid reputation along with a growing list of clients by providing independent thought leadership around every aspect of corporate travel.

Contact Us to learn more about our corporate travel consulting services.