When Travel Returns: Travel Policy and Compliance

May 26, 2020

Remember when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and everyone was scrambling to figure out what to do in terms of travel? Let’s not do that again. In the event of another pandemic (or this one comes back for an encore), having a plan spelled out for your travelers and organization will help.

If you are responsible for managing travel across the globe, you likely are already aware of the complexities during normal times. “Getting your global program back up and running will require a measured and strategic approach”, says Nicole Wilcock, Executive Director, Global Network at Radius Travel. Here’s a good way to update your travel policy and make sure that every question or issue that may come up is answered. Just like a journalist is trained to do at the beginning of a news story, it’s smart to focus on the five W’s: WHO?  WHAT?  WHEN? WHERE?  WHY?

WHO GETS TO TRAVEL? WHY?

Depending on your business, you may not want to send your entire traveling workforce out on the road all at once. Rolling travel out in phases will help keep travelers healthy (not just yours, but everyone’s) and should also help your bottom line as things start getting back to normal. Think about putting a plan in place that covers just about every circumstance, so travelers have no choice but to make the right decision. 

Aspects to consider might be allowing only people with certain titles to travel. Do you have billable and non-billable travel? Maybe the nonbillable people can stay home a bit longer. An approach where only the departments that drive the most revenue are allowed to travel might really help. With whatever is best for your company and your people in mind, think about who needs to be involved in getting these policies spelled out. 

WHAT STEPS SHOULD BE TAKEN BEFORE, DURING, AND AFTER TRAVEL?

Many travel programs today are “strongly encouraged” which leaves travelers with the ‘option’ of booking through other means. It’s important companies evaluate if this is the best approach moving forward. “It’s never been as important as it is now to ensure the safety and wellbeing of your travelers,” says Rafael Gonzalez, Senior Director, Global Agency Management at Radius Travel. “Ensuring that you have a travel management company that can track traveler activity is paramount to make certain that you know where your travelers are and that they are healthy and safe.”

WHERE CAN TRAVELERS GO?

Should your company restrict travelers from going to certain places? Where can travelers sit on the plane? What’s your strategy for first and business class? Can travelers stay at preferred hotels only? Is it okay to stay with family and friends? What about Airbnb or taking Uber/Lyft?

WHY IS TRAVEL NEEDED?

Why is it important for this business traveler to go to that place to meet with those people at this time? It will be important to clearly define the benefit of travel taking place by that particular individual. If it can’t be established, is it essential? Maybe you even need to include that it is completely okay for people to not travel if they just don’t feel comfortable with it. Showing travelers that you’re on their side and that you have their best interests in mind goes a long way towards keeping travelers engaged in, and complying with, the program.

Once you have all the rules figured out, you need to determine how to monitor and enforce them. 

FINDING AND ENFORCING ALTERNATIVE SOLUTIONS

For those who are not initially able to travel, put clear guidelines in place for what they might do instead. In many cases, this means video conferencing. Your company has probably already revised guidelines in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, but connecting this to your travel policy will make the rules very clear to travelers. For example, you might want to replace all travel between departments with video conferencing for the first 90 days. Simple enough, but it may involve input from multiple departments. Are your employees still working from home or are they returning to the office? Are conference rooms configured to properly support video and are social distancing requirements being considered?

There's more where that came from!

We're really just getting started. There is much more on this topic to be found in our ebook,  The Ultimate Guide to When Travel Returns, including more questions that you should consider in your travel policy, and the nuance that may be required if your organization has a global travel policy in place. Oh, and there are also eight other chapters filled with information on other topics that you can't afford to miss. Go get that free ebook right now!

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