A smart travel policy can mean happier employees

Sabine Hansen-Peck

SVP People, Culture, Communications and Branding, Amadeus

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When you’re planning for a two-week trip across Asia, taking a single carry-on with you might not be the first thing that comes to mind. On my latest business trip, I decided to do just this and couldn’t have been happier. I call this smart traveling. It allowed me to focus on the job at hand and minimized the stress of worrying about my luggage arriving.

According to a recent study conducted by Amadeus ‘Business traveler well-being: How to keep your employees healthy, happy and productive when they travel for work’, lost or delayed baggage is rated as the second cause of stress for business travelers. This is just one stress factor out of many.

Traveler well-being is becoming an increasingly important topic and one that is discussed not only within HR functions but also within other functions across companies. In today’s marketplace, having an appealing travel policy is a way of retaining and attracting talent. 

As a global technology provider to the travel industry, it’s only natural for a company like Amadeus to place value on this particular topic. This is why we recently conducted a study in collaboration with the Global Business Travel Association to analyze business travel and its impact on employee health and well-being.

Our objective was to understand business travelers’ attitudes towards travel, stress and productivity, and how traveler well-being is managed in their companies. The study found that although 91% of travel managers think that business travelers face high levels of stress sometimes or most of the time, 23% of companies paid absolutely no attention, or very little attention, to traveler wellbeing. That could be a costly mistake. More than 80% of business travelers want the management at their company to be more aware of the impact of business travel, and to show more appreciation for it1.

The benefits and costs of business travel

The good news is, the vast majority of business travelers like traveling for business. At least two-thirds of young professionals say business travel is a marker of status2.  And with millennials comprising 50% of the workforce by 2020, and Generation Z slowly coming into the workplace, those figures are likely to keep rising3 . With less family commitments and a global mindset, young employees are keen to hit the runway. 

But there can be too much of a good thing. Our study also found that the top three stresses faced by business travelers are baggage-delay or loss, no mobile network, and poor or no internet connectivity. 

As any business traveler knows, spending too much time on the road can have an impact on diet, exercise routines, sleep, and social relationships. In the long run, all of this can add up to health problems and stress. Even the most dedicated employees can suffer the consequences, which can then trigger costs for employers through absenteeism, reduced productivity and higher employee turnover.

That’s why Human Resource teams, travel managers and even the C-suite can benefit from investing more into traveler well-being. 

How can employees influence a corporate travel policy? 

No one knows travel better than the most frequent flyers of an organization, so when talking about traveler well-being, who better to ask? At Amadeus, we’re looking at this topic and talking to our employees to take steps to positively impact travelers’ journeys.

To get started, here are three strategies which can be implemented to positively influence traveler well-being for improved employee retention and recruitment.

1. Name and support an organizational duty of care champion

Our research found that when travel managers suggest well-being initiatives, these tend to be accepted. The challenge they often face though, is a lack of organizational remit to put their ideas to action. If duty-of-care champions are to succeed, they need the cooperation of HR teams as well as Finance and Risk & Security teams, and not to mention the C-suite. 

2. Understand which travelers are most at risk

Teams can take the initiative of tracking the well-being of travelers who run the highest risk of stress. This isn’t always simply those who travel the most. Other determining factors might include those who regularly take early, late or weekend flights, cross the most time zones, or take back-to-back trips. Carry out regular traveler surveys and ongoing health checks too.

Also, these dedicated teams may consider allowing travelers some paid time off if they have traveled extensively, especially at nights or during weekends. Recognition of this kind not only prevents potential burn-outs but could boost morale and productivity.

3. Promote healthy lifestyles

In our study, travelers rated unhealthy eating and lack of exercise as their 8th and 13th greatest sources of stress respectively. Companies can respond by offering education on healthy nutrition, exercise and sleep practices while on the road. They could also include a healthy traveler section on a company travel app and invite employees to contribute with their own suggestions. Frequent travelers could be given a budget to purchase from a selection of workout and meditation apps or some that track food and drink consumption.

In addition, HR teams could work with travel managers to make well-being a key consideration when selecting hotels. Does the property have a gym or swimming pool, for example, and does the menu offer more than burgers and fries? Another option is to provide a membership to external gyms near hotels. 

A win-win for all stakeholders

As you can see, adapting wellness policies to improve traveler well-being doesn't have to be a heavy investment, and yet it can yield great returns. Previous research by the London School of Economics (commissioned by Amadeus), supports this claim: taking a more holistic and strategic attitude towards managing business travel and traveler well-being yields positive financial gain.

In the global work climate of 2019, corporations can't afford to lose talent over poor travel policies that can potentially stress employees out. The good news is, the large majority of the workforce still loves to travel, and a good travel policy doesn't have to be expensive or complicated.

Applying some or all of these strategies will not only improve employees’ well-being, but also contribute to an increased return on investment from business travel. By adopting state of the art technology and offering advice and services to improve traveler well-being, travel management companies can also stand out in a competitive marketplace, by helping corporations keep their travelers happy, healthy and productive.

Discover how to create a better travel policy and read the full paper below.

And for more information about how Amadeus can help you create better journeys and power smarter business travel, we invite you to visit www.amadeus.com/en/industries/corporations.

1 Programs – Insights from U.S. Road Warriors, 2017, op. cit.

2 Nearly two-Thirds of Young Professionals consider business travel a status marker, Dawit Habtermariam 

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Business Travel, Traveler Experience