So your company has announced that it is reinstating the travel program. Perhaps this news is music to your ears or perhaps you have mixed feelings about it. It’s understandable if you have some reservations about traveling again for work if you haven’t been out on the road since the start of the pandemic. The travel landscape has changed significantly since your last trip. You also may have gotten used to a life without a crazy travel schedule. Maybe you have been able to enjoy a more balanced lifestyle, having more time for sleep and exercise. You are not alone in your feelings. According to a study conducted by Globetrender and co-produced by American Express Global Business Travel, approximately 40% of business travelers surveyed have concerns that need to be clarified before they would feel confident about traveling again. Let’s address some of the concerns you may be having:
“I feel apprehensive about traveling at this point.”
We understand. It’s natural to have anxieties over traveling right now. Your company has an obligation to protect its employees. But you must decide what your comfort level is and not feel pressured to travel if you are not ready. What may be helpful is to examine what you feel apprehensive about and why. Often, fears are fueled by uncertainty. The antidote for this? Doing research – from credible resources with science-driven, evidence-based information – to gain more knowledge so you can evaluate the risk factors and make an informed decision based on facts. To be more confident about your decision, you could run through an entire business trip, identify your concerns at each stage, conduct research to see if your fears are valid, and determine what can be done, if anything, to alleviate them. Many anxieties can be mitigated simply through thorough preparation. You also might begin with baby steps – e.g., making a day trip to meet a client who’s within driving distance or a train ride before getting on a plane and spending three nights away. Connecting with colleagues who are in a similar situation to understand where their head’s at and speaking to those who have recently traveled can also give you greater clarity and peace of mind. If at the end of the day you are still not comfortable traveling, share your concerns with your manager or HR.
“It’s so much more complicated planning a trip these days.”
This is true. Before the pandemic, booking a trip was simply a matter of plugging in a few dates and destinations and making your elections. Now to travel, there’s a ton of pre-trip prep work. Travelers need to figure out things like if they need a negative COVID test or vaccination to board a plane, if travel restrictions might thwart their plans, if they need to quarantine upon arrival, the various safety standards of suppliers, what measures they need to stay healthy, and on and on. While this research is an added hassle now, it can save you a ton of headaches during your trip – as well as put you in a more confident state of mind. The good news is you need not search a million different websites to find this information. Your company likely is providing you links to helpful resources where you can find these answers. We also have built Travel Vitals™, a simple-to-use search tool that gives you all the information you need to prepare for a trip, such as suppliers’ safety guidelines, destination-specific travel requirements, and the latest advisories. If you book your journey with us, you’ll automatically receive itinerary-specific guidelines through our mobile app and email. For more trip guidance, you also can connect with our travel counselors, who have this intel at their fingertips. As you’re investigating what preparations you need to make, remember it’s not only about planning for your time away but also your return home. There may be new exit/entry requirements you’re not aware of.
“I want to travel, but with so many changes, I don’t feel prepared.”
It undoubtedly will be a different experience on the road. Your company and its travel partners have made many improvements to help you manage this transition, but you’ll need to do your homework too. In addition to the research you’ll need to conduct prior to a trip, be sure to read all the emails coming from HR and the travel department about the relaunch of the program as there may be policy and program changes you’ll need to familiarize yourself with. For instance, there now may be limitations on the types of trips you can take and possibly a new pre-trip approval system to navigate. Before your departure, you’ll also want to make sure you have the latest versions of mobile apps and tech downloaded to your device to streamline trip management. Through the travel management company’s (TMC’s) app, you should be able to book trips and receive real-time itinerary-specific updates. Through a hotel app, you may enjoy contactless check-in and checkout processes and keyless entry. Eventually, you also may need a digital health passport app (maybe several if flying with different carriers), physical documentation, or both to prove you’ve been vaccinated or are not testing positive for COVID-19. As for what to pack, bring plenty of face masks, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes for the entire duration of the trip, even if you are fully vaccinated or have tested negative. In the absence of a digital health passport, pack several copies of your vaccination or COVID test documentation in different bags in case one is lost or stolen. Don’t forget a pen for filling out the entry paperwork to avoid borrowing a stranger’s or using the communal one at the airport. If you need extra support to prepare for a trip, reach out to your travel department or the company’s TMC. We also have prepared a full checklist for travelers on how to plan a safe trip.
“I don’t want to keep up a grueling travel schedule like I used to.”
At first, you may have resented not being able to travel for work. But now that you have gotten used to your remote-working lifestyle, you may realize you don’t want to go back to the way it was – and your company shouldn’t want that either. We are encouraging clients to build back better, keeping wellness, sustainability, inclusivity, and mobility top of mind. Still, if it is expected that you return to your pre-COVID travel schedule, voice your specific concerns to your manager or someone in HR to see if there’s a mutually agreeable solution. Speak with your manager and HR to help them get a pulse of your ideal schedule (e.g., no back-to-back trips, limited red-eyes, etc.) to see how it can fit your company’s needs. If you explain the kind of strain too many red-eye flights and same-day meetings had on your life, the company may agree to let you fly out a day early so you can rest up before the meeting, even though a daytime air ticket and extra hotel night may add to the expenses. With the heightened emphasis on traveler well-being these days, your company may be more inclined to accommodate such special requests.
“There’s no point in traveling when I can do my work virtually.”
It’s true videoconferencing tools have enabled us to work efficiently from our homes. You may have even seen that your performance didn’t suffer as a result and you were able to hit last year’s targets. The thing is, if you look a little deeper, you may realize there are indeed drawbacks to virtual meetings. There may have been meetings canceled at the last minute, which rarely happened, if ever, when you showed up in person. You may see that despite the ease of setting up a virtual meeting, it does take more effort to convey your point and solidify an agreement. You may acknowledge you didn’t make as many career-advancing connections and that the ideas you presented lacked the creative inspiration and insights that come from discovering a new culture and city. Despite the time it takes to travel, you may realize that the process of closing a deal or cultivating a business relationship is much faster when you have physical interaction with a customer vs. Zoom. If you think travel is unnecessary, reconnect with clients or contacts you would have previously met in person to gauge their interest in a face-to-face. You may learn that they are not ready or don’t think it’s necessary – or you may come to discover they’ve already have resumed in-person meetings and have met with a competitor.