Post-Covid refresh needed for travel and mobility policies

Many travel policies pre-dating the pandemic will have to change administratively before companies, and their employees feel secure flying internationally.

As Chief of Staff Asia’s latest research paper highlights, ongoing restrictions across Southeast Asia, from rules on facial masks to vaccination mandates, are, at least in the short term, still impacting organisations throughout the region.

HR teams will therefore need to review and update their corporate travel policies to align with the changing state of affairs in each destination.

In many cases, employees are driving these changes themselves. According to a white paper from travel management company SAP Concur, nearly half of all its survey respondents expected their company to make health and safety modifications to existing policies to ensure business travellers are taken care of, should something happen while they are away from home. Interestingly, two-thirds of those surveyed wanted their employer to increase flexibility regarding where they stay and for how long. Rigid policies that don’t allow employees to select hotels, for example, are falling further out of favour in the Post-Covid New Normal.

The role of ‘travel manager’ within a company’s HR team may be elevated, given the increasing amount of planning and organisation required in ensuring employees are looked after. Whether the employee is taking a short trip, or moving overseas for a longer-term posting, companies have a duty of care when it comes to documentation, flights, accommodation, and navigating the rules and regulations of the country being visited.

According to Philippa Johns. Southeast Asia Director of Enterprise Solutions at business travel consultancy HRS (pictured, right), changes in how talent mobility is managed are long overdue. “Travel managers should be able to identify the pros and cons of a company’s travel policy and act upon them,” she says. “Covid-19 has hastened the need for change, especially with respect to how employers can use mobile technology and instant messaging to keep track of their employees’ well-being minute-by-minute. There has never been a better time to make changes to a policy than right now.”

Undoubtedly, the new complexities of taking business trips in a post-covid world are challenging, especially for companies who do not have travel policies or engage in a far-too-common practice of ‘unmanaged travel’ for employees.

Christian Warneck, Vice President at travel industry software provider Amadeus (pictured, below right), says that for many large businesses, specialist agencies have been at the forefront of aiding business travellers through complex itineraries. “In the New Normal, travel management companies are well-placed to offer exceptional service for companies who are looking to support

their employees as they start travelling again,” he said.

This is good advice for HR teams dealing with the slow, complicated return of corporate travel.

As many travel management providers have the capacity to find alternate levers such as more innovative sourcing, and access to sustainability solutions which are becoming more popular, they may be able to mitigate the higher costs per trip incurred from enhanced safety and Covid-19 risk mitigation measures.

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Chief of Staff Asia