This piece has come about as a result of Steve and I attending a Cambridge Network event, hosted by Primera Air and Travel Counsellors, on the topic was business travel and how it affects staff within businesses. It was a really interesting morning with contributions from the airline, the travel manager and the audience. It would have been even better with a panel debate and contributions from a number of travel managers within local businesses – they are at the front line of all the feedback and would be well placed to comment in this area.
At Airport Lynx, we’re biased. We believe that travelling for business is a good thing. We take passengers to and from airports on average at least once an hour, every hour of every day of the week. We don’t think that’s going to change any time soon, even though there are continuing – and welcome – advances in technology for communications.
Perception is everything, isn’t it? Before the meeting, we had a strong debate within the office on whether travelling for business is still a “perk” of the job. The consensus was that if you ask someone who doesn’t travel for work, we usually find that they say “absolutely – a flight without the kids and dinner at a time of my own choosing with a night of unbroken sleep – sign me up!”. The answers from people who travel more regularly though, aren’t always as enthusiastic. They vary considerably – we hear of people who feel it’s a necessary chore and also, people who really enjoy the change of scenery and opportunities to meet new people in new places. So what is it that makes for such different responses? We think we’ve found a possible answer.
The experience of travelling for business seems to be impacted by the amount of “Traveller Friction” which is incurred when travelling for work. Its most general definition, as defined by TClara.com, is that it is the ‘accumulated wear and tear on road warriors’. They defined a road warrior as someone who in 2016, earnt $155K, was married, with two children and undertook 26 trips each year, spending 84 nights away from home. Travelling 26 times a year equates to on average, one trip each fortnight, so it’s reasonable to expect that it could become of increasing importance, the more travel is undertaken.
There is a wealth of information and studies available. We will list some at the end for ‘further reading’. In summary, our brief review suggests that there’s no one size fits all policy which can be applied. We of course, appreciate that this can be problematic in itself to administer. But if it accepted, there are some commonalities which can be considered in applying a policy – my own low tech name for it is to operate a ‘swap something in, swap something out’ policy.
If we can establish establish what would lessen travel friction for each traveller, we can give them the best personal experience. If someone finds it easy to be productive whilst travelling, the travel desk could book them a car with built in, hard wired wifi, (just like the ones we provide here at Airport Lynx) and a flight with wifi available. They could then have a more luxurious hotel at their destination so that they could unwind after working throughout their flight. If another person finds it difficult to work whilst travelling, they could take a more premium seat and book into a not quite so luxurious hotel which has desk facilities within the room, to facilitate working upon arrival.
Another traveller may want to swap a convenient flight for a hotel with ‘better’ or healthier food options nearby. Someone else entirely may want to take the cheapest flight available at the cheapest time, to add on a day of extra ‘free’ holiday to experience the sights of their destination. Or they may want to take a family member with them, so they can balance things domestically.
So long as the core requirements of ensuring safety are met, we can see it being a real selling point for a company to offer flexible travel options to their teams. The direct and indirect expenses of recruitment increase exponentially with seniority, so it is realistic that a flexible, traveller centric policy could even become a retention tool and actively discourage staff from looking elsewhere. More than 80% of regular travellers state that they would be interested in a job from a different firm that requires similar travel levels if it offered a very attractive travel policy. 83% also say the new firm’s travel policy would be at least equally or more important than the new pay and responsibilities.
Of course, there’s always a balance to be had – there’s never going to be on perfect solution for everyone. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try. It’s much smaller scale but even within our own office, when we travel to meetings which require us to be in London for 8am, there’s an ‘understanding’ that it’s fine to accrue this as toil or take time at another point to balance out the early start. Coffee en route is covered as an expense and if we arrive early, a local eatery is usually sourced for a bacon sandwich! It’s those things which mean that setting out earlier isn’t felt to be an inconvenience – it’s just part of the working day.
As we continue to grow, we’re finding that there is a huge value to taking the time to really understand the pressures, challenges and opportunities available to business in supporting their teams as they travel. With that in mind, we’re going to be looking to host an event where we – and we hope you – will be able to learn more about travel and how it can be managed positively as a retention and recruitment tool. If you’re interested in attending and being part of it, please email email@example.com and we’ll ensure that you’re amongst the first to be updated on this as it progresses.
References and interesting reading.
Traveller friction and the bottom line – buyingbuisnesstravel.com
Traveller friction benchmarking – TClara.com
Traveller friction research 2016 – TClara.com
Traveller friction research 2017 – TClara.com