Business travel is an important aspect of work in a lot of industries, and it’s becoming much more common these days. According to business-consulting company Mercer’s International Business Travelers (IBT) survey, a business traveller takes an average of nine trips a year, which last an average of six days per trip, but may extend to a maximum of 28 days.
While jetting off to foreign lands might seem like a dream—especially for millennial employees, who consider it a job perk—increased travel also comes with increased risk. Employees could be heading to locations with higher crime rates, more prevalent diseases, frequent natural disasters, or political unrest, raising questions about their overall security and safety.
Especially under these circumstances, you need to make travel arrangements that ensure your employees have everything they need to stay safe and sound while abroad. The best way to do that is with proper corporate travel planning. By having special policies in place and outlining the necessary steps in case of an emergency, you can help your employees fulfil their travel goals without a hitch.
Here are some tips to keep your business travellers safe.
Spruce up your corporate travel policy
A corporate travel policy is a set of guidelines created by a company to enable the smooth and safe travels of its employees. Travel managers usually outline notes and standard operating procedures or SOPs here for trips made on the company’s behalf, like required documents or preferred seating arrangements.
To make sure you don’t miss anything when it comes to employee safety, you can integrate safety policies and protocols in here as well. These include protocols for both you (the travel manager) and the employee. They should also outline what to do before and during a trip, and during emergency cases.
For example, before departure, you need to assess the destination country, take note of the necessary documents, and brief the travelling employee on what to do and expect.
Spruce up your travel policy (and address safety and security risks) with the following items:
- Risk ratings for travel locations. Take note of periods of natural disasters and/or political unrest.
- Traveller tracking systems. List down the different points of communication available to your employees.
- Pre-trip assessments, training, and awareness briefings. Schedule one-on-ones with employees to prepare them for their trip.
- Emergency response plans. This is also known as travel risk management, which we’ll discuss later on.
Have an inclusive duty-of-care policy
In relation to your corporate travel policy, you may also need to spruce up your duty-of-care policy.
A duty-of-care policy is a company’s moral and/or legal obligation to ensure the safety or well-being of its employees. This policy encompasses all aspects of a business, including business travels. While most companies have passable duty of care policies with regard to travel, they tend to neglect certain nuances.
According to a 2018 survey by AIG Travel and the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), 71 percent of female business travellers believe they face greater risks than their male co-workers when travelling. Around 83 percent of the women surveyed experienced a safety-related event within that year, and yet only 18 percent of travel policies specifically address gender-specific safety and security issues.
For example, travel managers say that they offer safety and security resources through third parties like 24-hour emergency hotlines, but less than half said they book their female travellers into rooms with additional safety features. And they also rarely, if at all, offer chauffeured transportation services when taxi rides and airport transfers are reported as “particularly hostile environments” for women.
In short, women deal with more risks overall compared to men when travelling. Travel managers need to take these risks into account when making business travel arrangements.
On your end, take note of the areas that pose the most risk for women, and take the necessary preventive measures. These could range from booking them extra-safe hotel rooms to providing them with dedicated chauffeurs.
Do proper travel risk management
Duty of care is often mistaken for travel risk management. Duty of care is comparable to a fire alarm or exit, while travel risk management is the actual escape plan. So how do you make sure that your employees, in the face of certain safety and security issues, come home unscathed?
Education and training make up the first step. Discuss all the potential risks they might face in their country of destination—these might be political issues or the frequency of natural disasters, or the possibility of a mugging—and coach them on how to respond. By warning them beforehand, they can take the necessary precautions or mitigate an actual incident.
The second step is setting up proper communication. Equip them with emergency hotlines, contacts, and locations they can tap into in case of an incident. It’s important that they know their points of contact and available communication options since you can’t be there to assist them yourself.
Don’t fall into the trap of believing that experienced travellers already know what to do. They are just as vulnerable as others when it comes to safety and security.
Research the destination and assess risk
Your corporate travel policy may already be in place, but it’s always worth doing additional research on specific destinations before you send anyone off.
Here’s a checklist of things you need to consider:
- Cultural or behavioural differences. Are there any words, gestures, or behaviours that people in this country might find rude? Are there certain biases against men or women that need to be taken note of? Do employees need to dress or act a specific way to be accepted? Knowing these little nuances could be the saving grace of your business meeting, and prevent you from stepping on any toes.
- Local laws. Are there any laws banning any actions, like smoking in public areas or ordering alcohol in restaurants? You can’t have an employee unknowingly breaking the law!
- Environment (health, natural, and political). Is there a virus going around? Is it typhoon season? Are there political protests happening? Answers to these questions would lead to next steps like booking private transportation, or advising vaccinations for certain viruses and diseases.
- Cybersecurity. Public Wi-Fi areas like airports or hotels are hotbeds for hackers. You need to warn your employees against using these while working on sensitive information, or get them a pocket Wi-Fi device.
- Key safety points. Map out some key locations like hospitals, clinics, and police stations, just in case.
Prevention is better than cure
Nothing is too excessive when it comes to safety! Your employees’ welfare is your top priority, so you need to crisp up your corporate travel planning. And especially in this case, prevention is much better than cure.
To summarise, here are the travel arrangements you need to make:
- Create a fool-proof corporate travel policy so you don’t miss any important steps
- Make an inclusive duty-of-care policy that considers your employees’ varied needs
- Do proper travel risk management to train and educate your employees on emergency response
- Do your research on each travel location to identify potential risks
- Prepare emergency travel resources like important hotlines, locations, and/or apps