How HR can deal with unexpected situations during business trips

The last thing that a business traveller needs is an unforeseen situation. That’s when you, as the HR or travel manager, can swoop in to save the day.

How HR can deal with unexpected situations during business trips

Doing any sort of travel for companies can be a stressful affair for both experienced and rookie business travellers alike. Catching a red-eye flight is one thing, but it’s quite another to do that and appear fresh after the flight, and maintain a wrinkle-free power suit throughout!

So the last thing that a business traveller needs is an unforeseen situation that throws a wrench into their perfectly prepared travel plans. This could be something relatively trivial like their luggage getting lost, to more serious situations such as them getting into a traffic accident or their flight being grounded due to civil unrest.

That’s when you, as the HR or travel manager, swoop in to save the day. Sure, you might not be physically present to help. But you can still take charge of the situation and address it from the company HQ.

Regardless of whether the employee’s luggage is en route to London instead of Seattle, or they are stranded at the airport due to a flight delay, read on to learn what you can do to calm your employee’s frazzled nerves and smoothen things out.

📲 Make contact and assess the situation

If you receive news of the occurrence of large-scale crises at your employee’s location (natural disasters or domestic terrorism, for example), the first thing you should do is to contact them and ask if they’re all right. Even if the employee isn’t already aware of the situation, they will certainly appreciate your efforts to check in on them.

In many cases, however, the chances are that the employee will reach out to you first to alert you of what’s happened. This could be for situations such as lost luggage, the employee getting mugged on the street or even them getting knocked down by a car—incidents which, while no doubt traumatic for the employee, are less likely to reach your ears by themselves.

In any case, once you have made contact with your employee, gather more information on the situation to assess its severity. For example, ask him or her:

  • What happened to them?
  • Where are they now?
  • Are they injured?
  • Are they in any immediate danger?
  • How much cash do they have on hand?

If your company is using a corporate travel management tool, you may also be able to obtain further insights on the employee’s current whereabouts and activities based on their travel booking and expense histories.

Your assessment of the situation will help with the next step, namely:

🚨 Provide emergency assistance

How you render emergency aid to the employee really depends on what has happened to them.

For cases of lost luggage, the next course of action might be to request your employee to fill in a missing luggage claim at the airport. After that, they should save the receipts for any replacement clothing or personal items they’ve bought while waiting for their luggage to arrive.

Things get trickier if the employee has met with an accident.

For one, your employee may urgently require information on the nearest police station or hospital for emergency assistance. In the event that they’re unable to inform their loved ones of the accident, you may need to do so on their behalf. The employee will also likely be making insurance claims, so start pulling out the relevant paperwork.

As for delayed or cancelled flights, your priority would be ensuring that the employee gets on the next available flight out.

If the delay is short, not much may need to be done except for the employee to wait things out. For longer delays or flights that have been cancelled entirely, look into rebooking the flight, whether at the same airport or another one (and make additional transport and accommodation arrangements if needed).

Your company’s corporate travel management plan should have fleshed out in detail the steps to be taken in the event various crises occur, so it should be your first port of call if an employee meets with trouble abroad.

👩🏻‍💻 Monitor the situation until things are in the clear

You’ve provided the employee with “emergency first aid”. But your job isn’t done yet—you’ll need to continue monitoring the situation, and provide more assistance as necessary until the situation is fully resolved.

This is part of your company’s duty of care to travelling employees. Not only that, it’s just the decent thing to do.

Maintain regular contact with the employee and be prepared to offer constant moral support. You may also need to provide the employee’s family with updates and reassure them that their loved one is doing well. At the same time, keep company management apprised of the situation in case the matter escalates.

You can start breathing easier when the employee makes it safely home and returns to the office in one piece. Before closing the case, conduct an after-action review to see how similar mishaps could be prevented in future business trips. Then, revise the company’s travel management plan with your findings.

😵 Being prepared when business trips go wrong

As Murphy’s law goes, anything that can go wrong will go wrong—especially so when employees travel for companies. In such times of crisis, you definitely don’t want to be trying to “figure things out” as you go along.

Instead, have a comprehensive corporate travel management plan in place before disaster strikes. This will help business travellers know what to do, and also help you render efficient and effective aid off-site, should they run into trouble.

The result? You’ll appear as a superhero—not just in the eyes of the distressed employee, but possibly also those of your bosses.

Now, if only you could help save wrinkled power suits...