Today’s travelers – whether road warriors or frequent international fliers – are exposed to long days, sometimes uncomfortable seats, and poor quality food, all while preparing for client meetings and managing numerous areas of follow up. This lifestyle can take a significant toll on employee motivation, health and satisfaction. The “wear and tear” on these travelers actually has a term – Travel Friction.

What is Travel Friction?

Travel Friction includes any component that inhibits a traveler from feeling they are effectively impacting and contributing to the success of the company. This friction commences from the stress of trip planning – whether at home or at work, the hours of sleep lost, and poor health habits on the road. It also includes returning to work after a trip and having to deal with the exhaustion from jet lag and the stress of catching up on missed work, notes, and emails.

Travel Friction often comes as a result of too much or poor quality travel. It can result in:

  • Lower Productivity and Engagement
  • Reluctance to Travel
  • Increased Health Costs
  • Higher Staff Turnover

Travelers who feel the side effects of Travel Friction are also more likely to book out of policy if they’re feeling stressed or unhappy about their travel plans. This not only affects your cost savings and compliance, but also affects the safety, health and well-being of the traveler.

Travel Incorporated’s Recommendations:

1. Engage Human Resources

It’s important that you examine how your corporate culture can thrive alongside a travel policy that leans towards a cost recovery and savings structure. The best way to accomplish this is to engage HR with the Travel Team – then bring in all stakeholders to gain their perspectives on key areas. Once information is obtained, data is reviewed, and impact is analyzed – you have the best recipe for a stable, strong travel program.

Identify what a “Successful Trip” looks like from multiple perspectives.

  • Was the price of the overall trip within a reasonable level of cost control?
  • Was the hotel one of your preferred properties and booked within your preferred channels?
  • Identify who the “stakeholders” are, ensuring that at least one of them is from the sales team, who tend to have the heaviest road warrior voice.
  • Did the trip bring a healthy balance of value and comfort to the traveler?
  • What mechanisms should you have in place to monitor and track the success parameters?

2. Consider Additional Options when Traveling Internationally

Most company policies provide the opportunity to fly business class if the trip is over 6 – 8 hours in duration on a single leg of the trip. Although we agree that having the ability to arrive rested for the meeting and upcoming trips is valid, it can also be a significant contribution to your increased travel spend. Most travelers appreciate the opportunity to make choices that best suits their needs – when considering a culture/cost balance in your program, consider including the following in policy options for your travelers.

  • Companion travel – Instead of the full business fare, often two coach class tickets are less, thus giving the traveler the option to have a companion join them in their travel. They could then extend this international flight into a bleisure (combined leisure and business trip) and view the itinerary as a benefit rather than an exhaustive and potentially quick round trip ticket
  • Extending a day to include hotel – Instead of booking an overnight business class ticket and having to walk directly into a meeting; consider offering a Premium Coach class option and provide the traveler with an extra day, including T&E (hotel, transportation and meals) to take in the local sites and rest up in advance of the big meeting. Even with the additional T&E costs, your company will come out ahead, and they may appreciate the opportunity for the additional day in a new and exciting location.
  • Consider flexible hours upon return – Traveling abroad can be just as hard on the family as it is on the traveler. Schedules need to be changed and more is expected on those staying at home with the children, resulting in personal emotions running high upon coming home. As the traveler will likely have a laptop, consider providing the option to work from home the day after arrival. This helps them to assimilate back into their home time zone, be available at home as needed, and get caught up on their emails without having to be distracted with internal meetings.
  • Tips for reducing jet lag – Following these best practices can reduce jet lag significantly:
    • Adjust your sleep and meal schedule closer to the new time zone one or two days ahead of your travel
    • Stay hydrated while on the plane – this means reducing caffeine and alcohol intake, and increasing your consumption of water
    • Sleep on the plane – do your best to get a couple of hours sleep while in the air. We do suggest you limit the use of sleep aids, as this can sometimes impact your inner clock and have a reverse effect on acclimating to the new time zone
    • Once arrived, get out of the hotel and experience fresh air right away. This will help rejuvenate your body, and help to get into the new schedule

3. Best Practices for Managing Workload during High Travel Periods – or While On Vacation

  • Manage your schedule – Each meeting attended on the road likely requires hours of follow up work upon your return. The traveler should not overburden their calendars by scheduling multiple meetings the first day back.
  • Manage your email – Whether returning from a business trip or a much-needed vacation, any relaxation achieved from being away from the office can immediately be removed by coming back to hundreds of unread email messages. Use these tips to help reduce the stress of a full post-travel inbox:

Manager: One of the best recommendations we have embraced internally at TI is to create a shared folder for your team members to use for major updates that occurred while you were away. Ask them to not copy you on the emails unless they are of major importance, but note the topic to be discussed upon your return in the shared folder. This dramatically reduces your emails to review upon your return.
Road Warrior: A successful road warrior must be efficient and have strong communication skills. A best practice to manage the workload is to first make sure any clients that are on the cusp of a decision are reached out to in advance of the upcoming trip. Let them know you will be out and gauge their timeline. Then, while traveling, find at least 30 minutes each day in between meetings on the road to catch up on new emails; this will weed out those that need immediate attention, and will reduce those you need to respond to upon your return.

Recap

  • Remember to include your shared resources such as HR to truly understand your traveler’s concerns. Listen to them – gauge their understanding of the policy, and where they find the highest frustration levels.
  • Consider alternative policy choices the traveler can make while traveling internationally – including leisure into their time abroad could be considered a perk.
  • Manage your calendar – whether it is meetings, a multitude of unread emails, or just finding the time to get the follow up action completed upon your return, managing your calendar ahead of the trip can usually save hours upon the return.

Benefits

​​​​​​The benefits of a balanced travel policy with cultural nuances is expected to attract and retain high-performing associates. With more candidates asking to see a copy of the travel policy prior accepting a position, and ensuring your current travelers know they are being listened to, you will undoubtedly drive an even more successful travel program that keeps your travelers happy.

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