Not so long ago, business travel was a key component of the work lives of countless employees who experienced the familiar ritual of Monday morning and Thursday evening flights and continental breakfasts at major hotel chains. The COVID-19 pandemic, of course, had grounded the vast majority of business travel to a halt. But, now that many companies are eyeing a return to the office, business travel is also being seen as a pre-COVID practice worth bringing back.
Some Like, Some Dislike Business Travel
Employees generally fell into two broad camps when it came to pre-COVID work travel. Some loved the opportunity to visit different cities and meet customers and colleagues face-to-face. Others lamented the hassle and stress of travel and the time spent away from home and family.
What are employees thinking about returning to business travel in the transition to a post-COVID world?
Businesses Must Address Employee Expectations
Research by SAP Concur sheds some light on that question. “Employees are enthusiastic about returning to business travel,” the report finds. “However, this enthusiasm comes with expectations.”
- 96% of global respondents say they are willing to travel for business over the next 12 months.
- Flexibility is the top employee concern, especially for younger generations, particularly in the United States. Most Gen Z business travelers in the United States (59%; note small base size, directional findings only) say they would rather have a crying toddler in the seat behind them than have no control over when and where they travel for work.
- Globally, 93% of Gen Z and 92% of millennial business travelers expect their companies to protect their health and safety while traveling by making changes. These include allowing them to select their preferred accommodations, choose their preferred mode of travel, book travel directly on supplier websites, and decide the length of their trip.
Unfortunately, the SAP Concur research suggests employers may not be on the same page as their workers:
- Although 100% of surveyed global travel managers expect their companies to implement some travel guidelines or policies in the next 12 months, the survey found that increased flexibility was the second-to-last frequently selected change.
- Allowing booking on supplier sites was the third-to-last frequently selected change that global travel managers expect their company to implement.
As companies look to revisit the time-honored ritual of business travel, they need to be sure they’re paying attention to the sentiment of their employees. Business travel, once an inflexible obligation for many job roles, should now be looked at through the lens of flexibility and health and safety as companies transition to a post-COVID world.