One of the biggest—and most enduring—impacts of the pandemic was a complete disruption of a decades-old work-life model. One that had an office space to go to, commutes to battle, and water coolers to gather around.
When the shut-down hit and companies scrambled to adopt remote work policies, we all thought life would go back to business as usual once the pandemic passed.
But it turns out there were elements of that Work From Home (WFH) model that employees weren’t ready to part with, and that companies ended up finding quite useful.
Today, it’s clear that the old model of work is not coming back and that we have entered a new era of the workplace.
The alluring flexibility of a home office has taken over the prestige of a corner office, leading 38% of remote workers (and 54% of WFH employees) to say they would leave their company if a permanent return to the office was mandated.
So it’s not surprising that 99 percent of large companies surveyed in a recent CULTIQUE report have committed—long-term—to hybrid workplace plans.
The upsides of a hybrid workforce
There are upsides to the hybrid work model, both for employees and for businesses.
For employees, the number one sticking point of an office job—the daily commute—is minimised or eliminated with the hybrid work model. Team members also have more autonomy over their work arrangement and how they spend their time, as long as they don’t sacrifice productivity.
Employers, on the other hand, benefit from a wider talent pool unconstrained by geography, which is a big bonus in today’s tight labour market. The surveys and research make it clear that the companies winning today are the ones providing employees with a balance between flexible work and enlightened corporate guidance.
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What about the water cooler?
But with this new model comes new challenges. At the forefront are: How to instil company culture and connection with a distributed workforce, and how to drive innovation when confined to a screen. Mark Hollyhead, President at Egencia and Chief Product Officer at American Express Global Business Travel shares his thoughts on the subject. To find out more keep reading or download the white paper.
Employees are grappling with questions too. As happy as they are with the day-to-day work-life balance the hybrid work model brings, they’re missing the connection that only comes from being together, in person, with colleagues and clients.
In the report by CULTIQUE, 82% of survey respondents said face-to-face meetings were invaluable.
So, how can we bridge that gap? By looking at business travel through a new lens.
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Here are three ways business travel can play a key role in shaping your hybrid workforce culture:
Foster collaboration and innovation to strengthen employee engagement
The lack of daily connection around the office can hinder a team’s creativity. Brainstorming, iterating, and visioning come to life when done on-site. Today’s business travel will be shaped around bringing those moments to life.
It starts with the travel manager adopting a more collaborative role across the organisation in order to address the “why” of travel as much as the “how.” They’ll need to create guidelines and processes to help teams be intentional about why a trip for in-person collaboration is necessary. Then they’ll work to curate a “when, where, and how” that best serves that “why.”
Having an integrated experience for managing both travel and meetings helps too. Egencia’s Groups & Meetings teams bring all the complex processes of booking an event under one roof. They’ll assist with negotiated rates, risk management, reporting, budget management and reconciliation, global group movements and more, so you can focus on creating the ideal experience for each gathering.
Leverage travel as an employee perk
In the wake of the pandemic, companies have realised that old-school corporate wellness programmes—which focused almost exclusively on physical health—are outdated. Today’s smart companies are looking for ways to contribute to their employees’ wellbeing.
What’s the difference? According to a Gallup report, wellbeing goes beyond just physical health to take into account how employees feel about their mental health, burnout, career, relationships, financial situation, and community.
Your travel programme can play an important role in this holistic approach.
Our wellbeing dashboard provides innovative at-a-glance insights and benchmarking to help identify factors that may be contributing to stress and shed light on areas where traveller wellbeing could be improved. For instance, seeing that a large percentage of flights are long-haul with layovers, leaving at 11 pm might prompt you to update the travel policy to prioritise direct flights, flights that depart within work hours, or offer an upgrade on long-haul overnight trips.
Be considerate about the circumstances around business trips and build exceptions into your travel policy that show you care (allowing an upgraded class of air travel for long-haul trips, for instance).
Thoughtful steps like these can go a long way to making sure business travel doesn’t end up replacing the anxiety of a commute, but instead becomes a coveted perk of the job.
Build the company culture
In the past, company culture was largely defined by the in-office experience. Everything was carefully designed to reinforce the culture of the company, such as what the work environment looked like; what was hung on the walls; how people dressed at work. Just picture the distinctly different vibe between the headquarters of a large law firm and one for a digital design house.
With a remote team, those cues are largely gone. And one of the biggest things companies are grappling with in its absence is how to build cohesion and loyalty amongst a workforce that is dispersed at home offices around the world.
Enter business travel. Travel can be the new “company office” cue for businesses. From sales meeting venues to preferred travel partners to travel policy, each element of business travel can represent what the company stands for, both for internal employees and to the outside world.
Let’s say your company is choosing to prioritise sustainability, for instance. With the right tools, you can set a travel policy that empowers employees to make more eco-friendly choices. If your company is known for innovation and creativity, you can develop preferred relationships with hotels and transportation companies that are also on the cutting edge (and with the right tools, you can make sure they’re prioritised at the top of the screen in search results). For your company’s annual meeting, you can even work with your travel partner’s event planning department to design not just an event, but an employee experience that brings to life the company’s core values.
Learn more by filling in the form on this page to download the full white paper.
The new role of business travel in the age of the hybrid workforce
In this new age of a hybrid work environment, business travel plays a more important role than ever before. Make sure you’re making the right decisions—about who you’re partnering with to manage your travel and about the tools you’re equipping your workforce with—so you can optimise the value of your travel programme.
Being intentional, purposeful, and strategic with business travel has the potential to forge stronger, more dynamic connections and create a workforce of contented, loyal employees.
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