How Business Travel Has Been Changed by the Pandemic

Pandemic Travel

By: BCD Marketplace Partner – Sanctifly

Business travel used to be an absolute necessity in many industries, supporting millions of jobs and injecting billions of dollars into the U.S. economy. The Covid-19 pandemic, and the resulting technological advances born of necessity from it, have changed the landscape dramatically. It used to be that any business with geographically distant clientele would be obligated to travel to connect with those clients. How could you do business if you hadn’t shaken hands? It was a no-brainer.

Today, many more businesses find themselves pushed into the sometimes uncomfortable yet vital realm of new technology to aid remote collaboration and build culture beyond the office. These companies’ careful weighing of the benefits and detriments of business travel is shaping the travel landscape as we know it.

Weighing the Pros and Cons

For some companies, pandemic-spurred technological developments are proving beneficial. Their business models and products allow them to leverage technologies like video conferencing and chat platforms to build and improve upon their company cultures. For other organizations, schools, for example, these technologies are simply an acceptable stop-gap.

Where a company or organization falls on that spectrum depends entirely on its unique business needs. If a company’s farthest business partner is a short two-hour drive away, for example, the notion of building an entire virtual team might be a little heavy-handed. Building a virtual team necessitates creating mechanisms to ensure strong communication, trust, team-building, and more. These aspects of culture and communication develop more organically in person, making simple in-person meetings a more effective way to manage the issues that arise in day-to-day business.

Alternatively, a company with partners across international time zones might find the flexibility of a virtual team invaluable. Instead of paying for employees to travel around the world, the company could simply assign an agent to the region and communicate across time zones virtually. Utilizing technology would allow the company to subvert the time constraints of a traditional work-day schedule.

There are also many pros to business travel. According to a report published by the Harvard Business Review a face to face request is 34 times more likely to succeed than an email request and 95% of people say that face to face meetings are essential for established long term business relationships. Business travel also affords you great networking opportunities to help broaden your network and progress your career and bring bigger and better deals to your boss.

Travel is a fantastic tool for broadening your mind and expanding your knowledge. When you travel for business you get the chance to experience new places, new cultures and different ways of working, all of which will help you build a more well-rounded world view.

Whether a company decides that its business needs require in-person interactions or can be transitioned to a virtual setting, one thing is for certain: post-pandemic business travel has become more of a choice than a requirement.

Business Traveler Satisfaction

The distinction between travel being a choice or a requirement has far-reaching implications not only for companies but for their employees as well. In February 2022, 42% of employees who traveled frequently for business pre-pandemic said “they’ll never return to the road.” Employees who opt for jobs that require travel have always had a certain amount of agency, but companies who decide to return to business travel post-pandemic must recognize that their employees now have an added layer of choice.

If travel is not an integral part of a company’s product, it is now a much harder sell to assert that it is a business necessity. There are legitimate virtual team-building technologies that have proven it’s possible to successfully side-step said travel. Virtual teams may require more front work on the part of the organization, but to an employee, it can be a real perk when done well. Through the lens of employee retention and satisfaction, if an employee is unhappy with their employer’s decision to require business travel, there are always competitor companies who would happily head-hunt dissatisfied employees and allow them to conduct all of their responsibilities from the comfort of their homes.

As employees travel for work in 2022, they want to feel safe. Traveler wellness is now a top priority for many companies, and benefits like Sanctifly are here to support this. Travel can often be stressful, but, with 3500 lounge, fitness, wellness and relaxation options at airports Sanctifly helps travelers to enjoy the journey, not just the destination.

Businesses are recognizing that in choosing to return to the practice of regular travel, they’re asking their employees to make sacrifices that are perhaps more difficult to justify. To keep those employees happy, even companies that opt to return to traditional travel must adopt new attitudes to incentivize and promote the mental health of their traveling class of workers.   

Bleisure Travel

All of these pandemic-induced factors coalesce to form a more empowered, flexible traveler workforce. Workers can now ask their employers to help them blend aspects of business and leisure travel, and not get laughed out of the office. “Bleisure” refers to this practice – it’s business travel, paid for by the employee’s company, that encourages coupling work and play to reduce stress and expense. This can mean bringing the family along on a business trip, spending an extra week sightseeing, or taking a few days in between trade shows to shop and eat out at local restaurants.

One thing bleisure is not is a company-paid personal vacation. At its core, bleisure travel is a wellness perk for business travelers. Companies are happy to support their employees in taking extra leisure time because they recognize the innately stressful nature of business travel.

In addition to encouraging employees to take advantage of blended travel opportunities, some companies further support their travelers’ wellbeing by signing them up for traveler wellness memberships like Sanctifly. Members get access to resources that help them fight jet lag, eat healthy in the airport, and find exercise options while traveling. A company willing to take care of its employee’s personal wellness on the road is the ultimate blending of work and personal travel. Programs like these will help business travelers of the future thrive and love that they eschewed work-from-home for a career that includes travel.

There is no doubt that business travel has changed since the pandemic reshaped our global business world. Business travelers saw the most immediate impact of global shutdowns and travel restrictions, and since then it has been up to every company to decide how they want to move forward.

Not every company will change its travel practices dramatically, but most have seen the promising influence that technology can have on their business models and employees. Company leaders have seen the ways that technology can support their company culture, can help them cross geographical distances, and can encourage them to prioritize individual wellness. A revised post-pandemic travel policy may not be right for every business, but the technological changes spurred by the pandemic will have a lasting impact on every business traveler.

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