T&E is one of a company’s biggest costs. While you want to keep these expenses under control, many employees see business travel to exotic locales as one of the perks of their jobs, so it can be a tough balance to achieve.
As the pandemic eases and summer weather emerges, more people may get the travel bug and will eagerly go on business trips. In fact, research from TripActions shows that the number of travelers booking flights at companies has recently increased 16% for enterprises and 17% for midmarket companies compared to bookings shortly before the pandemic.
Smart companies will leverage that feeling to keep morale high with their people, especially as the Great Resignation continues to influence employees to seek out greener pastures.
And while they’re capitalizing on this increased desire for travel, it’s a good idea for companies to partner with their employees to make sure they’re active participants in controlling business travel costs.
The goal is to get them to see it as a beneficial compromise: Employees get to continue traveling if they agree to be mindful of price increases and do their best to keep expenses compliant and under control.
Here’s an effective game plan employers can use to keep their business travelers’ morale high while saving money.
Strategy to tackle business travel
For starters, it’s important for managers and execs to lead by example. If the top brass are cost-effective travelers, other employees will follow suit.
Execs should be up front about any accommodations they’re making to save money when taking business trips (e.g., foregoing first-class flights or staying with local friends/colleagues instead of booking hotels). Then, other employees will follow their lead. And they’ll feel better about making more cost-effective decisions because they know the folks at the top are also making them.
It’s also a good idea to be honest with employees about how their travel decisions impact the company’s bottom line. If they’re aware of how their choices affect the company’s general financial health, they’ll be more likely to hop on the bandwagon. Transparency is important.
Another good way to encourage employees to save costs is by offering them incentives. Perhaps the person who saved the most money on a business trip in a quarter could receive a gift card. Or there can be rewards for teams/departments that make cost-effective travel decisions.
Giving employee visibility into how much their decisions can save their companies money can be beneficial here. If you provide them with clear data on travel expenses and budgets, they’ll know the company’s objectives and will be able to align their spending decisions with your budgeting goals.
Using an expense management solution can assist with this visibility and help employees stay on top of their travel expenses. The solution will automatically track what they spend on business trips and make sure they stay within established spending limits. Some solutions can even tell them which expenses are eligible for reimbursement and which ones aren’t, saving your A/P department some hassle.
Travel’s impact on engagement, morale
Be aware: There’s more than just the hard costs of travel expenses to watch for here. While many employees will enjoy getting out in the world and traveling to different locations, business travel may exhaust some of them. And that can create burnout that negatively impacts morale – and in turn, productivity and retention.
Employees’ well-being should be taken into account when planning business trips since work/life balance has become more important to most people, especially after the pandemic.
And if employees are regularly expected to take business trips over the weekend and return on a red-eye flight to immediately come to work on Monday, they’ll start to think the company doesn’t place much value on their personal time – and they’ll make moves to find work at a company that does.
Some aspects of business travel that might hurt employees’ morale and engagement are:
- Number of nights and weekends away from home
- Lengthy flights
- Red-eye travel (especially crossing time zones)
- Multiple connections, and
- Long layovers between flights.
However, there are ways to monitor these factors and whether they’ll impact your business trips. Advanced travel solutions have features that can automatically point out planned business trips with one or more of these elements so you can work with employees to resolve any issues before burnout sets in.
Some solutions even have dashboards specifically designed to highlight conditions that can negatively affect workers’ well-being on business trips. These dashboards give managers visibility into business travel arrangements and itineraries, allowing them to make changes that’ll improve employees’ well-being.
Tools like these dashboards can help employers strike the delicate balance between improving T&E cost savings and boosting employee morale. If a flight is slightly cheaper, but it involves multiple layovers, it might be more cost-effective in the long run to choose the more expensive option.
After all, you don’t want any potential cost savings to be outweighed by lost productivity from tired employees – or the costs of hiring someone new when a burned-out employee gives their notice.
Flexibility is the name of the game here. If you’re willing to work with employees’ preferences and comfort levels when booking business trips, and make decisions that keep them from being stressed and burned out, they’ll be more eager to help you keep travel costs as low as possible.