Even if your A/P team’s composed of Microsoft Office wizards, they could use some help with recording and reimbursing your employees’ business travel expenses accurately, on time and on-policy.
In the ResourcefulFinancePro webinar, “Bleisure Travel: How to Avoid Expense Management Headaches, Liabilities and Unnecessary Risk,” Dr. Jim Castagnera, an experienced business travel manager in his role as associate provost and legal counsel for the academic affairs department at Rider University in New Jersey, recommended investing in travel management software tools to centralize and control your organization’s T&E budget.
According to Castagnera, any software solution you choose needs to:
- provide a platform for travel booking so you don’t have to go through an agent
- integrate with your fintech stack, such as your budgeting or payroll programs
- include expense management features or integrate with your expense management program
- print and/or deposit checks for business travel expenses
- provide expense visibility between managers and business traveling employees
- allow A/P and managers to run expense reports, and
- be able to keep traveling employees compliant with your specific company travel policies (e.g., capping total expenses, setting budgets per individual or confirming the purpose of a trip).
Expanding on the last point, Castagnera said it’s crucial to be able to build in rules to your travel management software, “so as the employee is booking travel, it can (say): ‘Uh-uh, you can’t go there’ or ‘You can’t use this provider because we’ve had problems with this provider’ or ‘Wait a minute, you’re booking in business class? Uh-uh, you’re going to go coach.'”
Looking out for your business travelers
In the interest of safety, you may want to consider a travel tracking app like TravelPerk or Polarsteps for employees that have been approved for extending a work trip to include some recreation, entertainment or tourism – especially if they’re traveling with children or an elderly family member.
Castagnera said these services are inexpensive.
But if you choose to use a travel tracking app, a manager needs to let your workcationing business travelers know up front that you’re watching where they’re going.
To show that the intent is not to invade their privacy, managers can ask the employee for emergency phone numbers and any important medical information for accompanying family members so that info can be accessed from your travel management software if something bad unexpectedly happens.
Before they book it
If you have a workcation policy, it probably requires employees to cover, or reimburse the company for, airfare for accompanying family members – and the same thing for any difference between multiple and single lodging occupancy.
But before they buy those plane tickets or book that family-size hotel suite, it’s worth exploring whether:
- it’s more cost effective to drive to the destination, or
- the hotel is offering a fixed rate on both single and multiple occupancy rooms in honor of a special event, such as a conference that your employee’s attending.
Fraud prevention guidelines for business travelers
The National Cybersecurity Alliance has several good tips for travelers that you may want to consider passing along to your road warriors.
- Avoid packing company (and personal) electronic devices you don’t need. The more laptops, tablets and smartphones you travel with, the greater the risks.
- Avoid posting pictures on social media that show you’re out of town. This goes especially for employees that are traveling with their families and having some fun when the work part of the trip is done. Oversharing can let clever fraudsters know someone isn’t in the office, opening the door for a business email compromise or phishing attack or a social engineering scam. It’s not necessary to share memories from that workcation with the entire internet until after you get home.
- Update your software before hitting the road. It’s especially important that security features on company devices are up to date and software automatic updates are turned on.
- Back up important files. Because losing crucial data can be a disaster, it should get backed up on the cloud, on an external device like a hard drive, or both.
Also, for security’s sake, it might be a good idea to change passwords on company devices when business travelers return from their trip.
Making policy changes?
If you’re just starting to adopt workcation/bleisure travel as an employee perk, an update to your written business travel policy will be in order.
However, Castagnera said to keep in mind that most people will skim that policy, and not read it word for word, even if you provide a copy for all employees. Because of this, it’s smart to:
- Keep the sentences short and the wording simple as possible (in Castagnera’s words: “T&E for Dummies”)
- Break it down by table of contents
- Use bullet points, tables, charts and/or graphs
- Remind your people of the policy (especially helpful for those that only travel once a year, since they might not know about it), and
- If you create a digital version, make it searchable.