July 7, 2021
By Hugh Batley
The world of work has gone through a dramatic shift over the last 12 months. Here, our Head of Product, Jamie O’Dwyer, outlines the role that business travel will play in the future of work.
The change has been so dramatic that it’s almost hard to remember what working life was like before the pandemic. Covid-19 forced a trial of new working practices on a truly unprecedented global scale. The confluence of fast internet connectivity, high quality cameras and online collaboration tools meant that when it’s moment came, the great work from home experiment was a resounding success.
“Just imagine what the result might have been if Covid-19 had happened ten years ago, it’s hard to think we would have coped so well.”
Despite a trend for longer working hours, people reported higher levels of happiness and productivity during the initial phase of the pandemic. Just imagine what the result might have been if Covid-19 had happened ten years ago, it’s hard to think we would have coped so well. But while the technology has proved itself more than capable, the initial euphoria of working from home was quickly replaced with reports of zoom fatigue and burnout.
Middle aged workers, already established in their careers may have enjoyed having more time at home, younger workers missed the learning opportunities and social interactions that come from sitting in a team. Most businesses soon realised that while manageable in the short term, a fully remote/virtual workforce is not a sustainable option in the long run.
Staff and managers have been reminded of the benefits of the office then, and yet offices are far from natural environments for humans to operate in. Despite the recent attempts of tech companies to innovate their spaces – for the majority of workers, offices are still based around the principals of 19th century factories where banks of desks are laid out in rows and staff grouped by function.
The factories of the 19th century were good at producing fabrics and engine parts, but the model is not so good when applied to collaboratively working cross functional teams. And of course, the biggest problem with offices is getting there – staff spend on average 41 minutes a day and $3000 a year commuting to work. It is not unrealistic to expect similar patterns in metropolitan cities across the globe. The psychological and environmental impact is huge.
It may still be too early to pass judgement, but the results appear to be that a hybrid working approach is the most likely outcome. While the split will vary from firm to firm, remote working is here to stay. And while not all companies will be willing to adapt to the change, those who do will be looking to make changes across their business to ensure they can remain effective in this new set up.
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So what does this all mean for business travel? If the future of work is in flux, then the future of business travel must also be undergoing change. Like the office, the very existence of business travel has been questioned over the last year.
In a world of hangouts and docusign do we really need to take time away from our families to travel thousands of miles for a conversation that could just have easily been conducted on zoom? Not to mention the fact that we live on a planet that is rapidly heating as a result of our over-consumption of carbon emitting fuels.
Well, the pandemic has proved what we all knew was the case all along, that we work better when we can spend time together. And that while virtual meetings certainly have their place, the need to bring people together in the same room has not gone away.
This will impact firms in different ways, larger companies will likely look to reduce travel spend as a lot of traditional travel can be replaced with virtual meetings. But smaller businesses who need to get out there and meet customers and cut deals will be looking to get back on the road, or in the air as soon as possible.
The next 12 months will show the true willingness of companies to adapt to the new ways of working, but it’s likely that our working culture has changed for good. This is good news for workers who will be able to spend more time with their families and can look forward to greater choice when it comes to choosing where to live.
However for managers, there will be a need to focus on how to maintain collaboration and foster a company culture with in person meeting time drastically reduced. At TruTrip, we believe that travel will play an enhanced role in facilitating the future of work. Here’s a review of key trends that we see, and how business travel and TMCs can play their part.
Inevitably, there will be a drop in conventional business travel that can be substituted by virtual meetings. However visiting factories, meeting suppliers, pitching to customers, these types of activities are not so easily replaced and will resume once a significant percentage of the population is vaccinated. The challenge for travel management companies (TMCs) will be to rise up and meet the new demands of these travellers.
From getting managerial approval, to claiming back expenses, business travel was already a hassle for many before the pandemic. Once vaccine passports, PCR tests and quarantines are added into this mix this complexity is sadly only set to increase. There will be an increase in demand for travel companies that can offer solutions across the full scope of a business trip.
No longer will flights be booked on a whim, businesses and travellers will want to assess the risk of the destination they are travelling to. Companies will want contingency plans in place so that they can repatriate their staff in the event of another emergency. Successful TMCs will be those that can consolidate risk management data and services into an an easy to use platform for travellers and travel managers
There will be fewer trips as traditional travel declines, but the ones that remain will carry more weight with travellers eager to maximise their time spent away from home. Not to mention that travel budgets will come under renewed pressure from finance departments, with return on investment (ROI) called into greater question. This means TMCs need to look across the supply chain to understand where costs can be cut in order to offer travellers the best deals.
For the firms that adapt to the hybrid approach of home and office work, there will be a new need to bring staff together en masse in order to foster a company culture. Business travel will be key to nurturing collaborative work by bringing teams together. Whether through specialised project meetings for a team of two to three people, or company-wide travel, there will be a renewed focus on more creative hybrid travel options. TMCs must be able to cope with these demands and changes.
Buoyed by their success in the pandemic, a minority of firms will take the decision to go completely remote. A fully remote company will still need to bring it’s staff together for annual events as well as ad hoc meetings for key decisions or problem solving. The money they save on office space can be invested into making these meet ups as impactful as possible. TMCs need to be able to cater for this demand with bespoke and thoughtful offerings to enable a blend of collaboration and team-building.
It is impossible to talk about the future of anything without talking about the future of the planet. One takeaway from the pandemic has been that, when the right motivations are in place, societal level change can be enacted incredibly rapidly. The heating of the planet is the next global scale issue that our generation faces. At some point soon firms are going to have to accept the role they play in this and mitigate accordingly. TMCs can play their part in this by offering carbon offsetting and capture services to enable businesses to mitigate their travel impact.
It’s been a period of immense uncertainty, but what has become clear is the culture of work has changed. For many workers the 9-5 office routine will be replaced with a more flexible, hybrid home-office arrangement. Although the change was accelerated by the pandemic, it was facilitated by a revolution in technology that’s been 20+ years in the making. There’s a tangible optimism about the positive impact this change can have on people’s daily lives, their wellbeing and the environment. Business travel can be complementary to this change with the right offerings.
At TruTrip, we’re excited to be part of this transformation with our mission to help businesses connect with their staff and customers in a global marketplace. If you want to see how TruTrip can help you navigate the new world of travel, sign up for a free trial or book a demo with us.
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