As pandemic-related restrictions begin to ease in the U.S. and in several other countries, many companies realize their business travel policies do not reflect the emerging business landscape. As of mid-2021, business travel is still down 70% from pre-pandemic levels, according to the Wall Street Journal, but it’s now set to rebound fast. The sudden shift to remote work showed that in-person meetings can’t be easily replaced. That’s part of the reason why increased numbers of colleagues working remotely will actually lead to more business travel, industry experts suggest.
Creating a Business Travel Policy
No matter what the future holds, the past 18 months have shown the importance of having clear guidelines for employee business travel. A clear, comprehensive corporate business travel policy is essential. If you already have a policy, it may well have been put on pause—now is the time to review your current policies and consider what changes are required going forward .
Consider whether remote workers who need to travel to meetings at the home office will be reimbursed and at what level. Define “essential” travel for times or locations with travel restrictions in place. Discuss whether meetings that were changed to remote during the pandemic will stay that way. Decide what “travel time” is for exempt and non-exempt employees—for what hours will they be paid?
What to Include in a Business Travel Policy
While the precise details will depend on the size of your business and the company in which you operate, effective business travel policies will include the following features:
This provides details on why there is a policy, who the policy applies to and broadly defines the process for obtaining travel approval.
- Define essential/non-essential
Although a policy cannot make case-by-case travel decisions, it can provide guidance to employees and managers as they consider whether a business trip is necessary.
- Safety guidance
Many countries are still struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic, and there may be similar safety concerns in the future. Any company that has a significant amount of international travel should update this section regularly to provide guidance to employees. This also should be where you define the procedure for states or countries that require a quarantine period upon arrival or return. Some employers ask employees to work from home for two week following travel. Although it should go without saying, employees who exhibit any symptoms of COVID-19 should be instructed not to travel.
- Security guidance
Set guidelines on how to keep corporate and personal information safe. Examples include: logging into public WiFi, whether it’s permissible to work in a public space and tips on keeping laptops, tablets or mobile phones secure.
- A process for making arrangements
This section should answer the following questions: Do trips need to be booked a certain number of weeks in advance? Is there a corporate travel agent? Are there cost limits/room rate guidelines (this can be helpful when keeping costs down)? Is there a per diem meal allowance? Providing this guidance can reduce confusion and the chance of employees not getting reimbursed.
- Reimbursable expenses
This helps guide employees on when to submit expenses, to whom to submit travel expenses, what documentation is required and details such as if tips can be reimbursed. This can be a good place to set parameters on what employees are allowed to do when combining business and personal trips.
Get Customizable Business Travel Policy Template
To give businesses a head start, Paycor is offering a free business travel policy template. Once downloaded, the text can be customized to suit the needs of your business.