How to deal with traveller friction
Staff who travel for business have long felt the pressure that frequent travel can have on health and wellbeing – but organisations have been slow to respond. Yet there are many good reasons why organisations need to get more serious about the toll business travel can take on their business travellers.
Traveller friction is not new – although its name is a relatively new invention.
What is traveller friction?
Ask any frequent traveller and they will list the friction that frequent travel can create on their personal wellbeing: lack of sleep, unhealthy food grabbed on the go, a lack of time to exercise, the impact on their personal relationships…
The impact on your organisation is just as serious: reduced productivity, reluctance to travel, more time taken off sick, increasing numbers of out-of-contract travel bookings, and higher staff turnover.
How do I know if traveller friction is a problem in my organisation?
Possible indications that you might have a problem with traveller friction include high rates of post-trip absence, a high number of non-compliant travel bookings, and poor staff retention amongst frequent travellers.
What are the sources of traveller friction?
Traveller friction arises from too much travel or poor-quality travel. Frequent travel is a source of friction for travellers in and of itself: the tiredness, the messed-up body clock, the time away from home. It is the role of the travel manager to develop and implement policies that make it easy for travellers to avoid or, at least, reduce the sources of this friction.
Ultimately, the main source of traveller friction is a travel management policy that fails to understand the human cost of travel in favour of prioritising financial savings.
The financial costs of traveller friction
In fact, trying to keep too tight a rein on travel costs is ultimately self-defeating. For one, travellers who are dissatisfied with their travel experience are more likely to make out-of-contract travel bookings – making visibility and management of travel costs impossible, as well as affecting the ability of the organisation to fulfil its duty of care to travellers.
Longer term, the effects can be greater still: with increased time off sick and higher staff turnover undermining organisational profitability. This makes it essential for every travel manager to understand the true costs of traveller friction if their goal of optimising organisational travel costs is to have any credibility.
Traveller friction is a HR issue as much as a travel management issue
It is clear from the list of organisational impacts of traveller friction, that traveller friction is a HR issue as much as a travel management issue. Dealing with it effectively requires close collaboration between HR and the travel management team.
If you are going to understand the impact of traveller friction on your organisation, you need to work with HR to ask frequent travellers what their personal experience is of the impact of business travel. You may need to make this process anonymous to gain full insight.
Once you have understood what traveller friction looks like in your organisation, and identified the root causes of any dissatisfaction, it is time to review your travel policies in this context.
What can travel managers do to reduce traveller friction?
Review travel policies in the context of the feedback you gained in your audit and traveller feedback survey.
Talk to your travel management company about the ways they can help you support travellers, and build more flexibility into your travel policies. Look for ways to reduce the stress involved in travelling. This might be something as simple as allowing an upgrade on any flight over six hours, or arranging for personal transfers on late-night arrivals.
Work with HR to see how HR policies can be adapted to support your initiative e.g. offering additional time off in proportion to time spent travelling outside normal working hours.
Ask senior management to support your goals – even the simple recognition of a job well done, such as a personal ‘thank you’ from a senior manager following a trip, can make a positive difference.
If you haven’t already, instigate a ‘bleisure’ policy within your organisation.
What has ‘bleisure’ got to do with traveller friction?
Bleisure has a role to play in reducing the stress of travel for your staff. By offering greater flexibility around days off either side of travel and return journeys, travel can become less a source of stress and more a source of fun and enjoyment – and can contribute positively towards employee satisfaction, productivity, and retention.
Bleisure also has another role to play in addressing work-life balance for staff: by extending travel opportunities to partners and families. What flexibility is there for employees to have family fly out to join them for weekend or additional days of holiday? Whether you make it easy to manage the whole family’s booking through a single booking tool, or give partners and family members access to discounted rates, your travel management company can help you build in the necessary flexibility.
As with any bleisure initiative, it is important to have clearly stated and communicated policies so that everyone understands where organisational responsibility ends and personal responsibility begins.
Mitigating the effects of traveller friction has to be a multi-agency approach involving HR, the travel management team, senior management, and your travel management company. The risks of not acting are great – and the rewards of getting it right are even greater.
Travel Counsellors can help you develop and implement a low-friction travel policy - get in contact with us today to discuss your travel management needs.
Give us a call on +44 (0) 161 464 5350 or fill in the form below and let us call you back.