Business travel was hit hard by Covid-19, as virtually every business suspended its travel amid the ongoing pandemic. Now that many countries are inching back toward reopening, companies have a new challenge: to implement business travel policies that control exposure risk, while continuing to effectively build relationships. It’s a complex task, but it can be done. We’re now in the era of widely available Covid vaccines and rapid Covid test kits for sale, so there are plenty of tools your company can use to fight exposure and reduce risk. Perhaps even more importantly, we know more about Covid transmission than ever before, and the business community can use that knowledge to be smart about risk. Below, we’ll talk about the new landscape of corporate travel in the pandemic era and how your business can navigate it successfully.
Which Travel Is Necessary?
Even as business travel returns, many businesses are taking a longer look at which trips are really necessary. For most companies, there will be instances when the benefits outweigh the risks, and it’s worth taking the trip with the right safety measures. A fully vaccinated sales team might still fly across the country, taking proper precautions, to close a big deal.
But there will also be occasions that can be handled just as well through video conferencing. Businesses must weigh each opportunity on a case-by-case basis. Remember to also account for factors like local vaccination and infection rates, as these can significantly change the calculus of risk and reward. This approach can have the side benefit of reducing your organization’s spending on business travel. By pushing to justify a well-defined business purpose for every trip, many companies can trim bloat from their budgets and protect their employees’ health at the same time.
Which Events Are Safe to Attend?
Many businesses want to get back in the action of conferences, seminars, and other professional events. However, before you schedule travel, make sure the event is following the CDC’s event safety recommendations:
- Does the event require attendees to be vaccinated?
- Does the event have social distancing protocols in place?
- Does the event have procedures for contact tracing in case of an outbreak?
- Does the event have sanitation supplies freely available for all attendees?
- Does the event include unofficial activities, like happy hours, that might present unnecessary risks?
Responsible event organizers will address these questions well in advance and in a transparent manner. An event that doesn’t provide clear guidance about these important topics might not be one that’s worth the risk of going to.
Which Employees Can Safely Travel?
It’s more important than ever for employers to take the health and well-being of all their employees into consideration. That means thinking carefully about which employees are given responsibilities that involve traveling out of town. Vaccination is one extremely important factor to consider. Business travel by unvaccinated employees is a public safety hazard that health authorities strongly discourage. In most cases, employers are well within their rights to ask employees about their vaccination status or to require vaccination for travel, and major employers like JPMorgan have banned business trips by unvaccinated employees.
Some employees may have health conditions that place them at elevated risk for severe Covid-19, or they may live with people who have such health conditions. Employers should be conscientious about making accommodations for those employees that allow them to fulfill their duties without traveling. Sometimes, this might involve making permanent or semi-permanent changes to someone’s role.
Business travelers also have an ever-changing range of pandemic safety measures to navigate as they travel. As of Q4 2021, all air travelers in the U.S. still have to wear masks. Providing traveling employees with some cool branded masks before they set off is a great way to help everyone stay safe while in transit.
span style=”font-weight: 400;”>It’s a good precaution for employees to take a Covid test before traveling even if they aren’t required to do so. Rapid Covid antigen tests are now widely available and relatively inexpensive, and they can help establish a culture of accountability and best practices in how your company moves forward with business travel.
Remember that the historic labor shortage is also affecting transportation, including canceled flights. That can leave employees vulnerable to getting stranded, which isn’t just inconvenient but also places them at greater risk. Make sure that employees have logistics support available from someone in your operations department who can book them a hotel or find a new flight if necessary.
International Business Travel
As 2021 draws to a close, international travel remains fraught with challenges for almost all businesses. Travel restrictions remain in place in many countries, and conditions can change at any time as infections ebb and flow. The CDC’s Covid-19 travel recommendations map is an important resource and a great place to start. If your business requires international travel, be prepared to go through many extra steps for any international trip. Anyone traveling internationally will almost certainly have to provide proof of vaccination, a recent negative Covid test, and possibly other documentation. Be familiar with pandemic-related travel restrictions in any business travel destinations, and know which ones will apply to your employees.
For business travelers returning to their origin point, remember that governments may impose restrictions like self-quarantining or testing on people coming from Covid hot spots. Even if an employee isn’t required to take a test, it’s a good idea to have returning travelers self-test or have a test administered at work. The Abbott BinaxNOW Covid test is a popular workplace choice for its quick results and simple administration.
As we’ve all learned, there are no guarantees in the post-Covid world. But there are actions any business can take to make its practices safer and more compliant with the current best practices. The more that businesses take these responsibilities seriously, the better and brighter our new normal can be.