Technology is making the world a smaller place. But in business, some things still just require you to be there in person. Depending on the type of work your company does, traveling to offsite meetings, conferences and appointments might be something your employees do every day or very little. When they do travel, it's important to plan correctly and set expectations about how employees should conduct themselves while traveling on the company dime.
A little forward thinking will ensure you have an organized, productive trip. You might also find the travel quite enjoyable with the stress of the unknown removed. Keep these tips in mind.
1. Set an Itinerary
Companies that manage frequent travel often work with a travel agent to set an itinerary for coming trips. You don't have to be a travel professional, though, to organize a list of locations employees will travel to with information about how they will get there. Doing this helps you visualize many of the logistical challenges that come with travel.
When you know where your people need to be, you're ready to begin booking travel arrangements. It's a good idea to assign a specific person to be responsible for tickets to and from the destination. Also, remember the little things. For example, when traveling by air, will you need to book a shuttle to take you from the airport to your final destination? How much time is there between flights for that international transfer? Do you need to invest in a Global Entry or some other pass to speed things along?
Once you have answered these questions, you can share your final itinerary with all of those traveling as well as co-workers with a stake in the business trip. This ensures you know where your people should be at all times and can contact them when needed.
2. Set Expectations
You've probably been to a conference or offsite business meeting where employees were having a little too much fun. Any time you leave the office, there is the potential for the feeling of freedom to go to people's heads — not to mention the access to a company expense account.
Companies often seek to discourage unnecessary spending through hard-and-fast limits on how much an employee can spend on food, personal transport and accommodations. However, you might have better luck by challenging your employees to travel smart without saying just how much they can spend. You can even make a sort of game out of this by incentivizing frugal travel habits. That free lunch starts to look less enticing if an employee knows they'll get a cash reward for finding a modest place to eat.
With finance tracking, in particular, you can take a lot of stress out of corporate travel by having a clearly defined system. There are quite a few apps that can be used to track costs while employees are abroad and then submit them back to your financial team.
3. Be Professional
Business travel is often looked at as an opportunity for team-building, and it should be! There is a difference between team-building and conspicuous behavior, though. Remind your team of what you're setting out to accomplish on this trip and the way you want your business to be viewed while working outside the office.
If the opportunity to have some fun with the team presents itself, go for it. Just make sure your team understands that the occasional happy hour or sightseeing trip is a privilege. Be clear with your employees about what should and should not be charged as an expense, and lead by example. If your team sees you taking advantage of company perks, they probably won't refrain from doing it themselves.
4. Recognize Employees Who Travel Well and Listen to Feedback
Even if you've been on hundreds of business trips, the task of keeping expenses organized and ensuring all plans run on time can be daunting for someone who's never done it. When you finish a trip, make time to ask your employees how it went for them. Was there anything that could have been done better in terms of logistics or policy? Consider how you can create a team win that will keep employees happy and enhance performance while traveling.
People tend to seek out roles that offer as much or as little travel as they are comfortable with. Over time, you'll develop confidence in the way your team travels, and things will start to happen organically when you plan a trip. Invest the time to define a travel policy and connect with your team to explain what is expected. Then, you'll be on your way to stress-free business trips in the future.
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