At the beginning of 2020, nearly 30 percent of respondents to AIRINC’s Mobility Outlook Survey said establishing a business travel policy was a top priority for the year.
Then COVID-19 came along and threw a wrench into those plans. With travel severely restricted, many companies have adjusted priorities in the short term. However, as the article below notes, business travel and business traveler policy remain very much on the radar within global mobility programs, with more than 60 percent of companies talking about the future of the policy.
There are a few interesting things to note here. First, the trend of business travel — which by AIRINC’s definition includes short and extended business trips, project work and commuting — being wrapped up in global mobility seems to be continuing. Five or more years ago, this type of travel would have likely been managed by a different team within a company, leaving mobility to handle more conventional assignments and permanent relocations. But today, 35 percent of companies manage their business traveler policies within global mobility. As the author notes, global mobility teams’ experience with tax and immigration compliance and other cross-border issues make them well-suited to handle business travelers.
Second and perhaps most importantly, what business travel looks like in the future is still to be determined. The pandemic has forced employers and employees to get creative. Business travel has certainly decreased while remote work has increased, but a post-COVID future likely involves a mix of short and extended business trips, commuter assignments and possibly virtual assignments. Companies are “eager to explore alternative talent deployment techniques to control cost and still achieve their talent goals.”
Here’s a nice takeaway from the author: “Dramatically reduced levels of business travel are offering businesses a window of time to evaluate past practices and get ready for what comes next.” I think this is a great sentiment for our current environment — while business travel is restricted right now, leading mobility programs will use the time to plan for the future and make sure they’re ready to go when volume picks back up.
From the discussions I am having with clients, it is clear that forward-looking companies anticipate business travel will be a central pillar of mobility in the future. It is going to be more complex than ever before, and they want to be ready for it.