Why business travel is key to the future of work

Think back to a time before a global pandemic. So, when someone mentions “business travel” to you, what image comes to mind in your ad? Perhaps it’s a sharp-dressed George Clooney strolling through the airport with a compact carry-on and a frequent flyer card. Maybe Michael Scott claimed to be a mysterious international man traveling in business class, charmed by the concierge at his Winnipeg hotel.

Or maybe, it was your boss, or your boss’s boss, or that traveling salesman, or that group of coworkers that went to the trade show every year. Regardless of your image, the bottom line is the same. Business travel was mostly well defined, that was clear. You either traveled to build a potential client relationship, meet a business partner or close a deal, for example – or you simply didn’t travel.

Today, things are different. The role of business or corporate travel within organizations is changing, gearing up to serve a different purpose in an increasingly digital world. The coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on virtually every aspect of our personal and professional lives – and that includes the way we work and relate to our colleagues.

Work is the new normal in the future

After lockdowns and travel restrictions reduced international mobility by 65% ​​at the height of the global health crisis, businesses had the opportunity to rethink the way they worked. From this context was born the hybrid working model, offering employees the “best of both worlds” with the flexibility to work from home and meet in person. In fact, 79% of executives revealed that they plan to implement such work models in their own companies.

With such a seismic shift towards hybrid and remote work frameworks, it is only natural that the workforce becomes more digitized and teams increasingly distributed. That said, humans are naturally a social species. We thrive on collaboration, and arguably some of mankind’s greatest endeavors, developments and advances have come as a result of this ability to work together. Did you know that “Rome wasn’t built in a day”? Well, it wasn’t built by just one person.

And it’s the collaboration and interaction that knowledge workers crave. A recent TravelPerk survey shows that the main reason employees want to meet face-to-face is to build relationships in the real world, and in a way they can’t do if they work 100% online through video conferencing tools like Zoom. Or Microsoft Teams.

So, how do you do that when you have team members spread across 30 different countries, 12 different regions and 95 different cities? The answer is quite simple.

business travel

Business travel is the key to unlocking the future of work

Simply put – business travel today is a tool that will facilitate personal interaction in an increasingly decentralized and distributed world. It is the ship, if you will, of bringing people together – the train pulling into the station, the flight landing just in time.

And this is not just speculation or wishful thinking. Global data is revealing that business travel is making a big comeback in the post-Covid world:

Data credit: GBTA

The business travel industry is changing its own game. It is becoming a tool to democratize and make the employee experience more complete, rewarding and connected. As distributed teams become the norm, employees are looking for the right balance of flexibility and face-to-face meaningful and purpose-driven interactions with their colleagues. Not only that, companies are looking for ways to retain talented people – and the answer lies in that delicate balance of real-life interaction and flexibility.

Flexibility is clearly the main trend emerging in the post-pandemic world of work. In fact, 75% of employees claim they would give up other benefits in favor of the ability to blend into their work environment. What’s more, 54% of recruiters report being turned down for positions due to a lack of flexibility. However, this is not to say that flexibility means never seeing colleagues face to face. What employees really want in a modern workplace is the ability to shape their work life and environment around their personal and professional needs.

And yes, that includes getting together with colleagues in real life. In fact, the ability to commute between offices or hubs is a perk that employees want:

  • 72% of respondents we surveyed claimed that ideally, they would like to go to the office 1-2 days per week, 63% would like to choose when to come.
  • The main drivers of colleagues wanting to travel for business or visit the office include:
    • Face-to-face interactive sessions such as workshops or team building activities (26%)
    • Client visits (21%)
    • Taking advantage of hybrid work environments for constructive work, 1:1 personal meetings with their team members or managers (20%)
    • Meeting potential job candidates in real life (18%)
  • Informal conversations and face-to-face meetings with colleagues are the #1 and #2 things employees miss most when working remotely (68% and 46%, respectively).

What’s more, both employees and the company look forward to returning to company-wide social events, team building and gatherings:

And that’s something we’re seeing more and more of every day in our customer booking trends. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, the increased adoption of hybrid or remote work arrangements has actually doubled the frequency with which colleagues from multiple locations meet on the same day:

What’s more, an interesting new trend is emerging whereby events, workshops and offsites are becoming more prominent reasons for business travel as the new normal. Offsites, in particular, have doubled in volume as the primary reason for travel since before the pandemic — skyrocketing at the beginning or end of a given quarter. Events have seen a 30% increase in volume as a “reason for travel” since before the pandemic.

Introducing the future of business travel for a new world

Defined in the Cambridge Dictionary as “business travel”. Travel taken for business purposess At TravelPerk, we decided to take that definition a step further.

Business Travel:

When you want to meet colleagues, customers and partners in real life because the value of meeting in person goes beyond the digital workplace.

What business travel has become is essentially a tool for in-person collaboration, much like a meeting room or office space. It serves multiple purposes – from building relationships to immersing employees in your company culture, increasing retention to prioritizing employee well-being and happiness. And with these new objectives come new types of work trips, including:

  • Travel between hubs to meet colleagues and engage in teamwork
  • Frequent travel to attend company-wide kick-offs and strategy sessions
  • Regular travel to off-site, team building retreats and social events
  • A mix of business with leisure travel (aka “blizzards”) where you combine work with play
  • Trips for networking opportunities to conferences, summits or trade shows
Company travel policy for employees

These are just a few of the countless business trips employees can expect to take in the new world of work. And 100% here for TravelPerk – we’ve even changed our mission statement to reflect that. We are now about connecting people in real life in an enjoyable and sustainable way. Exhilarating because we’ve seen firsthand the magic that happens when colleagues come together – explosions of inspiration, sparks of creativity, laughter, bonding… and sustainable because we believe travel is needed and will return (and) even exceed pre-pandemic rates. By doing so, it should not come at the expense of the environment.

Everything we create here at TravelPerk is focused on making business travel as easy as possible at every stage of the journey – from booking to travel to working with reports. For us, it’s about helping you work better – we’re like Slack, only we bring conversations to life, not on a screen.

And this is why we believe so wholeheartedly that business travel will be a key component of the future of work. It will shape relationships, mold company culture and be a bridge that connects people in a meaningful, purposeful and enjoyable way. So, if you agree with me, hop on the IRL 2.0 train and get in touch to see how we can make those meetings happen in person.

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