As states and countries come out of lockdown and start to reopen their borders in the wake of COVID-19, many companies are likely contemplating when—and how—their employees may be able to start traveling for business again.
Business travel can present risk and uncertainty at the best of times, and employee health has always been a concern for both travel managers and the travelers themselves—along with the potential dangers posed by civil and political unrest, natural disasters, and petty crime. Now, of course, health has become one of the primary concerns and it’s more important than ever for companies that send business travelers across countries and continents do their best to ensure their safety and wellbeing.
Protect your employees and your company by evaluating the risks, proceeding with caution, and planning with care. Consider these five steps as business travel resumes.
1. Update Company Business Travel Rules
Given the new risks faced by travelers, it’s critical to examine all your internal policies and best practices—and make sure that employees understand them before they make any trips on the company’s behalf.
Review and update company travel guidelines covering:
2. Assess the Necessity of Business Trips to Your Bottom Line
After a moratorium on most business travel, companies are looking hard at which travel costs are necessary and which are not. This is especially true in those industries that face pandemic-driven financial shortfalls and/or in which meetings are easily conducted remotely.
Of course, some meetings and business transactions are better done in person. To judge what’s best for your company, consider these factors:
3. Closely Monitor Destination Travel Advisories and Travel Partners
From local pandemic spread indicators and variations in mandatory quarantine practices to fluctuating international government regulations — today’s business travel parameters are complex and quickly changing. They require close monitoring and a nimble response.
While planning any trip, obtain the latest, location-specific pandemic travel advisory guidance. The U.S. Department of State website lists travel advisories for not only COVID-19 outbreaks but also for other issues (such as terrorism) that may be affecting the destination country. The Johns Hopkins University & Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center maps global and U.S. state virus outbreak data and trends.
Guard against the pandemic’s effect on “typical” risks — for example, pandemic-induced financial hardship may increase the incidence of petty theft or stolen luggage.
Before booking transportation or lodging, make sure their respective cleaning protocols are optimal and that the vehicles or buildings have experienced no recent outbreaks.
4. Prepare Employees to be Flexible and Patient
A spike in destination cases, an airplane suddenly grounded for emergency cleaning — even a brief exposure to a COVID-19 positive patient — can lead to a trip being canceled or having to quarantine in a foreign country. These situations not only affect traveling employees, they also require that travel resources be available to them 24/7.
Prepare employees for more than the usual delays, inconvenience and frustration. The Mayo Clinic offers some detailed advice on what and how to pack for optimum pandemic travel efficiency, while adhering to regulations.
Travel assistance services and apps, such as International SOS, can also be a useful resource for employees traveling abroad for business, providing destination-specific advice and security alerts.
Especially in high-risk locations, have worst-case safety protocols in place. These include emergency communications and evacuation plans, etc.
5. Make Sure Your Business Travel Insurance Covers the Current Landscape
Given the evolving exposures to employee health and safety caused by the pandemic, your current business travel policy may contain gaps in optimal coverage. Ask your insurer to customize a policy for your company’s particular needs.
Learn about the business travel protections that Chubb offers.
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