Is corporate travel a privilege or a burden?By Mike Baker
Business travel isn’t always fun. There’s delays, layovers, itemized receipts. Not to mention time away from home and family.
However, this view of corporate travel may be changing. Many employees (especially those at smaller companies) are beginning view corporate travel as a perk – a chance to get out of the office, network with new people, and even an opportunity to extend a business trip for personal reasons.
As the corporate landscape changes — more remote work, more decentralized companies, more flexible “work-life integration” — new attitudes toward corporate travel are similarly evolving.
We wanted to better understand these opinions and preferences, so we conducted an extensive corporate travel survey of more than 630 frequent business travelers, to get their opinions on everything from brand loyalty to the importance of reward points.
And as part of the study, we zeroed in on how these frequent travelers view corporate travel — is it a perk? A privilege? A pest?
Frankly, the findings surprised us. Here are three takeaways about how modern business travelers view traveling for work.
Company size matters
Not all business travelers are alike, and where they choose to work says a lot about their attitudes toward corporate travel. Namely, employees at small and medium-sized businesses are more likely to view corporate travel as a privilege.
In fact, it’s not even close. Frequent travelers at SMBs are 15% more likely to view corporate travel as a privilege than their large-company counterparts. This is in keeping with other findings from our study, which showed that frequent travelers at SMBs have different expectations about their work experiences — including the desire for more flexibility, autonomy and access to executives.
Again and again, the study confirmed that people who choose to work at a smaller company do so for a reason. Or many reasons. Routine and stability is less important to them, and this translates to the idea of traveling for work. In general, these people are more open to constantly changing schedules and last-minute adjustments. In this light, the idea that corporate travel isn’t always an unwelcome occurrence begins to make sense.
Take action: If you manage corporate travel at a small or medium-size business, remember that the travel itself can be seen as a benefit. Lean in to this by positioning it as a perk and making the process around it as light and unobtrusive as possible. Also consider offering the ability for travelers to easily extend business trips for personal reasons.
Life stage matters
It's not only company size that affects employee attitudes toward corporate travel — where employees are at with their life also plays a huge role.
According to our study, many employees (even those who view corporate travel as a privilege) worry about the effect it has on the rest of their lives. Especially if they have a family.
– 65% of respondents said that business travel forces them to sacrifice time with their children
– 50% of married respondents said it can also have a negative impact on their spouses
Unsurprisingly, the suggestions for addressing these concerns was significantly impacted by the specific life stages of respondents.
Tailoring a travel program to the needs of employees at different stages of their lives was a dominant theme in the study. Even for employees that view corporate travel as a privilege felt that their companies should help accommodate the negative impact work travel has on their spouses and children.
Take action: Understand where your frequent travelers are in their lives, and adjust your travel programs accordingly. Have a lot of travelers with spouses? Offer programs aimed at benefiting spouses, like plus-ones for corporate events and extendable trips for interested spouses. Have a lot of frequent travelers with children? Offer support in covering childcare and more flexible travel times?
Companies can do more
Both of the above findings hint at something more universal and important — companies can do more to make corporate travel feel more like a privilege and less like a burden. We outlined some of these methods above — extendable trips and support for childcare — but there’s a lot more.
Again and again, respondents suggested that their employers can help lessen the negative impact of routine business travel in a number of (relatively simple ways).
Some of the most common options were around employers’ ability to offset travel with more flexibility outside of travel. Time off work to counteract transportation time was a big one, as was the ability for travelers to extend a business trip for pleasure. These suggestions were more common among employees at SMBs than at large enterprises.
Frequent travelers at bigger companies had their own suggestions, though. Direct flights, more convenient hotels and loyalty to certain brands all topped their lists.
Regardless of the size of their company, however, almost all frequent travelers expect the ability to accrue personal loyalty points and miles for their business travel. Anything else is a non-starter for these road warriors.