There’s no quicker way to boost employee morale than by showing a little flexibility with your travel policies. However, flippant decisions can put your team in dangerous situations far from home. So, how can you toe the line between being the “cool boss” and being a stick in the mud?
You need to do a thorough risk assessment for every travel request. This will help you understand the potential dangers of a particular trip so you can make informed decisions for your team.
(Plus, if you have to tell someone “no”, it’ll be much easier if you can point to a list of reasons why.)
Conducting a risk assessment can be tricky; there are many moving parts to consider, and no two trips are exactly alike. Don’t worry, though — we’ve pulled together this guide just for people who need a little more guidance. In this article, you’ll find an overview of the three main types of risks you need to assess and why.
#1: The Traveller’s Information
Many people focus excessively on the destination as they evaluate risks. Yes, where you’re sending someone matters — in fact, spoiler alert, that’s item number three on this list.
However, a risk assessment must begin with the “who” rather than the “where.” In this case, we mean who you’re sending. Certain destinations can be especially dangerous for people with disabilities, women, gender non-conforming people, and people of certain ethnicities and races. Because of this, it’s vital to be aware of how your employees may be vulnerable so you can protect them properly.
As you conduct a travel risk assessment with your travellers in mind, you’ll want to take stock of the following information:
Be aware of your traveller’s medical history. While they’re not obligated to disclose any medical information to you, ask them up-front if they will be needing any accommodations to make it to their destination safely. For example, on flights, employees with illnesses like sickle-cell anaemia can be at risk. Other health conditions that can make travel risky are:
- Heart conditions
- Fractures, particularly at the lower extremities
- Motor neuron diseases
You will also want to consider your employee’s medications. If they are travelling abroad, check for any laws regarding the passage of medication across their destination’s borders and send the employee resources so they can look into this without disclosing sensitive information to you.
Their Gender and Sexuality
Your employee’s gender and sexuality are both deeply personal details, but you cannot send someone into a foreign area without considering whether they will be endangered because of it. While yes, it’s the 21st century, there are still countries around the world with discriminatory laws and dangerously high rates of hate crimes and sex crimes.
What Can You Do With This Information?
Keep in mind that race, ethnicity, health, gender, and sexuality are never acceptable reasons to deny an employee’s travel request. However, it is vital to consider whether your team will be safe at their destination.
If you’re worried about your employee’s safety because their destination is unsafe for people in their demographics, gather pertinent information — this could be crime statistics, articles discussing the problem, or anything else that seems relevant — and present it to your employee. Ask them if they feel safe travelling, and if not, what you could do to make them feel safer, whether that’s booking a specific hotel or sending them with coworkers so they won’t be left alone.
#2: Transportation Details
Are you sending your team by train? Have you opted to book them on flights? Or will your team be driving to their destination?
Whatever the case may be, each mode of travel comes with risks. Because of this, it comes down to identifying the route and potential travel conditions on the planned travel day.
So, besides taking stock of how your employees will travel, consider these factors before sending them off:
You may rule this factor out if your team will fly to their destination. However, the conditions of the road or rail network will determine whether it’s a good idea to travel or not.
Determine the route your employees would be taking, and see if there’s any ongoing work on these roads or rails. If there are, you can consider sending your team on another route, sending them via plane, or putting off travel.
Nobody can predict what the weather will be like on the day of travel. However, that doesn’t mean you can ignore whether it could place your employees at risk.
Checking weather forecasts for a ballpark idea of how the weather will be. Between now and the day of travel, things can change drastically, so stay on top of the weather projections.
#3: Destination Details
Lastly, gather information about the destination. The following risk factors may be present upon your team’s arrival and can make or break your business travel plans:
The Laws in Effect
Some countries will have unexpected laws that can place your team members at risk. Familiarise yourself with the country’s laws beforehand to figure out a workaround.
If neither is possible, you can send someone who has been to the destination before and is familiar with the regulations there.
Health Risks and Health Systems on the Ground
The world may be opening up, but some countries still have more cases of certain illnesses — like COVID-19 — than others. When you plan your team’s business trip, read up on diseases in the destination country to make sure travel is safe.
Also, don’t forget to establish the presence of any hospitals or A&E services at the destination. You never know when a team member will need emergency medical assistance. If the closest A&E is several towns away from your team’s destination, consider this a red flag.
The higher the crime rate, the riskier the environment. So when you’re sending a team to a country, check the crime rates too. Warn your team of common crimes like theft, assault, and scams.
Get Your Team Safely on Their Way
The three risk categories we’ve covered will simplify your travel risk assessment. Once you’ve evaluated the relevant risks, you can make a strategic decision about who you should send, where they should go, and whether they should go at all.