It's undeniable just how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we live and work. From wearing masks to working from home, almost everything has been impacted in some way. Businesses were forced to change their operations, and finance managers are no exception.
In the past, finance managers have had to worry about currency fluctuations and interest rates regarding business travel. Now, with the pandemic still ongoing, they also have to think about things like health and safety protocols and travel restrictions. It’s made corporate travel risk management (CTRM) much more complex.
However, finance managers are nothing if not adaptable. They’ve quickly learned to navigate the new landscape and are now using various tools and strategies to manage travel risk.
Let's look at how CTRM has changed in the past years.
Pre-COVID, CTRM has already been a complex process. CFOs have had to consider various factors when arranging business travel, like the destination's safety, the trip's cost, and the company's travel policy. Ultimately, the goal has always been to minimise risk while allowing employees to conduct business.
Businesses used to focus on the CTRM programme response components. They were all about preparation, planning, execution, and adaptation. CTRM basically meant having a plan in place in case something went wrong while employees were travelling.
Traditional risks were the main thing travel policies addressed. CTRM was already mayhem to many even before the pandemic. With the outbreak of COVID-19, new risks have been added to the mix, pushing businesses to rethink their CTRM strategies.
If CTRM used to focus on response components, it now focuses on preparedness. The pandemic has brought a necessity for companies to be proactive when it comes to managing corporate travel risk. They now have to consider employee health, travel restrictions, and quarantines.
This means that companies have to be up-to-date on the latest information and developments related to COVID-19. They also must consider the company's travel policy in a new light. With employees working remotely, companies must rethink whether business travel is necessary.
If it’s necessary, they have to guarantee that the company's travel policy considers all the new risks associated with travel. This includes health and safety protocols, quarantine procedures, and travel insurance.
Moreover, CTRM programmes have learned to consider employees' physical, mental, and emotional health. Since the pandemic caused many health concerns, businesses must certify that employees are healthy enough to travel.
The pandemic has undoubtedly changed the landscape of CTRM. Now, travel risk assessment includes the following practices.
Add a Level of Approval
While travel approval processes have always been in place, businesses have to take it a step further by adding a level of approval. Screening employee travellers has become a top priority, including health screenings and travel history checks.
Business travellers who have been on business trips before have an edge over first-time travellers. Business travel experience is now a critical factor in the approval process, especially regarding high-risk destinations.
Valid passports and business visas also play a role in the approval process. With many countries now imposing travel restrictions, businesses must ensure employees have the necessary travel documents. Perhaps the highlight of the criteria for business travel approval is vaccination.
With more and more countries requiring proof of vaccination, business travellers must be up-to-date on their shots. This requirement focuses on the safety of both employees and the people they will meet on their business trips.
Updated Restrict Destination List
Many countries are now imposing travel restrictions, pushing companies to regularly update their restricted destination lists. Employees shouldn't travel to high-risk destinations.
While borders have already reopened, businesses must remember that the pandemic is still ongoing. This means that companies should remain wary of the risks associated with travel.
Some businesses have already put in place a no-travel policy. Others have updated their restricted destination list to include countries badly affected by the pandemic. Either way, companies have to be more careful when it comes to business travel.
Updating destination lists allow businesses to guarantee that they’re not putting the employees and the company at risk.
Track Employee Journey
With the pandemic still ongoing, businesses have to establish a communication system that allows them to track their employees' journeys. Following a business traveller's itinerary and contact details allow companies to quickly get in touch and respond in case of an emergency.
CTRM systems and software have introduced new features that allow businesses to keep in touch with their employees while on the road. Apart from the business traveller's contact details, companies now also need the contact details of the traveller's families or next of kin.
Tracking can help with communication in case the business traveller needs to be quarantined or hospitalised, so families can quickly receive notifications and updates.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also forced businesses to reevaluate their healthcare insurance policies. With the risks associated with business travel, companies must ensure that their employees are covered in an emergency. This includes getting travel insurance that covers COVID-19-related expenses.
Businesses must secure their employees' medical expenses, evacuation, and repatriation. At the same time, employees must be aware of their travel insurance coverage and limits.
Employees also have to be more responsible regarding their health and safety. This means following all the safety protocols and getting the necessary vaccinations before travelling. Travel policies with healthcare insurance require the cooperation of both the employer and the employee.
It's impossible to completely change the impact of corporate travel because of its benefits to businesses. The pandemic has taught us that online meetings and conferences are great options, but nothing can replace face-to-face meetings. What businesses can do is be more careful when it comes to business travel.
This means being more selective of the destinations, tracking employee movements, and prioritising health insurance. The pandemic might have changed the way we do business travel, but it’s also made us more aware of the risks associated with it.
With a CTRM system that meets the new requirements for business travel, we can prioritise the safety of employees. At the same time, they secure the company's success. By being more cautious, responsible, and proactive, we can continue enjoying corporate travel's advantages.