More and more employees are working remotely, and evolving technology makes it relatively easy to do business from afar most of the time. But sometimes there’s no substitute for showing up in person, which means work travel has become an accepted part of many employees’ lives.
Work travel has its perks – it can be a great opportunity to meet interesting people, see new places and experience different cultures while building business relationships across province, state, or country borders. But it’s not all fun and glamour, either. Swapping time with family and the comforts of home for airport security lines and long hours of work in an unfamiliar environment can be exhausting. It’s no wonder many employees balk at the idea of work travel!
This is where having a solid travel policy can help. Creating consistent processes and procedures for employees who travel for work removes some of the unknown elements. By setting out expectations around details like booking tickets and accommodation, and spelling out how to handle travel logistics, you’ll control costs, reduce employee stress levels, clarify expectations, and ensure employees are open to racking up some frequent-flyer miles.
The details of your organization’s travel policy will vary based on factors like size, travel frequency, organizational culture, and industry, but there are a few key areas any travel policy should address:
1. Travel Approval – What is the process for requesting business travel, when is pre-approval required, and who has the ability to approve trips?
2. Booking and Payment – What is the preferred method of booking travel, and who pays? Clarify preferred booking sites or travel agents, and specify how the payment process works.
3. Expense Reimbursement – Direct employees to a clear process for submitting expenses for reimbursement. Lay out what forms the employee should submit, if they need to provide receipts, and provide timelines for submitting expenses.
4. Hotels – Individual standards for acceptable accommodation can vary widely, so consider providing a suggested list of hotels for typical destinations to ensure their chosen accommodation fits with the budget. Spell out parameters around room type as well, and specify what hotel charges you won’t be picking up the tab for (ex: dry-cleaning, mini bar, movies, etc.).
5. Air Travel – Provide parameters around air travel so employees aren’t flying blind. This is where laying out policies around cabin class, additional fees for checked baggage, trip cancellation and in-flight meals is important. For further clarity, provide guidelines for likely scenarios – for example, are employees expected to choose the cheapest option regardless of number of layovers or departure time?
6. Transportation – How do you expect employees to get around when they’re not in the air? Your travel policies should address rental vehicles and specify expectations re: car size, insurance and fueling. It’s also worth considering some of the more cost-effective transportation options – for example, consider subsidizing employee participation in a car-share program as an alternative to taxi use.
7. Per Diems – Meals are often an area that creates confusion for traveling employees. Setting a daily per diem amount that lays out how much employees can spend per day on meals means you cut down on paperwork by eliminating the need for receipts, while giving employees some freedom around eating on the road. Spell out exceptions, and specify a per-meal amount for partial travel days. It’s also a good idea to create some common-sense guidelines that address dining out with clients while on the road.
8. Incidentals – There are some expenses you just can’t get a receipt for. Consider allotting a small amount per day for employees on the road, so they can take care of small expenditures like parking costs and tipping hotel staff without dipping into their own pockets.
Ultimately, your travel policy will be a reflection of your organization’s culture. As with any other policy, get employees on board with cost saving travel measures by making sure your policies are fair and equitably applied, getting employee input on what works and what doesn’t, and communicating the why behind your travel policy decisions.
If you need some direction on creating a travel policy that works for your company, we can certainly help with that!