A post-pandemic shift is occurring within corporate America: The office setting has been redefined as employees and companies adapt to new priorities and demands.
With employers struggling with talent acquisition and employees reticent to return old routines, the modern workspace has shifted to accommodate remote work on a massive scale. Recent findings from a Harvard Business School survey indicate how remote work preferences are changing within the new business culture. 81% of participant of participants reported preferring a hybrid schedule going forward, while 27% revealed they hope to work entirely remote on a full-time basis.
The transformed office environment now includes work locations that reach beyond local, regional, or home offices. Employees are choosing domestic and international destinations to get the most out of work and personal life—putting the importance of travel front and center. Below, we take a look at what the expanding hybrid workforce means for corporate travel and the ways it can be used to drive business growth and culture.
Remote Work Redefined
After years of job structure changes, both employers and employees have settled into a new operative work groove. To attract a more robust workforce, companies are redefining goals and offering more flexibility, work-life balance, and discretion about work location—adding tremendous value to benefit packages.
These changes to the ways in which businesses find and attract talent greatly influence the “how and why” behind employee travel, as business travel is a critical component of maintaining corporate unity. Essentially, with more employees working remotely, this means more travellers on the road visiting regional offices and key markets for vital in-person meetings and events. Businesses can learn from successful remote-first companies, which often augment their virtual environments with regularly scheduled in-person meetings to foster a sense of purpose and to increase productivity.
A hybrid workforce also presents the opportunity for an increase in combined leisure and business travel. Enter the buzzword, "bleisure.” Many employees want to take advantage of being away from home by making the most out of business trips and special events. A bleisure trip could be as simple as adding on vacation days at the end of a business trip or extending a business trip to include personal days in between regular workdays.
The AHLA’s 2022 report revealed that bleisure skyrocketed during the pandemic, showing evidence that it’s here to stay. Bleisure contributes to healthier revenues for the airline, hospitality, and transportation sectors and is projected to take corporate travel to new heights in Q4 and throughout 2023. Take for example, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, which experienced a 43% revenue increase in Q4 of 2021, with each month seeing a stronger growth than the month prior.
A Stagnant Economy Boosts Travel
During the height of the pandemic, experts feared that corporate travel would not make a substantial comeback. While initial numbers were discouraging as the impact of COVID restrictions lingered, business travel is now on the rise. In fact, 54% of HRS survey respondents said that the business travel rebound has exceeded expectations. Rather than the end of business travel, companies are utilizing their corporate travel programs as a tool to reshape business models.
Even with current market jitters and recession fears, analysts predict that corporate travel will become a top priority as companies place more emphasis on business development and travel in order to boost sales activity. This viewpoint was aptly summed up by Dan Janki, CFO for Delta Air Lines, when he pointed out, "Slower economic growth could actually help the airline’s corporate segment as more companies might decide to send their sales and other executives to see clients in person.”
To regroup from revenue loss during the pandemic, companies are making strategic travel decisions to maximize profit. This involves sales teams hitting the road again and C-suite managers returning to essential face-to-face meetings. As teams resume travel journeys, many organizations have rediscovered that business travel is the conduit that puts employees in the best interfacing positions. A large portion of employees concur: The recent AHLA survey showed that 64% of employed Americans and 77% of business travellers believe that bringing back business travel is essential to commerce.
The Power of Face-to-Face Interaction
Organic human connections have been overshadowed in recent years by Zoom and other virtual meeting platforms. However, face-to-face interactions foster strong connections and enable businesses to convey company values, strategies, and products to their target audiences. Large events are also delivery mechanisms for presenting goals and work culture to internal customers, new hires, and prospective employees. To enhance existing partnerships and drive growth, companies must have boots on the ground.
Most importantly, in-person meetings encourage a deeper and more meaningful human connection. The recent AHLA survey also found that 86% of business travellers credit face-to-face interactions as a major factor in company success. Meeting in real-time will continue to ignite powerful synergy not possible through virtual meetings and video calls. Nothing replaces a traditional handshake, kudos for a job well done, or a social event (pre/post conference) where major connections are formed. Company culture depends on in-person connections made possible through corporate travel.
Adapting Your Travel Program
With travel demands on the rise across all segments, those responsible for travel management are facing unique hurdles within planning, risk management, budget constraints, and duty of care. Recent GBTA statistics reveal current travel manager concerns and challenges: more than 70% of respondents said they would benefit from consolidated data on hotel, meeting, and co-working bookings, while nearly 80% reported spending significant time on troubleshooting traveller issues. Furthermore, over two-thirds of respondents expressed the need for better corporate payment tools through a singular booking source.
As travel continues to rebound, companies need a trusted travel partner. At Direct Travel, we are fully committed to helping you rework travel policy to match new demands. We provide high-touch consultancy to ensure your travel program is running efficiently. Our advanced tech tools and customized programs help you capture savings while providing risk management tools to keep tabs on employees and protect them on the road in this new environment.