You find yourself visiting a beautiful foreign city for the first time. You are staying in a top quality hotel, and all of your meals and accommodation for the duration of your trip are being paid for. It sounds like a dream holiday – but, of course, it’s not. This is a regular business trip, and despite the stunning surroundings and the promise of adventure, you are there to work.
It’s the strange conflict between the obligation to work and the desire to enjoy oneself that all business travellers must deal with – and it’s a lingering feeling that can turn overseas business travel into one long guilt trip.
On the clock
First, there’s the guilt that comes with undertaking any task or activity that is not ‘strictly business’ – can you justify it to your managers, especially while they’re paying you for it? And second, there’s the more personal regret that comes from being away from your family and loved ones. The responsibility that accompanies business travel can often take the joy out of it entirely.
The responsibility that accompanies business travel can often take the joy out of it
But this guilt trip is something that more companies are beginning to challenge and reject – instead of preventing employees from mixing their business and personal lives, they are actively encouraging it. This is a growing trend that has been partly driven by technology: with cloud technology, smartphones and business apps readily available, business travellers are never truly off the grid, meaning that they can remain in constant contact with senior colleagues wherever they are in the world. Travellers can participate in video conferences, contribute towards online documents, and update their status on web-based project management software. Essentially, they can do almost anything that could be done back in the office.
This rise in technology is enabling a complete shift in company culture when it comes to business travel. It is allowing for a more open and transparent relationship between business travellers and bosses: companies have begun to adopt more flexible travel policies, which are purely geared towards getting the best performance from employees. Generally speaking, travel policies are becoming more aligned with the increasingly mobile way in which we all now live our lives.
Relaxing the rules
More and more companies are now offering employees the option to integrate personal time into their business travel itineraries, coinciding with a growing acknowledgment that relaxed, guilt-free and happy employees are far more likely to deliver on business objectives. One of the most significant changes that is enabling such a culture shift is the way in which business travel costs are being monitored and calculated.
In the past, a constant fear of running up extravagant expenses on lavish meals and hotel high-life only increased feelings of anxiety and guilt for both parties.
The true cost of trips would only be revealed to a finance team days, or even weeks, after the employee had returned and manually processed the bundle of receipts, tickets and bills they had acquired during their travels.
With digital expenses management, such challenges have been resolved. New generation systems, such as webexpenses, provide business travellers with smartphone apps that instantly record and upload their expenses claims from wherever they are in the world. It gives account managers real-time information, allowing them to keep tabs on rising costs and to approve and reject claims as they are made.
By re-establishing trust, changing company culture and removing paperwork altogether, companies now have the confidence to explore innovative new ways of working – and for business travellers, it means that visiting a beautiful, unexplored city no longer has to feel like a guilt trip.