Why business travel is a staple of the future of work

Sandra L. Pouncy

Think back to a time before the outbreak of the global pandemic. Back then, when someone mentioned “business travel” to you, what image popped into your he ad? Maybe it was of a sharply dressed George Clooney whizzing through airports with a compact carry-on and a frequent flyer card. Maybe it was Michael Scott claiming to be an international man of mystery traveling in business class, fascinated by the concierge at his Winnipeg hotel.

Or maybe, it was your boss or your boss’s boss, or that traveling salesperson, or that group of colleagues who got to go to trade shows every year. No matter what you picture, the bottom line is the same. Business travel was mostly well defined, it was clear. You either traveled to build a potential client relationship, meet a business partner, or close a deal, for example – or you simply didn’t travel.

Today, things are different. The role of business or corporate travel within organizations is changing, preparing to serve a different purpose in an increasingly digital world. The coronavirus pandemic had a huge effect on virtually every aspect of our personal and professional lives – and that includes the way we work and relate to our colleagues.

The new normal within the future of work

After the lockdowns and travel bans saw a decrease of 65% in international mobility at the height of the global health crisis, businesses found an opportunity to rethink the way they work. The hybrid working model was born out of this context, offering employees the “best of both worlds” by giving them the flexibility to combine working from home and meeting in person. In fact, 79% of executives revealed that they are planning to implement this type of working model in their own companies.

With such a seismic shift towards hybrid and remote work frameworks, it’s natural that the workforce becomes more digitized and that teams grow increasingly distributed. That said, humans are naturally a social species. We thrive on cooperation, and arguably some of mankind’s greatest endeavors, developments, and progress came as a result of this ability to work together. Do you know that saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day”? Well, it also wasn’t just built by one person. 

And it’s that cooperation and interaction that knowledge workers crave. A recent TravelPerk study shows that the main reason employees want to meet one another face-to-face is to build relationships in the real world, and in a way that they simply couldn’t if they worked 100% online with videoconferencing tools like Zoom or Microsoft Teams. 

So, how do you do that when you’ve got team members spread across 30 different countries, 12 separate regions, and 95 distinct cities? The answer is pretty simple.

Business travel. 

Business travel is the key to unlocking the future of work

Put simply – today business travel is the tool that will facilitate in-person interaction in an increasingly decentralized and distributed world. It’s the vessel, if you will, to bring people together – the train pulling into the station, the flight landing just on time. 

And this isn’t just conjecture or wishful thinking. Global data is revealing that business travel is making a major comeback in a post-COVID world:

Data credit: GBTA

The business travel industry is changing its own game. It’s democratizing and becoming a tool to make the employee experience more complete, rewarding, and connected. With distributed teams becoming the norm, employees are looking for the right balance of flexibility and having meaningful and purpose-driven interactions with their colleagues face-to-face. Not only that, but companies are looking for ways to retain talented individuals – and it’s exactly on that delicate balance of real-life interaction and flexibility that the answer lies.

Flexibility is clearly the leading trend to emerge in the world of work post-pandemic. In fact, 75% of employees claim that they would give up other perks in favor of the ability to blend their work environment. What’s more, 54% of recruiters reported that positions have been turned down due to a lack of flexibility. However, that’s not to say that flexibility means never seeing colleagues face-to-face. What employees truly want in a modern workplace is the ability to shape their working life and environment according to their personal and professional needs.

And yes, that includes coming together with colleagues in real life. In fact, the ability to go to the office or travel between hubs is a perk that employees seek:

  • 72% of respondents we surveyed claim that ideally, they’d like to go to the office 1-2 days per week, with 63% wanting to choose when to come in
  • The main drivers for colleagues wanting to travel for business or go to the office include:
    • Coming together face-to-face for interactive sessions like workshops or teambuilding activities (26%)
    • Client visits (21%)
    • Taking advantage of the hybrid work environment for constructive, 1:1 in-person meetings with their team members or managers (20%)
    • Meeting potential hiring candidates in real life (18%)
  • Informal conversations with colleagues and face-to-face meetings are the #1 and #2 things employees miss the most when working remotely (68% and 46% respectively)

What’s more, both employees and companies are looking forward to returning to company-wide social events, team buildings, and gatherings:

And this is something that we’re seeing more and more every day within our customer’s booking tendencies. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, the higher adoption of hybrid or remote work arrangements has actually doubled the frequency at which co-workers meet up from multiple locations on the same day:

What’s more, a fascinating new trend is emerging whereby events, workshops, and offsites are becoming more prominent reasons for business travel in the new normal. Offsites, in particular, have doubled in volume as the primary reason for a trip since before the pandemic – skyrocketing the beginning or end of a given quarter. Events have also increased by 30% in volume as a “reason for travel” since before the pandemic. 

Introducing the future of business travel for a new world

The Cambridge dictionary defined “business trips” as journeys taken for business purposes. At TravelPerk, we decided to take that definition a step further. 

Business travel:

When you choose to meet colleagues, customers, and partners in real life because the value of meeting in person goes beyond the digital workspace.

What business travel becomes is essentially a tool for in-person collaboration, much like a meeting room or an office space. It takes on multiple purposes – from fostering relationships to immersing employees in your company culture, from boosting retention to putting employee wellbeing and happiness at the fore. And with these new purposes come new types of work trips, including:

  • Trips between hubs to meet colleagues and engage in teamwork
  • Recurring trips to attend company-wide kick-offs and strategy sessions
  • Regular trips for off-sites, teambuilding retreats, and social events
  • Mixing business with leisure travel (a.k.a “bleisure”) where you combine work with play
  • Trips for networking opportunities at conferences, summits, or trade shows
Company Travel Policy for Employees

These are just a few of the countless business trips employees can expect to take in the new world of work. And TravelPerk is 100% here for it – we’ve even changed our mission statement to reflect that. We are now all about connecting people in real life in an enjoyable and sustainable way. Enjoyable because we’ve seen firsthand the magic that comes about when colleagues get together – the bursts of inspiration, the sparks of creativity, the laughs, the bonds formed… And sustainable because while we do believe that travel needs to and will return (and even exceed) pre-pandemic rates, it shouldn’t come at the expense of the environment. 

Everything we build here at TravelPerk is focused on making business travel as simple as possible at every stage of the journey – from booking to traveling, to dealing with reports. For us, it’s all about helping you work better – we’re kind of like Slack, only we bring about conversations in real life, not on a screen. 

And that’s really why we believe so fervently that business travel will be a key component in the future of work. It’s going to shape relationships, mold company cultures, and be the bridge that connects people in a meaningful, purposeful, and enjoyable way. So, if you agree with me, hop aboard the IRL 2.0 train and reach out to see how we can make the meetings that matter happen in person together. 

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