2020 was a year like no other.
For travellers like us, it was a nightmare as we got cooped up in our homes, with no way of travelling to places, to explore. But the Covid19 pandemic did not hit just the leisure travellers. It created a huge impact on business travel as well, to an extent of near to no travel for work.
Now that the vaccines are showing hope and businesses are going back to near 100% capacity, business travel is slowly picking up, albeit with a new normal. A recent survey among corporate travellers by SAP Concur reveals what people are looking for in the new normal of work related travel.
Upwards of 98% Indian business travellers expect a “new normal” for work travel. They want norms and practices in place for personal health, safety, transportation preferences and social distancing. Indian business travellers indicate that taking personal steps to stay healthy is imperative, but they also voiced their expectations from the employers and the government, since safety and duty of care are of utmost importance, even more so in this unusual travel environment.
Taking away from these facts, we will outline certain practices that corporates can take to ensure safe travel for their employees and also tell you about a company in the diversified energy sector that is encouraging safe travel for its employees in an effective way!
How travel has changed post Covid19:
Irrespective of the nature of travel, one thing to be noted before we begin is that the general nature of travelling has become safer. More people are wearing masks (as opposed to pre-pandemic). Germs spread from cough and sneeze are always a primary factor of infections obtained during travel. With Covid19, perspectives have changed and more people are practicing minimal contact, lesser surface touch and using sanitisers and hand gloves while at public places.
More people are staying indoors when in a tourist place, holiday home rentals are back in the game and large resorts are offering heavy discounts and social distancing practices within the properties to encourage people to travel. Slow travel is becoming the flavour of preference for families and even solo/couple travellers in the leisure travel space.
Businesses are holding workshops on travel safety for key employees who travel for work. Let’s look at who these people are and what kind of business travel is expected in 2021.
- Sales and Business Development executives
- C-suite level employees
- HR & L&D professionals
- Site workers (Manufacturing, epc, solar & renewable energy, supply chain, lawyers etc)
Not to forget, with public transport bouncing back, companies are encouraging safe ways of travel to office. We will cover safety measures for travel for office as well as travel for work (including air travel) in the next section.
Nature of business travel/responsibilities undertaken:
- Site visits – surveyors, site inspectors, maintenance teams
- Business development – meeting distributors, dealers, advertisers
- Meetings – Business decision makers
So if so many people need to travel for business needs, what can be really done to ensure their safe passage and stay?
Companies at this point have a substantial role to play in the overall safety and well being of their employees. We are living in unforeseen times and circumstances and the first onus of getting people at ease about travelling for office/work lies with the employers. It is critical to engage and address the first doubts through internal trainings, strong communications strategy to update and alert employees about travel policies and general training in do’s and dont’s. For example, Jakson Group, is one of the Top 10 energy companies in India that is into diversified energy that includes gensets, solar power, solar products & services, EPC and IPP. It has taken extensive steps to communicate their new travel policies to their employees across locations through emailers , webinars, continuous workshops, newsletters and one to one sessions with HR & safety personnel. Non essential business travel is being restricted and meetings including those with teams, partners & board members are being conducted on virtual platforms.
They have also released Safety Policies with a set of Do’s and Dont’s for its employees:
- Always wear a mask
- Strictly avoid shaking hands
- Use gloves while working on shared computers/desks
- Install Arogya Setu app on their phones
- Use sanitisers at security & all other check points
- Undergo regular temperature checks
- Has installed sensor based taps in washrooms
- Cab hires are made through travel desk
- All tickets are booked through the company portal & shared on email & whats app making it completely contactless. No physical signatures for expense claims are required as everything is through the travel portal.
Since people are taking metro/trains/cabs to work after unlock, we found some great guidelines shared by Jakson Group with its employees travelling to office.
City travel guidelines:
- Opt for contactless travel cards/tickets
- Carry your own sanitizer, masks & gloves
- Always wear a mask/face shield & maintain social distancing
- Do not touch common surfaces unnecessarily. If you have to, use sanitiser after disembarking.
- Do not touch your face/mouth while commuting
- Ensure sanitisation of cabs and that your driver is wearing a mask, face shield and gloves
- Bookings done at hotels following highest safety standards
- Avoid using public washrooms
- Constant advisories are issued by Human Resources on immunity boosters, vitamins, breathing exercises, gargling before going to bed & so on
The company has also discouraged the usage of key cards to open office doors, and is encouraging employees to use stairs as a safe practice instead of elevators. Health and safety in one go, we like that a lot!
Jakson Group has issued an SOP for all cab hires where they have to ensure fumigation of cabs, your car is sanitised tag, PPE kit in the car including sanitiser and driver to wear mask, face shield & gloves. It is in the utmost priority for the organisation to ensure safe travel for all its employees, as certain employees have to travel to sites for solar/ EPC installations, meetings with Govt. officials, partners, leadership meetings and so forth.
It is also critical for employees to follow certain basic rules for smooth functioning of company activities. So as a responsible employer, here are some more practises taken to maintain safety of your employees:
- Assess the threats involved and counter safety measures, before you plan your travel
- Prepare your own travel kit – keep an extra pair of masks/face-shield in your bag, a bottle of sanitiser, extra face tissues, own toothbrush (for intercity travels)
- Keep your team/superiors informed of your whereabouts and any threats you have come across while travelling
- Do not report to office for 7 days after air travel etc.
A company that has stood tall in its responsibility towards their employees, the Jakson Group shows enormous love and care for its workforce. We feel their policies towards ensuring safety of employees for office/business travel is elaborate and provides the guidance required to assure people of safe commute for work.
Here are a few more ideas on how corporates can leverage the most of their capabilities to continue operations at scale going forward, in a situation like the Covid19 pandemic.
Technology for safety: A smart application of technology would be to integrate a GPS enabled employee travel management platform into the company ERP system. This way employees can safely book tickets, hotels, cabs and also raise invoices, read about road/airline rules about their destinations, access the Covid19 precaution checklist.
Safe Stays: Many Companies are already one step ahead with company owned guest houses and hotels across the country, easily accessible from their project sites. Other than that, corporates are working with hospitality brands that are following high standards of safety.
Self protection bubble and tips: With more and more people going back to work, we must understand that ultimate safety is in our own hands. Employers can adhere to strict travel policies, provide necessary training and understanding of best practices to ensure safety of self and colleagues and facilitate special quarantining facilities for employees who have travelled recently for work. However, self safety and best practices like washing your hands with soap after and before you eat, opting for single portion meals when travelling, using protective gear such as masks, gloves and PPEs for high density public spaces, avoiding facial touch, maintaining social distancing will become the new normal for all travellers. Create a self protection bubble around yourself and be the bearer of safety for yourself, your colleagues and your loved ones. Make sure you reach out to your company travel desk for any questions or doubts regarding your upcoming trip.