When Does Your Company Need a Travel Policy?
Your business travel planning checklist includes details like who’s going, how long the trip will be, and the proposed budget. But have you solidified the travel policy that guides standards for every trip your company plans? If not, you may be missing an opportunity to catch the best deals and maximize team productivity, before, during, and after business trips.
What Is a Travel Policy?
A travel policy is your company’s written documentation for planning business travel logistics. An effective travel policy strikes a balance between the financial needs of the company and safety and convenience considerations for the business traveler.
Well-crafted policies can help companies budget more accurately and save money on business trips. They also support traveling employees, minimizing stress and maximizing productivity as workers represent the business outside the office.
When Is a Travel Policy Necessary?
Strictly speaking, you don’t need a travel policy in the early stages of a business travel program. It’s entirely possible to take a from-scratch approach to every business trip or base budgets on notes from a minimal or outdated travel policy.
The question is whether that’s working for your budget and employee engagement. Developing a travel policy early lets you drive the business travel program from a proactive, not reactive, position. Try budgeting based on predictive data, for example, instead of relying on prices from 3-5 years ago, and see how the change benefits budget accuracy.
If business trips are still relatively infrequent, save resources by using a white-labeled policy. TravelBank’s policy template can provide a solid foundation to customize as your company’s travel program evolves.
What Should Your Travel Policy Cover?
Any business should modify aspects of its travel policy to suit the company’s needs. At the same time, some business travel matters are standard, or even legally required (such as paying sufficient per diem rates to avoid a minimum wage or overtime pay violation).
Generally, it’s helpful for travelers, finance managers, and supervisors to understand company policy for:
- Approval processes
- Flight booking
- Hotel reservations
- Land travel such as car rental, public transportation, or private transportation such as taxis
- Sharing economy arrangements such as Airbnb, Uber, and Lyft
- Meal expenses
- Client entertainment expenses
- Examples of non-reimbursable expenses
- Reimbursement procedure and timeline
- Rewards, if applicable
Business Travel Changes Finance Managers Should Know
The world of corporate travel has seen several changes in recent years. Make sure your travel policy addresses these rising corporate travel trends.
“Bleisure,” a mixture of “business” and “leisure,” describes increasing numbers of employees’ trips. Over 68% of business travelers take 1-3 bleisure trips per year, indicating that employees across generations find this trend attractive.
Bleisure can make a business trip more of a perk than a burden. Build clear boundaries between business and personal expenses into your travel policy so you avoid overlap that could create confusion.
Years ago, sharing economy options were more couchsurfing than corporate. Now, Airbnb or Uber may be attractive, and sometimes cheaper, alternatives to chain hotels and taxis.
If you’re open to employees using sharing economy options on business trips, consider adding the following stipulations to your policy:
- Restrict accommodation searches with a “business-friendly” filter, if available.
- Ensure any lodging has Wifi, a smoke detector, private sleeping and bathing facilities, and any other recommended measures for security and easy work access.
- Avoid using Uber, Lyft, and similar services while surge pricing is in effect to minimize unnecessary overspending.
Security and Risk Management
Businesses have a “duty of care” to take steps to protect business travelers’ safety. Taking extra security precautions is especially important for international travel, or if you’re sending employees to an area that is known to have heightened political or environmental risk factors.
The truth is, travel risk management is often about mitigating run-of-the-mill risks, not just considering high-profile security concerns. You can get into a car accident just about anywhere! Consider safety and convenience measures like allowing jetlagged travelers to hire a cab rather than get behind the wheel after a long flight.
Automation’s On the Rise
Business travel management has many moving parts to consider. Finance managers and corporate leaders are looking for streamlined approaches to managing their travel programs.
Fully integrated, mobile-friendly travel and spend management tools can be more convenient and reliable. Employees who are used to mobile tech appreciate business tools that offer the same moment-to-moment responsiveness. Businesses relying on manual data entry are at higher risk for timeline delays and errors.
Automating budget updates, trip booking, and approval can help maintain higher employee satisfaction and stronger budget compliance.