Duty of care, traveller wellbeing and your corporate travel policy
Duty of care
The clear communication of your organisation’s approach to duty of care, how you fulfil it and how you expect employees to contribute to this is essential.
There has been a very noticeable shift in attitudes to how organisations fulfil their duty of care obligations over the last ten years. As the world seems to have become more dangerous, organisations are expected to reassure travellers that they are taking every step to ensure safety and security – your travel policy is the right place to do that.
It’s important to explain the symbiotic nature of a successful duty of care programme and highlight that both your organisation and your employees have a responsibility to carry out safe travel practices. Travellers that fail to understand this can actually compromise duty of care efforts without realising it, putting themselves, their colleagues and your organisation at risk; for example, failing to update their contact details can waste time in the event of an emergency. The duty of care section of your travel policy should focus on the logistical elements of keeping employees safe and secure as they travel. Discussing travellers’ general wellbeing while on the road is important too, but this can be added to a supporting document if you’d like to keep your travel policy as concise as possible.
It can be useful to consider duty of care practices and responsibility in terms of pre, during and post trip to bring structure to this section. Some important areas to cover include:
- Confirm what steps travellers are meant to take before a trip; pre-trip interview, VISA information for their destination etc
- Remind travellers to keep their profile information up-to-date, so any communications are received efficiently
- Provide guidance on any pre-trip paperwork that must be completed
- Share information on what travellers should do if they do not feel able to do the trip
- Emphasise the importance of booking through your TMC; failure to do so can make tracking travellers difficult and should emergencies arise, you will be unable to communicate swiftly with employees
- Clarify how you (as the employer) will communicate with the employee in the event of an emergency – case studies often help to illustrate how situations will be managed
- Explain how the traveller tracking system provided by your TMC allows you to identify where your travellers are at any time
- Share how travellers can contact your TMC for support during their trip should they need it
- Highlight the importance of travellers responding to safety and check-in messages if your organisations uses them
- Confirm what steps travellers are meant to take after a trip; post-trip interview or feedback form
High risk destinations:
- Classify which destinations are ‘high risk’ for your company
- Utilise pre-trip reporting to identify travellers booked to travel to high-risk destinations
- Implement mandatory briefings for high-risk destinations prior to travel . There are many factors which present a risk in otherwise safe countries – work with your HR department to ensure you are advising on possible scenarios and how your company can support travellers. Other factors may include: vulnerability due to unfamiliarity with a new destination, fatigue when driving after a long flight, illness and crime.
It is also important to include clear guidance on differing rules depending on job roles. Are there different rules for employees who have to travel a lot?
For example, if your organisation operates a long haul economy class policy, could you consider introducing an pre-approval based upgrade, depending on the circumstances, for people who travel very regularly on long haul flights? This could be dependent on how long they have to recover once they reach their destination, being mindful of how much time they have to spend away from home.
Your organisation’s duty of care practices and approach to traveller wellbeing are intrinsically linked, which is why it can make sense to review how you care for your employees physical and mental health at the same time that you review your travel policy.
Taking the opportunity to add a wellbeing section to your organisation’s corporate travel policy, or to produce a further supporting document, is a chance to confirm that you care about your employees wellbeing, take it seriously and are willing to take the necessary steps to support them as they travel and fulfil their role.
Wellbeing has become a huge discussion point within the context of corporate travel, in part due to wider discussions regarding mental health and also due to the fact that it is incredibly easy for frequent travel to take its toll on the physical and mental wellbeing of travellers.
With the interrupted routines and packed schedules that often come as part of travelling for work, it’s easy for travellers to develop unhealthy habits that can compromise their wellbeing and productivity. A traveller wellbeing guide, or chapter within your corporate travel policy, can help to set out what is expected of travellers, share advice on how they can limit the impact of demanding travel and confirm how your organisation is there to support them.
Why is traveller wellbeing important to your organisation?
Start your wellbeing document off by clarifying why ensuring your employees maintain good physical and mental wellbeing when they travel is important to you and confirming that you want to create a supportive and productive work environment for them.
Explain how you want to enable travellers to experience a more positive, resilient and calm mind-set when travelling, allowing them to connect well to clients, colleagues and family, with a supportive lifestyle that enables them to achieve success.
The benefits of looking after travellers’ wellbeing might sound obvious, but they’re easily forgotten in the day-to-day operations of an organisation – particularly by travellers – and so it can’t hurt to use a section of your travel policy to highlight why wellbeing is important.
Who owns traveller wellbeing?
Be sure to include instructions on who your employees can talk to about their wellbeing when travelling. This would most commonly be a travel manager or HR advisor, but this will depend on your company set up and culture – the most important thing is to clarify who this is so that they can drive improvements and take responsibility.
Provide travellers with guidance on how they can best prepare for an upcoming trip in terms of their work load, time management, awareness of their destination and their itinerary once their trip begins.
Travellers can sometimes experience anxiety at the thought of travelling to a new or challenging country, so it can be useful to share guidance on how and where to find information about their destination. This could be in the form of official government websites, information from your TMC or updates hosted on your company Intranet.
During the trip
When out of our everyday routine and thrown into unfamiliar surroundings, it’s easy for healthy habits such as 8 hours sleep, three nutritious meals a day, exercise etc to fall aside – especially once you consider jet lag and busy schedules.
In preparation for this section, you could ask employees to share their advice on how to limit the impact of frequent travel on physical and mental wellbeing. This will provide you with anecdotal and practical advice to share with travellers.
After a trip has taken place, it’s important to give employees the opportunity to provide feedback on how they feel the trip went – particularly in terms of their wellbeing.
As an employer, you will want to feel reassured that your employees are at their most productive and have sufficiently recovered from any long-haul travel and a post-trip interview with a line manager or whoever is responsible for wellbeing within your organisation is a good way to check on this.
In this section, you could include some of the questions that travellers might be asked during this interview so that they can feel prepared. Questions such as:
- How did you feel about this business trip?
- What did we as a company do to protect your wellbeing around the trip?
- How did this trip affect your personal life, physical and mental wellbeing?
- What can we do to mitigate any wellbeing risk before, during and after further trips?
- What would you like to be changed or implemented for this trip to give a better experience?