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Traveller wellbeing

Shiny, happy

people An increasing focus on traveller wellbeing is good news for all concerned, says Andy Hoskins, who explores the concept of traveller friction


pare a thought for the business traveller that made 157 trips in a single year, or the hardy soul that clocked up 260,000 miles around the world all in the line of duty – that's the equivalent of taking a flight from London to Venice every single day of the year. It’s exhausting just thinking about it. They were among travel management company ATPI’s top 50 most travelled clients in 2015, who between them averaged some 90,000 miles a year on business. What sort of toll does that take on the traveller’s mental and physical wellbeing? It’s an extreme example, but resentment, fatigue and poor performance can all build up at far lower levels than this, and employers are increasingly aware of the need to monitor traveller welfare. Happy, healthy travellers are more productive people, it is reasoned. Keep your travellers happy and you’ll also reduce staff turnover – and the associated costs – and make yourself an attractive employer too. It all sounds very logical, but ‘traveller friction’ and the methods of measuring it using quantifiable data are in their infancy, despite the concept of general wellbeing having been on the table for many years. Like many business travel trends, it is the US that is leading the way. Last summer ARC, American Express Global Business Travel and tClara released a report called Traveller Friction – Insights from US Road Warriors. 18

It surveyed participants on the quality and quantity of their business travel trips, their employer’s corporate travel policy, the impact of travel on theirs and their families’ lives, their health, sleeping habits and emotions such as stress and fear. The report said that while generally satisfied with their travel environment, roughly four out of five survey participants want management to be more aware of business travel’s impact, offer attractive travel policies to frequent travellers regardless of rank, be more aware of their current tolerance for travel and show more appreciation for the travel they do. It found that traveller friction symptoms vary widely among regular travellers and that, for those nearing or at 'burnout', trip quality and travel culture matter more than trip quantity. Indeed, the most popular improvements sought by all travellers were found to be non-stop flights, better hotels and post-trip recovery time.

The report puts facts behind the theory that tough travel policies cost organisations in ways not measured by any travel budget”

The report concluded: “Attractive travel environments are clearly linked to essential business goals – better road warrior retention, stronger ability to recruit talent, higher productivity and more effective trips. These benefits must be considered against the cost of providing more accommodating and expensive travel policies.”

The foundations of friction

Scott Gillespie, Managing Partner at tClara, the Ohio-based specialist in travel benchmarking that partnered on the report, says “talent-sensitive” firms are undoubtedly taking traveller friction seriously. “You see this in their travel policies,” he says. “The more accommodating policies go a long way towards reducing traveller friction. The issue is to what extent are these firms actually measuring traveller friction and its costs?” Gillespie says the number of trips, nights spent away, time zones crossed, hours in flight, hours in economy class and hours flown during personal time are all viable metrics for calculating traveller friction. “Our study is the first to squarely address the important HR issues of high levels of travel and the impact on recruiting, retention, willingness to travel, and trip outcomes,” he says. “It puts facts behind the theory that says tough travel policies cost organisations in ways not measured by any travel budget.” Amex GBT’s Vice President and General 

The Business Travel Magazine December - January 2016:2017  

The multi-award-winning publication written and produced for bookers, buyers, arrangers and managers of business travel and meetings. This e...