Whether you’re a global company, a remote-first business, or a growing startup, travel connects your people—both in and out of the office. Businesses are finding this to be increasingly relevant in today’s environment as they update their travel policies and reshape their office cultures in preparation for a "post-pandemic future."
Getting back to the office and the road is no easy task though. Even with borders reopening and employees returning to face-to-face meetings, the roadblocks can seem daunting as restrictions change and new challenges emerge. Direct Travel recently began the process of reopening our own offices, and we’re ready to share key insights and a few celebratory photos along the way. Here are a few considerations to share with your office reopening committee in preparation for bringing your team together again.
Align Your Policies
From mask mandates and social distancing restrictions to vaccination expectations and testing protocol, companies have deployed a range of tools and strategies to facilitate a safe return to the office. These safety measures depend on a variety of factors including local/regional restrictions, industry standards, and company culture.
For instance, a growing list of U.S. companies are requiring vaccination in order for employees to return to the office, but the actual approach varies. Some are applying this expectation only to new hires, while other businesses have been particularly mindful of state and/or local laws that limit such requirements. Almost all are willing to make exception for religious and health exemptions. Similarly, masks may be required in indoor settings in some areas where a company has office locations, but not in other areas.
Regardless of which protectives measures and return-to-work requirements your organization implements, it's important that the unique interests of your travel program are represented accordingly in your reopening plans. A company that does frequent business in Canada, for example, may want to consider an employee vaccination policy since Canada is only allowing fully vaccinated travelers at this time. Your company’s COVID-19 testing policies should also be congruent with employees returning from travel abroad, whether for work or leisure.
Nurture Cultural Changes
Company culture is frequently cited as one of the main reasons for resuming in-office activities. Don’t be surprised though if after more than a year-and-a-half of pandemic shifts, your culture has shifted too. Rather than battling these cultural shifts, focus on nurturing them in directions that are positive for both your team and the business.
This is one area where travel can play a role in bridging divides. If your organization isn’t ready as a whole to return to a traditional office setting fulltime, consider bringing together smaller, regional teams for quarterly meetings or holding optional in-person events. Remote technology can help augment this, but it often fails to serve as a true replacement for in-person interactions.
At Direct Travel, we embraced our regional structure and had smaller group dinners and team events to reconnect our company leadership with offices in each region. This allowed for in-person interactions on a limited scale and provided a chance for employees to engage with each other in a comfortable and relaxed setting.
Even the most well-defined policy updates and carefully laid out company culture considerations need room for flexibility and change. Particularly as COVID cases ebb or surge, your employees and travelers may feel their comfort levels changing as well.
Most recently, the Delta variant has posed the newest hurdle for business growth and travel recovery. However, it has yet to majorly impact traveler sentiment or deter demand. While this may initially be surprising, it also reflects a change in both the private and public sector’s ability to mitigate and manage the virus. Testing, vaccines, and masks are all more readily available than ever before. Travelers also have access to accurate, real-time information, such as Direct Travel’s own Traveler Intelligence Hub powered by Sherpa.
Not all your employees and travelers may feel the same way though. Be flexible and bring back your team slowly, in stages if needed. You should also arm your road warriors with the information they need to be successful in this new environment, like our guide to the New Traveler Journey. On the backend, be ready with flexible travel policies, including trip insurance and unused ticket procedures.
Celebrate Small Wins Together
Being back in-person may require completing a long list of logistics, but it also means reconnecting with colleagues and sparking engagement in the workplace. Take an opportunity to celebrate this huge accomplishment with your team and focus on the positive growth that has been made over the past year. Even the small wins are worth celebrating and can boost team morale.
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