The COVID-19 pandemic has changed so many aspects of everyday life in a very short period of time. One of the things that is affected now, and will probably be affected for a long time to come, is travel. By and large, around the world, non-essential travel is discouraged – and may not even be possible at all. For essential travel – generally that undertaken for business activities - travel restrictions, mandatory quarantine, border closures, virus hotspots and airline collapses are posing many risks and challenges for organizations who need to send their employees to different locations.
Business travel is suddenly a very risky situation. Ultimately, companies have a duty of care to their employees to ensure they are safe when they are carrying out any work-related activities – including travel. If your company doesn't currently have a corporate travel risk management policy in place, it’s time to get one.
Not only is a travel risk management plan a must-have for your company during the pandemic, it’s also a document you should have in place for other situations that could arise when employees are traveling for work. Here are some of the things you need to consider when implementing travel risk management solutions in your organization – including the importance of having an effective internal communications solution in place.
What to consider when developing travel risk management solutions
Like any activity that poses a risk to your business, work-related travel needs to have plans in place to mitigate that risk. While it seems like a relatively straightforward activity, there are numerous things that could happen to employees who are traveling for work purposes.
1. Have a travel risk management plan
Your plan should outline the proactive steps that your organization can take to minimize risks before your employees travel.
Things to consider include risks associated with particular countries that your employees may travel to, disease outbreaks, accessing healthcare while abroad, travel insurance, personal safety as well as risks around specific airlines and other transit companies.
When there is a high likelihood of threats (for example, COVID-19) you should spell out the actions that the company will take and what is expected of the employee while traveling.
2. Ensure you have a crisis team in place
Assemble a team of people who can quickly spring to action when there is a situation involving an employee who is traveling. This should involve people with different skills and responsibilities. For example you may need human resources people, legal representatives, members of the finance team who can authorize expenditure as well as internal communications on this team.
Ensure everyone knows their roles and what they are expected to do in a crisis.
3. Have the tools in place to communicate fast in a crisis
Before a crisis situation unfolds, it’s important to ensure you have the right tools so that you can communicate quickly with employees. What channels does your company currently use to reach people quickly? Are you only relying on email?
You should have ways to reach employees who are on the road as well as in the office, keeping them up-to-date with any situations that could affect them while traveling, as well as keeping your company informed if any employees are affected by a crisis while traveling.
4. Automate crisis communications
Look at ways you can alert employees instantly to issues that may affect them. This might include using RSS feeds or linking your communications system with other warning or emergency systems currently in use within your organization.
5. Promote awareness around traveller health and wellbeing
More than ever it is important to ensure your employees understand what steps they need to take to stay healthy and well if they are traveling for business. Outside of the COVID-19 pandemic this should include providing tips about things such as vaccinations, whether it is safe to drink water at particular destinations, overcoming jet lag and so on. Communications during the pandemic should include tips on avoiding transmission of the virus.
Steps to take to implement sound travel risk management protocols in your organization
Business travel requires a lot of coordination and planning. Some threats are completely impossible to prevent… but if your organization experiences them, the level of risk for your employees can still be minimized by having good processes in place.
You should consider the preventative measures you need to take to identify and be prepared for all risks. Other steps include creating plans, conducting drills, ensuring you have the necessary equipment and ways to effectively communicate.
This is important so you can fulfil your legal and moral duty of care to your traveling employees to keep them safe. Without having travel risk management solutions in place you could expose your employees to unnecessary harm and also expose the company to legal action.
Undertake a travel-focused business risk threat assessment
According to figures from the United States’ State Department, around 837 Americans die every year while overseas from unnatural causes. This can include things including automobile and bus accidents, natural disasters, terrorism, homicide and illness.
Some countries are much more dangerous to visit than others. Your country’s foreign affairs or state department will usually have travel advice regarding known threats to safety that you should follow.
Preventative steps to take
If you have employees traveling to risky areas for business, your travel risk management threat assessment should outline preventative measures that can be taken.
If there are preventable diseases, you should insist your employees receive any applicable vaccinations.
Where there are known crime or terrorism hotspots, advise against travel to those areas.
Where there is civil unrest, advise against travel to those areas.
Where there are poor road conditions and many fatalities, advise your employees not to drive cars in those areas.
When there’s a disease epidemic or pandemic (like COVID-19) advise not to travel at all.
Importance of proper internal communications around travel risk management
Communication is critical in any urgent situation that can pose a threat to the health and safety of your employees – you should not overlook travel risk management when you are preparing for different scenarios that you may need to communicate with employees about.
To start with you should communicate your company’s travel risk management policies widely so that employees are aware of them.
1. Be prepared
When you need to quickly communicate critical information to your employees, it's important that you have a strategy in place about how you will go about it. A crisis situation can happen quickly and is often unexpected, so being prepared in advance helps you to get on the front foot when one a problem arises.
Your strategy should outline what steps will be taken, who will take those steps and what channels will be used to communicate with employees when there is a travel risk management issue.
2. Choosing the right channel to communicate
When you have employees who are on the move, they may not be checking their emails religiously. Or they might be like the many office workers who miss important emails due to overloaded inboxes.
You can try alternative solutions to communicate, for example, sending popup messages that appear on desktop screens and can’t be missed. Or sending notifications to phones and tablets via an app – a really great way to keep in touch with employees who are on the go. Both of these features are available via DeskAlerts.
3. Target custom audiences
If you have an organization with employees located in different parts of the world – or even just different parts of your country – there may be different messages around travel or safety that you need to provide based on geographic location that isn’t appropriate to send to the entire organization.
Sending custom messages by geo location is a great way to overcome this to ensure that the most relevant and necessary information reaches the people who need to know it. This can be done in DeskAlerts by integrating it with your company’s Active Directory.
4. Have a mechanism for two-way communications
When you have employees traveling overseas who might be caught up in an unexpected crisis, keeping in touch and quickly getting an idea about what’s happening on the ground so the company can take appropriate action is extremely important.
One way to do this is to send quick surveys to affected employees via DeskAlerts. This provides for an effective form of two-way communications where you can gather information and see the results in real time – especially important if you need to make decisions quickly to help keep your employees safe when they’re far from home.
Having travel risk management solutions in place can help to keep your employees safe and save them from being left to their own devices if they are caught up in an unsafe situation while they’re traveling for business.