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A new landscape for the travelling workforce

At a glance

  • Business managers predict that business travel will return to near normal in the next 12 months.
  • With the global pandemic, employers are seeing even more duty of care responsibilities to their employees.
  • More businesses are turning to multinational insurance and global assistance programmes to ensure consistency for their employee protection plans.

The heightening of consumer expectation and demand over the last decade or so is a trend that has gradually found its way into the workplace. Employees expect far more from their employers than ever before. Which is probably a good thing, but it is bringing new levels to pressure to bear on organisations as they try to keep up with and meet these expectations and that usually takes the form of employee benefits. As such, the provision of benefits has become a key weapon in the battle for talent, or simply in employee satisfaction.

And what employees want from those benefit packages goes far beyond providing a pension these days. It encompasses everything from providing flexible working and good maternity/paternity terms to providing mental health support and pursuing a meaningful diversity and inclusion policy. “Beyond a financial response to harm caused by an occupational accident for instance, employees do expect that proper precautionary policies and practical services and support be implemented by their employer and their benefits plan.” comments Stephane Baj Head of A&H Zurich UK.

But employee expectation of support and benefits doesn’t stop at the office door, and nor should it. Before the Covid-19 pandemic took a fierce and deadly grip on the world, domestic and international business travel was at its height with around one billion domestic and international flights taking place each year and growing, by 6% annually*.

While that growth has been severely curtailed in the last nine months, it is expected to bounce back in due course with 70% of business managers expecting business travel to resume in the next 12 months, according to the US Travel Association .**

As those employees get back out there, they are heading out into what appears to be a much riskier world. Of course, the experience of a global pandemic makes the world look much less predictable, but the reality is that the world isn’t necessarily or inherently riskier.

What is really changing is the expectations of employees, in all aspects of their working lives. What once may have been seen as an unfortunate event while out on a business trip, is now seen as an unacceptable occurrence, one that the company should have taken steps to prevent happening.

Stephane continues “Employees increasingly expect their employers to be mitigating risks and acting quickly and effectively when something does goes wrong. In short, employees see their employers as responsible for their situation, wherever or whatever that might be, if they are on company business and they expect it to be put right.”

That could be the cancellation or severe delay of a trip, or being trapped in a locked-down country, or being caught up in a security incident or even simply falling ill abroad. Whatever it is, they expect their employer to support them in dealing with it.

And the fact is, regular travellers are the employees most susceptible to falling ill while travelling, domestically or internationally. A study by the Harvard Business Review found that frequent travellers (defined as spending 14 or more nights away from home per month) had significantly higher body mass index scores, with the obvious health issues that can cause or contribute to.

They were also much more likely to report poor self-rated health, clinical symptoms of anxiety, depression and alcohol dependence, significantly reduced physical activity or exercise and trouble sleeping.

The very fact they travel, it seems, puts them at a higher risk of a range of personal issue which could have a hugely debilitating effect on their health and productivity. This only increases the employer’s responsibility that much more.

Wherever the modern employer looks, new responsibilities to their employees are making themselves known. But rather than hide from or try to resist them, successful firms are looking to various partners to help them respond in the most effective way possible.

But crucially, this response has to be fair, consistent and recognisable regardless of who the employee is or where in the world they work. Which is why more and more of them are turning to multinational insurance and global assistance programmes to manage and protect their employees while travelling on business. It not only provides consistency to the employee experience, it brings greater compliance with local regulations and far greater oversight for risk managers and other key management stakeholders.

These programmes not only meet the demands of their employees in an increasingly uncertain world, it provides risk managers with the rigour, consistency of approach and cost effectiveness that they need today.

The landscape of business travel and the associated expectations of employees is indeed changing, and it is changing rapidly. Which is why employers of all shapes and sizes need to understand what those risks and expectations are and create the necessary partnerships to match them.

To find out more about our Zurich Global Employee Protection product click here to visit our webpage or speak to your usual Zurich contact.

 

*Global Business Travel Association, 2019 report, Zurich analysis
**US Travel Association 2020 report, Global Business Travel Association 2020 survey, BBC Worklife August 2020 Research and Market 2020 study.

Image © Getty

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