Video conferencing has filled the gap left by decreased business travel, but nothing beats face-to-face interaction. A study by the U.S. Travel Association found for every dollar invested in business travel, companies realize $12.50 in incremental revenue.

Between April and September, a Global Rescue survey found respondents cancelled business travel. With new health and safety protocols and screening in place, along with increased access to COVID-19 testing, business travel is back on the table.

In a September survey from the Global Business Travel Association, nearly 50% of companies reported they are considering plans to resume international travel in the near future, but haven’t set definite plans just yet. However, 34% reported they expect to resume domestic travel within the next two to three months.

In response to marketplace demand and the coronavirus impact on business travel, Global Rescue’s customized End-to-End COVID-19 Solution is helping to get businesses back on the road.

Creating Business Travel Coronavirus Protocols

Businesses went from pandemic/no travel to eased restrictions/limited travel. Human resources, legal and finance departments — in conjunction with the risk management team and CEO — updated standard operating procedures (SOPs), emergency action plans (EAPs) and disaster recovery plans to include coronavirus.

Some industries are more reliant on travel than others, so it’s okay if your business hasn’t transitioned from video conferences to business travel yet.  

It’s also acceptable if your company needs help updating plans in place or writing new ones. SOPs, EAPs, business continuity plans and disaster recovery plans are all part of the risk management consulting services Global Rescue provides to businesses, nonprofit organizations and educational institutions.

When U.S. Ski & Snowboard, the national governing body for Olympic skiing and snowboarding, was preparing for domestic ski camps in the Pacific Northwest, they called on Global Rescue. The Global Rescue operations team compiled a list of medical facilities for each camp location, ensuring athletes had access to local health care services during the coronavirus pandemic.

When your company is ready — and your employees are willing — to travel, here are a few of the top considerations from the security and intelligence experts at Global Rescue.

Determine if Travel Is Essential

Employers are obligated under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) to provide a workplace free of known safety and health hazards. Workers have a right to refuse work they consider to be dangerous under certain circumstances, like travel to destinations at risk for the coronavirus.

According to the Society of Human Resource Management, essential business travel should be limited to those situations where “business cannot reasonably be conducted without face-to-face interaction or visits to specific locations.”

If travel is necessary, as it might be for a government employee or health care worker, start by asking the employee their preferences. Tolerance levels, health histories and family situations are different for each person. Offer alternatives such as video conferences and group chats.

At Credit Acceptance Corporation in Michigan, employees who didn’t want to travel, or whose jobs were impossible without travel, were remapped to different roles.

“No one lost their job and employees were happy to move to a different department to help out,” said Ken Booth, chief financial officer, in a webinar on Great Places to Work.

Have a Protocol in Place

Start by reviewing OSHA and CDC guidelines.

If a trip is planned, review restrictions of travel destinations, choose alternative options for transportation (driving instead of flying for a short trip) and hire safety-focused vendors (rental agencies, airlines, shuttles and hotels).

Have a contingency plan in place and make sure insurance is up to date. The National Law Review notes, “employers may want to consult insurance brokers to ensure that all insurance protections needed in this environment, including travel insurance, workers’ compensation and general liability, are covered.”

Provide Personal Protective Equipment

OSHA requires employers offer a work environment that promotes hygiene and the tools to keep their areas clean: disinfectant, paper towels, soaps, tissues and no-touch trash cans.

It also mandates companies provide employees with safety-oriented protections, such as a face mask, gloves and hand sanitizer. Walmart started supplying masks to their employees working in stores and distribution centers in April. This also applies to employees who are traveling on business — make sure your company’s travelers are well equipped with the protective necessities.

You may want to check state law. In California, companies are required to reimburse employees for personal protective equipment expenditures.

Communicate with Employees

Educate employees on the new business travel protocols and make sure they know the resources available, such as acccess to travel risk and crisis management services.

An article in Insurance Business UK magazine notes 24% of UK business travelers are aware their employers offer medical and security assistance services — but do not know what is included. Only 15% of these travelers know how to use their 24/7 medical and security assistance support.

Acccess to travel risk and crisis management services, like those offered by Global Rescue, will keep employees safe while traveling for the company. Employees can access emergency medical assistance, worldwide field rescue from point of injury or illness and global telehealth access.

Andrew Tilker of Global Wildlife Conservation called Global Rescue for advice on an upcoming trip from Berlin, Germany to Lyon, France.

“The information that I received helped me make a more informed decision regarding whether to take the trip or not,” Tilken said. “I have decided to go.”

Manage the Traveler Journey

Enterprises, nonprofit organization, NGOs and educational institutions are using the Global Rescue Intelligence Delivery System (GRIDSM), a proprietary system designed to manage every aspect of the traveler journey and provide real-time situational awareness to all stakeholders.

Designated parties — such as a risk manager or security admin — can access:

  • Travel advisories and pre-trip threat assessments keep traveling employees prepared and informed
  • Real-time event alerts keep you aware of worldwide health and safety threats
  • Monitoring and management of all travelers and logistics until travelers are home
  • Traveler contact information, travel history and COVID-19 screening, testing and treatment results
  • If applicable, data can be shared with industry stakeholders, relevant levels of local, state or federal governments and other required organizations

Establish After-Travel Procedures

There should be a check-in process with a manager or the human resources department when travel is completed. Employees might want to schedule a health assessment with their doctor, or plan to work from home for 14 days. Larger companies, like Amazon and U.S. Steel, have on-site testing facilities for employees.

Develop A Complete Solution

The reality of the coronavirus pandemic is that businesses, companies and organizations of all sizes have never faced such uncertainty. While there are guidelines from governing institutions, much of what would be considered “best practice” is largely unknown as the pandemic continues to evolve.

When developing any new procedure or protocol, it’s best to start with planning — identifying what it is your trying to achieve and then working backward. Are you looking to get traveling employees back on the road or back into the office?

It’s where Global Rescue’s End-to-End COVID-19 solution begins. Our medical and security experts identify your exact needs to help you develop a custom solution.

Whether you’ve already started the planning process or you’re just beginning, Global Rescue in-house experts can help you develop, improve or evolve your existing protocols with integrated screening, testing and risk mitigation strategies designed to meet the unique needs of your population.

No screening and tracking plan is complete without a response component. Global Rescue is the leading provider in travel risk, response and crisis management. All COVID-19 case management services are supported through GRID.

Click here to contact a member of our enterprise team to learn more.