June 13, 2024

Travel policy confusion

Recent research by Enterprise Mobility highlighted misunderstandings about what constitutes a business trip. David McNeill, AVP Global Corporate Sales EMEA, outlines the repercussions

Our recent research among 1,000 UK office workers highlighted just how little most people understand about day-to-day business travel, despite its impact on costs, decarbonisation, employee experience and productivity.  

Business travel confusion

There is significant confusion over travel policies. A third of employees (30%) have only read some of their company’s policy or have read it but didn’t fully understand it. One in ten (10%) say they’ve not read the policy at all. Worryingly, 7% don’t know if their company even has one.

This confusion extends even to the principles of what constitutes ‘business travel’. Almost four in ten employees (38%) don’t consider travelling to see an external supplier or customer in the UK to be a business trip, even though more than half (55%) make these journeys. A third (34%) don’t think travelling to a work event or conference counts as business travel.

These misunderstandings are greatest among Gen Z workers, many of whom joined the workforce during or post-pandemic. They’re the most likely (40%) to think that simply going into the office for a day’s work counts as a business trip, though for most people it does not.

A rise in new travel regulations

New regulation is another factor that can render travel policies out of date very quickly. If a business is located in a city within a Low-Emissions Zone and home-based employees travel to the office in a car that is not compliant, who picks up the charge?

We’ve been speaking with corporate customers who are considering separate travel policies for office-based, hybrid working and fully remote workers. They want to ensure employees understand how to define different trips, and who bears the responsibility for each.

But the value of travel policies only comes if people read and understand them. We have also spoken with businesses that don’t revisit their policies annually – and some that have not updated them since before Covid.

It highlights the need for all businesses to ensure their policies are updated, and simple rather than overly complex. They also need to be socialised within the business and sense-checked by people who travel frequently for work, rather than written in an isolated ivory tower.

The effect on reducing carbon emissions

One of the key reasons for an effective travel policy is reducing carbon emissions. The more confused employees are over whether or not a trip is business travel, and the less they know about the corporate policy, the more likely they are to default to using their own cars for work trips – the ‘grey fleet’.

While seemingly the easy choice, the trouble is that personal cars are almost always much older and more polluting than rental vehicles or other travel options. The journeys are unmanaged and employers have little or no control over when, why and how people move.

If organisations are serious about decarbonising business travel, ground transport should be at the top of the list because it takes place every day.

Effective policies can help them reduce grey fleet usage, make travel more efficient and also cut costs, emissions and mileage, all while creating a much better employee experience. It can also help ensure employees know what it is – and what isn’t – a business trip.