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Nurturing a happier workforce through business travel

Written by Staff Writer

January 17, 2023

By Bonnie Smith, GM Corporate Traveller and FCM

Remember the predictions that video conferencing would kill off internal meetings in one fell swoop? Fast-forward to 2023 and nothing could be further from the truth. Despite desperate attempts by virtual platforms to recreate ‘water cooler’ moments, in-personal company meetings are once again high on the agenda for most organisations.

The reason? A healthy company culture is more important than ever. In fact, a recent study from Harvard Business Review revealed that a healthy company culture could lead to 67% more collaboration between peers and 62% greater ability to build closer relationships with key customers as well as 41% improved customer service. And the truth is that a healthy workplace culture can only truly be achieved when meeting colleagues in person.

Carl Winston, founder and director of the L. Robert Payne School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at San Diego State University recently said that “relationships grow as a result of life experiences that happen face-to-face. You can’t grow a relationship electronically. You can maintain it, but you can’t grow it.”

Winston is right. While virtual meetings are extremely convenient, they can never replace face-to-face interactions.

At FCM, we have seen that where the office used to drive workplace culture, business travel is now taking over this role. Of course, people are still travelling to close deals, maintain business relationships and attend conferences. But they are also travelling to regain some of the camaraderie they have lost since the pandemic.

After all, business travel is creating important opportunities for connection. The lines between work and leisure are disappearing as the breeding ground for culture shifts away from the office to regular, coordinated travel. 

Companies need to look at business travel as a new way to build a culture within the organisation. Gone are the days of daily face-to-face contact between colleagues; instead, weekly, monthly, or quarterly get-togethers will be how employees collaborate and innovate.

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Business travel has become an important investment, a key part of the business strategy, and instrumental to the company’s long-term growth and to the happiness of the workforce. Companies need to show their employees that they’re willing to invest in them and that they want to create a long-term growth plan for them. Travel is an important way to do this.

In our current economic climate, organisations are crunching the numbers and are carefully scrutinising and re-evaluating the need for travel. Very often, that means that only upper management is allowed to hop on a plane to travel the world.

Therefore, travel has become a powerful incentive and a clear indication that the employee is important and valued.

Travel also promotes diversity and inclusion as employees get to explore new cultures and develop into global citizens. Employees today want the freedom to set up a home somewhere that gives them the lifestyles they desire. And it is this flexibility, enabled by technology, that opens the door to something else – a diverse workforce and its vibrant, collective power. Diverse workforces bring a variety of perspectives, along with insights into your customers, who, after all, are diverse too.

 

In their latest trends report, Amadeus coined the term ‘work from roam’ and believes remote workers will adopt an increasingly nomadic lifestyle, migrating to different locations as ‘work from anywhere’ policies become normalised – and the workforce becomes younger and increasingly keen to travel. 

The good news is that 2023 has been earmarked as the year businesses will rediscover the human connection. This is after many organisations left their humanity behind in 2022 in a crazy rush to jump on the digitalisation bandwagon. The idea isn’t to return to constant travel but to acknowledge its value. After all, employees’ happiness is built on strong company culture, good salaries, flexibility, and growth opportunities as well as business travel.

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