4 Corporate Travel Safety Tips To Protect Your Traveling Employees
Traveling for business introduces a host of unique problems. Following these four corporate travel security tips will get you headed in the right direction.
Business travel is a large part of many corporate jobs today—but how should businesses go about protecting their employees when emergencies happen? Worryingly, the Global Business Travel Association found that 46 percent of those who travel for work haven’t been provided with a corporate travel safety plan by their employers.
In 2019, U.S. travelers took 464 million domestic business trips. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this figure dropped to 185 million for 2020. By 2024, it’s expected that domestic business travel will be almost back to pre-pandemic levels, at 457 million.
International travel followed a similar pattern. In 2019, there were 5.6 million business visitors to the U.S., and by 2020, this dropped to 1.2 million. Again, these figures are expected to slowly climb back to pre-pandemic levels.
Safety culture might begin in the office—but it must also extend to cover employees who travel both domestically and internationally. Would you want to be one of the 22 percent of business travelers who haven’t been told who to contact if they have an emergency abroad? Accidents, illnesses, pickpocketing, or even getting caught in extreme weather events can happen on any business trip. Your commitment to your employees’ well-being should include developing a culture of safety that helps them stay safe while performing their job—wherever in the world it may take them.
In this article, we’ll explore why every company needs a corporate travel safety plan and share four essential business travel safety tips that will help you keep employees safe while traveling.
Benefits of a Corporate Travel Safety Plan
As business travel begins to slowly return to pre-pandemic levels, companies have a duty of care to provide their employees with the necessary tools and resources for a safe and successful trip. Whether you’re integrating business travel security into an existing plan or creating a dedicated document, preparing for secure travel comes with many benefits.
Business travelers are exposed to more risks than ever before. Since 2019, the number of security alerts issued by International SOS has increased by 80 percent. Worldwide, 400 high-security alerts are issued every month. These can be due to civil unrest, weather events, or terrorist incidents. A corporate travel safety plan can provide your employees with the information they need if they’re affected by one of these alerts.
Increasing employee trust and retention
Many employees enjoy the opportunity to travel for business, with 85 percent of those traveling for work saying they look for this benefit when considering new job opportunities. Business travel can help boost professional development, provide job fulfillment, and help employees perform better at their jobs. But only when it’s done right. A negative experience due to a poorly planned or unsafe trip can impact an employee’s opinion of their overall role.
Building a culture of safety
Showing your employees that you’re invested in keeping them free from danger from the moment they leave home to the moment they return fosters a culture of safety in your business. With safety ingrained in your company culture, employees know they are empowered to practice safety, which means they are more likely to make safer choices when working away from the office.
Additionally, you are empowered to make safe choices for your staff. You can fully consider whether you really should be restarting business travel and know your employees will trust your decision. Additionally, you can try asking for their input when developing your business travel safety plan to show that you’re committed to your safety culture.
Saving time and money
Business travel can lead to higher profits and revenue, but only if it is done safely and with the proper preparation. Employees who haven’t been properly prepared to travel safely can not only lose money but cost significant additional resources.
Even the largest multinational corporations can improve how they prepare for the hazards of business travel. International SOS recently provided support to a business traveler who had to undergo hospitalization for additional COVID-19 tests when traveling to Vietnam for business. Complicating matters, he was unsure how to go about obtaining discharge paperwork and what he needed to do while waiting for approval to catch his return flight.
Now that we’ve covered the rationale and benefits of developing a work travel safety policy, it’s time to consider exactly what you’ll need to include in your own safety plan. Our business travel safety tips below are designed to help you out along the way.
4 Tips to Protect Corporate Business Travelers
Tip 1: Develop a corporate travel safety policy
It’s always better to be proactive rather than reactive—and a business travel safety policy is one of the best ways to fulfill your duty of care to employees while they’re traveling. This document should include all training, procedures, and resources required for your business to keep employees safe. It should also include advice on how employees should handle themselves during business trips.
Your corporate travel safety policy should place employees’ health and safety front and center—with business priorities taking a back seat. You’ll need to consult key stakeholders, particularly those responsible for travel risk management. As with any policy creation, it’s best to assign specific roles to ensure accountability. The all-hazards approach can be a useful model to follow when designing standard protocols that employees can follow in case of emergencies.
Key elements to include within your safety policy include:
- Pre-trip planning
- What to pack (safety-related)
- Travel documents needed
- COVID safety while traveling
- Local customs awareness
- How to find medical support or healthcare
- Ground transportation safety (e.g., car rental or public transport guidelines)
- Risk assessments (country-specific)
- Emergency response plan including communication procedures
Once your policy has been created, remember to review and update it and communicate any changes to your employees at regular intervals. Without the most current information, your employees won’t be able to make the best safety choices before and during their trip.
Tip #2: Provide safety training for traveling employees
Safety training can help employees gain situational intelligence and know how best to react when impacted by all kinds of threats, from natural disasters to political instability or terrorism. If something goes wrong, you won’t be there to help support your people in person—but by training your team ahead of time and offering basic safe travel advice, you can provide knowledge around how to react to common threats so they can stay as safe as possible.
For example, offering travel tips around local customs or security measures required for specific foreign countries should also be included as part of your safety training. Additionally, with 53 percent of business travelers being impacted by terrorism, carrying out drills with crisis simulation exercises can help your employees know how to react and to stay aware of the risks if they find themselves in a dangerous situation. It’s also worth bearing in mind that 83 percent of female business travelers do have safety concerns. Any business travel safety training should also include specific guidance and resources to address or report issues that may predominately affect women, like assault, kidnapping, or sexual harassment.
If your company has a business travel insurance policy, you should also ensure employees understand what it covers and how to use it in an emergency. For example, many policies cover expenses related to medical emergencies, trip cancellations/interruptions, medical evacuations, and lost valuables. Providing employees with guidance on how to report issues if travel plans go awry will lead to a better overall travel experience.
Tip 3: Track threats before, during, and after a business trip
Business travelers can be exposed to a wide range of different travel risks, including but not limited to:
- Travel disruptions
- Crime and terrorism
- Political or social unrest
- New travel policies (e.g., COVID travel restrictions)
- Disease outbreaks and health emergencies
- Extreme weather
- Natural disasters
Companies need to actively monitor an employee’s travel destination before any business trip, to gain a clear understanding of whether there are any active or potential threats in that area. Travel safety maps are one useful way to visualize the threats affecting different locations, and utilizing a threat intelligence system with threat history can give you an idea of previous incidents in an area.
Once your employee embarks on their trip, you’ll want to use a threat intelligence system with real-time tracking to keep an eye on any new threats or emergencies that occur so you can act quickly.
Even after your employees return from a location, it’s a good idea to continue monitoring an area. This will give you a firmer idea of what kinds of events occur and whether there are any patterns. This is especially important if your employees travel to this area frequently, such as to visit a partner or client office.
Tip 4: Invest in the best safety tools for traveling employees
The right tools can go a long way to ensuring your employees stay safe. They also allow your safety monitoring team to keep an eye on things from back at the office without fear of missing something important. There are three main aspects to consider: communication, threat monitoring, and employee safety.
Your incident management team should always include a point of contact dedicated to maintaining open lines of conversation with your employees. If there is an emergency, this person can push out updates using an emergency communication system to ensure information is disseminated as quickly as possible.
In addition to ensuring employee contact information is kept up to date, your emergency communication tool should include a combination of the following capabilities and characteristics:
- Intuitive interface: Send and receive alerts with ease
- Two-way messaging: Allow users to reply with status updates
- Wellness checks: Quickly survey employees to see if they’re safe or need assistance
- Reduced delivery time: Use pre-built notification templates for different scenarios
- Centralized information: Create event pages to provide one source for all information
- Availability: Access via mobile device as an incident can occur at any time
- Emergency hotline: Give employees a number they can call 24/7 for help
Providing an effective communication tool means your employees have access to the support and information they need when they need it—even if they are away from the office.
Threat intelligence and monitoring tools
As mentioned previously, a threat intelligence system is critical for keeping track of threats where your employees are traveling, as well as at home. Reliable threat monitoring tools can help you protect your employees during their trip by tapping into thousands of data sources to intelligently track and monitor threats in real-time. This helps you gain 24/7 situational awareness based on the locations of your employees. These tools also take into account threat history to help you form a clearer picture of what’s happening where.
Employee safety and situational awareness tools
Your employees will feel more confident about their business trip if they know that their work travel security plan includes tools to help keep them safe. One way to achieve this is by offering a 24-hour emergency hotline they can contact for live support and guidance—no matter the time of day.
When incidents do occur, one of the biggest challenges faced by incident management teams is locating your employees. Not knowing whether your employees are in a safe location can be extremely risky for them—and stressful for you. Equipping employees with location-tracking technology or apps like GPS-enabled employee communication software can take the guesswork out of it. That way, you can monitor the location of your employees relative to known incidents.
Preparation Is the Key to Safe Business Travel
A well-thought-out and detailed corporate travel security plan is a must in today’s threat landscape. With business travelers exposed to a wide variety of different risks—it’s vital for companies to create a culture of safety within which their employees can perform at their best. Your corporate travel security plan shouldn’t be a static document either. You should be consistently reassessing relevant threats and updating the plan to account for changes to your travel program or policies. It’s vital to account for all hazards and make sure your employees have the latest information about how to respond. Use the tips and tools we’ve covered above to help keep your business running—and give your employees peace of mind.