Business travel is likely to be the last workplace activity to “stabilise” as the world emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new report by risk management firm International SOS.
The London-based company’s Risk Outlook Report found there were “significant” variations in how quickly different business activities are likely to stabilise post-pandemic, with business travel set to face the longest period of disruption as organisations “build back confidence” among their travellers.
The global survey found that 15 per cent of risk management specialists expected that it could take up to two years for a “new normal” for business travel to be established.
Although those based in Europe were more optimistic that corporate travel patterns will stabilise more quickly, with 40 per cent in the region expecting this to happen within the next six months. Respondents in the Americas and Asia predicted that this process would take longer in their regions.
Globally, just over half of respondents (54 per cent) said their employees were currently willing to travel internationally for work, although this rose to 73 per cent for domestic business travel.
James Bird, security director – intelligence and assistance, at International SOS, said: “There is a job for organisations to build back confidence. Employers are still working out what can be done remotely and what requires that face-to-face interaction.
“While business travel is picking up again, it is not as straightforward as it was. Rapidly changing travel restrictions and testing requirements mean that crossing borders can be complicated.
“For organisations managing travel programmes, it’s vital that they are proactive in understanding the risks – logistical, security and health – and provide the necessary support to employees.”
The report also found that 77 per cent of organisations have adopted a hybrid working approach with employees splitting their time at the office and working from home. Only 15 per cent of companies have now returned to working five days a week at an office or other on-site locations.
International SOS highlighted three ways to support a safe return to work activities including giving employees access to emotional support services, creating the ability to communicate with staff during critical events, and providing location-specific health information.
“For organisations responsible for a lot of business travellers, location-specific health and security information is considered vital for supporting employees,” added Bird.
“Office workers, however, are commonly being supported with emotional support services. Given mental health is expected to be a primary productivity disruptor this year, this mental health support is essential for avoiding a cycle of productivity issues.”