„Travel Risk, Homeoffice, Remote Work – Corona has significantly changed the requirements for travel policies. Employers who rethink and reinforce issues create the easier re-start, also in terms of sustainability.” Corinna Döpkens, Owner of Corinna Döpkens Travel Management
Until now, many employees and management were only peripherally aware of their company’s travel policy. “Probably also because many business trips used to involve relatively few exceptional situations,” says Corinna Döpkens: “But Corona has made many liability issues acute. In the case of travel warnings, etc., companies are obliged to provide information – which many do not do enough or are even convinced that travellers must research on their own responsibility, e.g. on portals of the Foreign Office, and record this accordingly in the travel policy.” Questions are also often unclarified such as: What do I do if a Covid 19 infection is detected during the business trip? What do I do in a country that is declared a risk area at short notice, including suspended flight connections or new quarantine and testing regulations? Or how are the costs covered in the event of necessary cancellations or tests?
Additional corona guideline makes sense
“Due to the increased risks, not sending employees on business trips at all in the future is hopefully not an option for companies. Rather, a number of points should currently be laid down in a special Corona guideline as a supplement to the general travel policy,” says the travel management consultant (photo left), thinking here also of possible compensation for earnings in the event of quarantine or the temporary use of the car instead of the prescribed train. “As much as possible needs to be included in this supplementary policy, or later permanently in the travel policy, in order to create security in the re-start procedures and of course for the employees,” says the expert. “Companies have a duty of care and employees can demand it – now more than ever.”
Home office in the travel policy
In addition, other, newer topics concerning travel safety and insurance now also belong in the travel policy, or they need to be reviewed at many companies, emphasises Corinna Döpkens. The topic of home offices, for example, has raised many occupational safety questions here: When does the company’s accident insurance take effect during working hours? What availability must be guaranteed by the employee and when? And: When and how are they allowed to work from a place other than their home?
“The topics of remote work, bleisure work and bleisure travel will gain in importance after Corona,” the entrepreneur is convinced, also because after the Covid 19 pandemic and in the wake of New Work, many are developing a different relationship to their job, to previous ways of working and to travel itself. What the digital nomads and self-employed have exemplified in recent years with exciting work-life balance stories could now grow into an increasing need among some permanent employees and managers.
Business trip on the doorstep
Remote work is and remains an individual, detailed topic that companies should include in their guidelines at least as a basic possibility with an authorisation requirement, recommends Corinna Döpkens, who herself travels a lot and works on the road. “Larger companies have already added this to their personnel and work guidelines. And especially in Germany, the desire to work somewhere other than in the office or at home is certainly easy to implement for both small and large companies. Hotels, for example, offer small escapes from the Corona work routine with their home office offers,” she says.
The issue of remote work abroad is more challenging because many aspects of labour law, such as working hours or data protection issues, tax and social security details or, in particular, the scope of previous foreign health and accident insurance policies have to be clarified. “Many companies, especially smaller ones, have not even thought about this yet,” the expert notes. “Nevertheless, one should not reflexively say ‘no’ when the employee expresses the wish to open the laptop for a few weeks in the distant sun-beach scenery, but at least find out the rough framework conditions.”
From “If it goes” to “If, then”
And then there is another topic that now has the greatest opportunities in the business travel segment: the establishment of sustainable business travel. “Many companies have already established environmentally compatible travel guidelines. But now the ‘if it can’ should become a binding ‘if, then’,” says the consultant. For example, a train journey of up to four hours within Germany could be defined as reasonable and binding, or that internal meetings only have to take place as video conferences. For as much as everyone expects a change in travel behaviour, it is also likely that there will be a return to old patterns. For this, it is also worthwhile to involve employees in the development of sustainable travel policies in workshops, etc. This creates a sense of “we”. This creates a “we” feeling, especially if the boss himself exemplifies the topic.
“I estimate that so far up to 30 per cent of companies live sustainable business travel and 10 per cent don’t at all,” says Corinna Döpkens. So there is still a lot of room for manoeuvre during and even more so after Corona.
Sylvie Konzack …
also asked whether home office is green and received the answer: “Yes, a little bit, because you don’t have to travel to the office. So if you think big when it comes to remote work, you could save a lot of extra travel in the future because you stay longer and travel more consciously at the same time.
Photos: © iStock.com/Valeriy_G, © iStock.com/anyaberkut, Böcking, Döpkens