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Study: Restrictive travel policies can be counterproductive

Does your company demand that you only use specific suppliers and follow rigid rules when you travel on business? If so, it could be making those trips less effective than they would be if the traveler was allowed more flexibility, according to a new study.

The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) and the expense management firm Concur conducted the research, studying three kinds of travelers: Those whose companies impose mandatory trip policies and vendor selection, which accounts for about 21 percent of U.S road warriors; unmanaged travelers, representing about a third of the group, who have no specific guidelines to follow; and business travelers who operate “under guidelines” from their company. The latter group, which includes 47 percent of U.S. business travelers “may have to follow policies but are only encouraged to use preferred providers, or must use preferred providers but are only encouraged to follow policy,” GBTA said.

That middle road appears to be the way to go, the study suggested

Travelers who operate under a mandatory program “are working hard to stay in budget and be compliant, but it is at the price of their personal life and comfort,” GBTA concluded. It added that those travelers “are significantly less successful with their business travel than those that are less managed or not managed at all.”

Travelers with company guidelines that are more flexible “are successful with staying in budget and being compliant, and given a little less structure in their program, are more comfortable during their trips,” GBTA said. However, it added that “they are exhausted from the travel and the in-transit hassles, and it has an impact on their personal schedules.”

Looking at the total sample, GBTA noted that things aren’t too bad overall for most U.S. road warriors: 74 percent said they were “highly satisfied” with most aspects of business travel, and more than four out of five said “they were able to successfully reach mission-critical business goals.”

Almost half said they would travel more if they could. However, “only 62 percent of travelers said they were satisfied with the ability to minimize personal hardships” inflicted by their travel schedules, GBTA noted.

How can companies make life a little easier for their employees? “More needs to be done to help them plan and reduce stress while in transit, like making sure they’re comfortable when on the road and ensuring they have the technology to do their jobs,” GBTA said.

The study found that 33 percent of business trips are conducted for meetings with colleagues, while 18 percent were for sales calls, 21 percent for training or industry conferences, and 9 percent for other purposes.

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