Jon Richardson is Risk Messaging Specialist, EMEA at Concur
Travelling the globe today, more than ever before we face heightened risks to our safety and wellbeing. Newsworthy events of the type that often receive global coverage carry the real potential to impact us as we work abroad.
With greater risks borne of greater business travel, companies have made travel risk management a key part of their corporate policies — an undoubted assurance to any worker on the move.
But while they may have strategies in place to deal with big events, like air disasters or terrorist attacks, how well set up are they to deal with the smaller, everyday things that can catch the business traveller out?
The reality is that a stolen bag or used-up medication is more likely to occur than a major civilian event when you are on a business trip, yet still cause you considerable stress and delay.
Surviving without a wallet for a few days may be possible at home, but can seriously impede your ability to work effectively when you're abroad.
Most companies are attentive to the needs of their employees when they travel for work, but if yours is large and you are one of a number of people who travel often, the chance of little things slipping through the cracks is inevitably greater. And little things can quickly become major things.
In the aftermath of an incident, the ways in which you are enabled and supported by your company can profoundly colour the experience. Their actions can either make it a little bit more positive, or overtly more stressful.
Time is usually of the essence in effecting a good response plan, and it's therefore vital that your employer understands your relevant personal needs and that the right communication channels are established before you go.
For instance, in a well-managed scenario, an employer will be aware if you have a medical condition and know how to support you if you urgently need more medication (or worse still, suffer an attack) while away on business.
They'll understand the specific health regulations of the country and municipality you are in with regards to your condition. If you run out of medication, they will they arrange for the correct replacement to be sent.
This is foresight that Julie Hamp, formerly of Toyota, would have appreciated when she asked her US-based sister to send her pain medication to Japan. First arrested by the Japanese authorities on account of the fact that the medication was illegal, she was then forced to resign from her job.
As a worker on the move, your working environment is prone to constant change, and while your employer can be well-informed, they cannot exert total control over events that take place. You can take as much care as possible to create that element of control but life is unpredictable and things don’t always pan out as planned.
Added to this is the complexity brought about by language barriers, cultural differences, differing laws, or assisting professionals who are unable to take your domestic story into account. These obstacles can bring about a range of additional issues for all concerned.
The question to address then, with regards to managing risk, is one of how closely an employer knows the details of your travel. Whether you take care of your own arrangements or they are made separately, do you feel confident as you pack your bags that the finer points have been accounted for from the company’s perspective?
The big risks may be covered, but if everyday travel is centred on corporate guidelines — i.e. you fly and stay with approved suppliers and accrue expenses within an appropriate budget range — there may be little need for further contact.
This makes sense in terms of managing overall expenditure and enabling work flow for the business, but does not deal with the potential for physical or operational incidents that can impact on personal wellbeing.
So what can you do? It's worth reading your company's Duty of Care before you travel and speaking to the appropriate people within the organisation about the risk policies that exist for everyday incidents of the kinds described above.
Knowing where to turn for help and what courses of actions both you and the company can take when you are abroad will give you some peace of mind.
As far as your firm is concerned, smart response measures can be developed with employee insights and travel data. The more key staff are able to proactively learn about the specific requirements of the travel taking place within their businesses and build them into effective management platforms, the better equipped they can be to deal with a wide range of risks.
This also means they'll be be in a better position to help you in the event that something personal happens. This approach is about gaining an accurate, holistic business travel picture and not about crossing boundaries to know everyone's every move.
When your company has knowledge to apply, you'll be empowered to make good choices in unfamiliar settings — and importantly, you'll feel reassured that everything really is "taken care of".
Read our contributor biography of Jon Richardson