A lot of businesses are facing significant setbacks because of the ongoing global pandemic. The majority of trade shows, business meetings, and long-planned conferences and seminars have been postponed to ensure the safety of business owners and employees; and rightly so. It is important to value the health and safety of those who work for you.
However, there is some good news. Countries have been keen for business to continue on as normal, or as close to normal as possible. This has been reflected in many of the COVID-19 travel policies across the globe as many countries have made exceptions for people travelling on business. As a result, business travel has not yet come to a complete standstill and this flexibility in travel restrictions is only set to continue.
Although travel policies have been a bit more flexible for business travel, there have still been restrictions. You must know what these restrictions are and how you should prepare for them, which can be difficult in this ever-changing world of COVID-19. It is also important to know how you can help protect yourself and your colleagues from COVID-19 when travelling abroad.
Here are some questions you should ask yourself before travelling or booking a business trip.
Is it an essential trip?
Before you travel, you need to consider whether you’re putting yourself or your colleague at unnecessary risk. Ask yourself, is the trip absolutely essential? For instance, if you plan to travel to Zurich for a business meeting but a Zoom call would do, then the trip is not necessary and it is probably best that you stay put.
One way of deciding whether a trip is essential or not would be to conduct a risk assessment.
How would I conduct a risk assessment?
An analytical approach to a risk assessment is a good one, but remember that the employee’s views and thoughts on the matter will always come first.
To perform a risk assessment you will need to do a quick analysis of factors such as destination, the health of the employee, the length of the trip, the likelihood of community spread during the length of the trip, and the population density of the trip destination.
You also need to weigh up the likelihood and the impact of a risk. If it is very likely that a risk will occur on the trip and that it will also have a big impact on the individual travelling, then the risk is too high and the trip should not take place.
What are the restrictions of the country I am travelling to?
Part of this risk assessment will involve looking at the restrictions and the COVID-19 policies of the country you are travelling to. It could tell you that the country has identified a new more infectious strain, which would increase the risk, or the borders could be closed altogether.
This would involve checking the government site of the country you are travelling to, most of which will have a designated page to COVID-19 policy updates. It’s also a good idea to check websites like WHO for a more global picture of the pandemic as well as travelling advice. Remember to also check the local restrictions and what it will be like to re-enter the country you live in.
But let us say that you have done all of the above and decide to proceed with the business trip, what next?
What should I do about booking a flight and accommodation?
Many people have asked if air travel is safe. One of the biggest risks of flying at the moment is touching a surface and then touching your face or mouth. This is why private jet charter has increased in popularity as it has fewer touchpoints than commercial airlines, which means you are less likely to get infected. Charter companies are also offering initiatives for those travelling on business, which has made private jet charter popular among business travellers. Still, it is important to remember that the majority of planes are equipped with HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) which is 99.97% effective at removing miniscule particles from the air. Many airline companies have also stepped up their cleaning and disinfecting processes between flights to ensure that their passengers have a safe journey.
When booking a ticket or accommodation it is more important than ever that you look at the fine print, such as what would happen if the flight or trip was cancelled. Would you get refunded? Would you be able to move your ticket? Does the accommodation offer a free cancellation policy? It is also worth looking at what COVID-19 safety measures that they have put in place, especially for accommodation, as one hotel could be better than another. When booking a ticket it is also worth looking into flexible tickets, where an airline allows you to move your flight to a later date. This could come in handy in these uncertain times.
What should I do about Travel Insurance?
Unfortunately, the standard insurance plan will not cover any losses if your business trip is cancelled due to COVID-19. So it may be worth looking into other business travel insurance options. At least this way you may be able to recover some of the loss from the trip being cancelled or if it’s called off due to a change in circumstances.
How can I keep safe while travelling?
A lot of the advice below is the same advice you will follow in your daily life and it is simply about taking these good habits with you.
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, which means for at least 20 seconds.
- Do not travel if you have any COVID-19 symptoms.
- Wear a face mask as this has been suggested to help decrease the chances of you infecting those around you.
- Practice social distancing wherever possible. This means keeping at least 2 meters apart from others.
- Although this may seem unnatural for a business trip, do not shake hands with anybody.
- Avoid touching your face.
- Pay using a card instead of cash.
- Wipe down any surfaces you can, whether it be in the hotel or on the plane, with an antibacterial wipe. They should be cleaned already, so this is just an extra precaution.
- Prioritise taking care of yourself, make sure you are eating and sleeping well, even if, for whatever reason, you are finding the trip stressful.
- If you use the toilet on the plane make sure to close the lid before you flush as this will minimise the amount of potentially infectious particles in the air.
That is everything you need to know about travelling for business in a pandemic and hopefully, this guide will help you navigate these difficult and turbulent times, particularly when it comes to travel. Remember the most important thing is to stay safe and you never know, before long things could be back to normal and business travel could be back to what it was before the global pandemic.