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Corporate Travelers Seek Improved Work-Life Balance

By Dennis Jones

Mobile professionals and work-life balance

Manage corporate travelers? Then I’d like to inform you that your business travelers are looking to improve work-life balance. Sounds kind of like a no-brainer, right? But it appears from survey data that the advent of digital technology has actually augmented the need for improved work-life balance.

Why’s that? Well, new digital technologies are powering the modern workplace enabling mobile employees, not just the traditional road warrior, stay productive virtually anywhere they are.  We all know that. But the onboarding of digital technologies are having distinct effects on corporate travelers, according to a new study put out by the Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE).

Because of these new technologies, corporate travelers are feeling less frenzied and more deliberate than ever before. How does that work exactly?

Being more deliberate allows corporate travelers to see their business travel through the prism of larger business objectives. Not just as isolated events. And that’s not all. More and more corporate travelers are starting to see their business objectives as inextricably tied to their life goals. In other words, business travel must support business objectives and business objectives must support life objectives. That’s quite the change.

In turn, this new way of thinking is affecting the priorities of travel managers, who’re fielding more and more questions about improved work-life balance. Now, traveler experience is becoming a key performance indicator that travel managers have to track.

Travel managers aren’t just being altruistic either. Research shows that happier employees, those with an improved work-life balance, make for better, more productive employees. And to the extent that the majority of business travel is in the promotion of existing or new business, why wouldn’t travel managers want to ensure that their traveling colleagues are as happy as possible, so that they can promote as much new business as possible?

There’s also an interesting shift in business traveler priorities that’s breaking down along generational lines, as it’s a distinctly younger cohort of millennial travelers who are more likely to be interested in achieving an improved work-life balance. In fact, they even rank work-life balance higher than personal safety. Ah, the insouciance of youth.

Moreover, younger cohorts are more likely to use ride sharing apps for transportation services and Airbnb for hospitality. They’re also more likely to combine leisure activities with their business trips and are therefore keener to take family members.

What does this mean for travel managers? If you’re a travel manager at a firm with a high number of traveling Millennials, you’ve probably gotten the nudge to modernize your travel policies. But it doesn’t seem too many companies have responded though. Only nine percent of companies actually allow their employees to book “sharing economy” accommodations. That number bumps up to 15 percent when you factor companies with travelers aged 20 to 30.

Overall though, the big picture for business travel looks cloudy, thanks in part to uncertainty in the global economy. For instance, even though there’s a forecasted six percent increase in business travel spending in Western Europe (generally,) there will be an estimated 2.4 percent decrease in business travel spending in the U.K., post-Brexit. Things aren’t that much better in the U.S. either, which will likely face a slight decrease in business travel spending and a minor increase in business travel volume.