Return of business travel ‘influencing job satisfaction’

The return of business travel has major implications for talent attraction and retention, according to the initial findings from the fourth annual Global Business Traveller Report commissioned by SAP Concur.
Gabriele Indrieri

The return of business travel has major implications for talent attraction and retention, according to the initial findings from the fourth annual Global Business Traveller Report  commissioned by SAP Concur.  

But who are these global business travellers at risk of attrition, what are their expectations, and why is travel volume so closely tied to job satisfaction?

Current levels of business travel are threatening job satisfaction
Nearly all global business travellers (96%) are eager to reclaim the advantages of travel this year. These include personal benefits such as experiencing new places and cultures, going out to dinners and events, and simply taking a break from everyday life.

When it comes to business benefits, nearly half of the travellers want to restore relationship-building opportunities from in-person connections and look forward to the productivity of in-person meetings.

However, three in five business travellers indicate that their current travel schedule is falling short of their expectations. Many say a change in corporate travel direction may be to blame, with 82% reporting that their company is returning to pre-pandemic levels but with a “more travel on fewer shoulders” approach.

This has resulted in nearly a quarter of business travellers not traveling at their ideal frequency with 23% indicating that they’ll look for a new position if their travel schedule doesn’t improve, especially when it comes to the Gen Z cohort (at 35%). This is compared to 24% of millennials, 20% of Gen X, and 16% of baby boomers.

The return of business travel calls for a policy reshuffle
It is important to note that business travellers’ expectations remain largely unchanged from 2021. This year, 91% consider some flexible travel and booking options as essential for their company to allow to protect their health and safety when they travel for business—compared to 89% in 2021.

In addition to this, business travellers feel empowered to decline a trip if it doesn’t match their expectations or comfort level. Safety concerns for traveling to certain parts of the world is the most common reason that they’d decline a business trip, with over half of business travellers saying they’d do so. In fact, 84% of business travellers say their business travel has been impacted by the war in Ukraine.

Half of business travellers are willing to decline a business trip their company assigns if they have Covid-19 related health concerns about it. A quarter of business travellers are willing to refuse a business trip if they’re feeling burnt out with travel and need a break, with a quarter declining a trip if it required using non-sustainable travel options.

However, given the power dynamics in today’s labour market, business travellers intend to ask for more in order to accept a position that requires more travel: 92% say they’d need additional salary, benefits, or travel flexibility to make a move.

While nearly three in five would want a larger salary and bonus to take a position that requires more travel than their current one, others could be attracted by benefits to make their work more enjoyable. Nearly two in five business travellers (39%) would need additional vacation time, an almost as many (37%) want the ability to work from home as a lure.

Successfully attracting executives to positions requiring additional travel may take more than higher salaries and bonuses. In fact, little more than half of executive-level business travellers would take a position with more travel based on this perk (51%).

Travel departments face new pressures in a turbulent landscape
The travel industry has had myriad challenges in 2022, including lingering health and safety concerns associated with Covid-19, increasing travel costs, and rampant travel cancellations and delays. Business travellers are more concerned about travel cancellations and delays (61%) than the typically dreaded task of filing the expense report for their trip (39%).

In turn, we’ve seen a noted shift in stress levels before, during, and after business travel. Nearly two in five global business travellers say that during the trip is the most stressful stage of travel—a seven-point increase from the 31% of business travellers who said this in 2021.

All surveyed travel managers expect their role to be more challenging in the next 12 months compared to last year. And more than half of travel managers say their job is already as stressful or more now than during the previous year. Many believe the stress is caused by increased scrutiny from above, through increasing pressure from senior leadership to demonstrate the ROI of their role.

Forty-nine percent of travel managers anticipate challenges adjusting to frequent staffing changes, and 47% anticipate the challenge of accommodating more travellers in secondary markets and smaller towns. Half of travel managers (50%) say the increasing number of expense reports will add challenges to their job in the coming year, and two in five (40%) say the same about increasing travel volume. Nearly as many travel managers predict challenges from reduced travel budgets (39%) and adjusting to staffing changes in their department (36%).

Year-over-year changes in business travellers’ stress levels are some of the most telling findings about the state of business travel. They remind us that industry challenges aren’t theoretical. In these moments of change—the pandemic, the Great Resignation, and inflation—the impacts are very real, and global business travellers are feeling and experiencing them directly.”

This year’s survey also offers insights into sustainability trends, generational differences among business travellers, and more.

About the author: Gabriele Indrieri is VP & Managing Director for SAP Concur EMEA South.