How to set reasonable expectations for business travel ROI

Business is business – and travel is no exception. Companies should expect a return on investment for business travel, just as in other areas like sales or manufacturing. After all, as major software companies roll out expanded mobile capabilities and airlines offer WiFi on most flights, the potential for productivity outside of the office is nearly boundless. But what can you reasonably ask of employees in terms of available time during travel? Finding the right balance is not just desirable – it’s essential.


Travel time can be valuable time
Travel can free up time for extra work – long flights, extended layovers, and long evenings in a hotel room can all create opportunities to get things done. But before your employees head to the airport, make sure both of you know what you want to achieve. To make the most of employee travel time, it’s important to identify what your goals are and what you hope they will accomplish – before the trip begins. Set clear expectations and get buy-in from your people.  


The human factor
While traveling can be a great time to catch up on email or draft a whitepaper, it can also be exhausting and time consuming, even for the most experienced road warriors. Security checks, taxi lines and getting settled in a hotel room all take time and energy. Consider the mental and physical toll of travel when asking traveling employees to complete extra tasks, or take on projects not specifically related to their trip. Travelers need time to adjust to their surroundings so they can focus on the original purpose of their trip. For instance, if you’re sending someone to make an important presentation, they’ll need time to focus, rest, and prepare.



High standards, poor results
When productivity standards get set too high, overworked employees aren’t the only ones who suffer. Poor performances during presentations can cost a company important connections, new business and investor interest. Employees who feel pressured to perform at a certain level may place themselves or their health in danger in order to meet expectations – and a company could be held liable for the damages incurred.



Making business travel work for everyone
Employers should evaluate each trip as a unique experience before setting up tasks and objectives for traveling employees. Planning in advance will give both parties a say over what happens – and will help to safeguard against liability or damages.  


  • Plan for the unexpected. Take flight delays, possible cancellations and city-specific issues into account when planning for a trip. Allow additional time for commuting if employees are traveling to an area where special events are taking place.


  • Encourage down time. Getting plenty of rest is vital to good performance. Employees who feel rested and relaxed are more likely to focus on the task at hand amd give a good performance during presentations or meetings.


  • Stay flexible. Even the most prepared travelers encounter roadblocks. Be prepared to accept assignments a day late, or even relieve traveling employees of certain tasks altogether. It’s more important for them to feel rested and confident than to complete a minor task.

Remember, traveling employees are the face of your organization while they’re on the road. To accurately represent you, they need to put their best foot forward – and tired, stressed employees don’t make a good impression. ROI doesn’t always mean cash in hand. Building good relationships and making connections is infinitely valuable to any organization, and should be recognized as such.

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