Do you remember the public service message, “It’s 10 PM, do you know where your children are?” It loops through my mind because I regularly talk with small business owners about business travel and safety. My question to them is, do you know where your employees are?
Ensuring the health and safety of employees is a legal and moral responsibility for companies. Whether they’re in the office or traveling for business, the need has never been higher: 85% of risk professionals say the world is more dangerous than a year ago.
A recent survey of 1,650 employees at small and midsize companies found that nearly three in five have changed their accommodations on a business trip in the past 12 months because they felt unsafe, with over a third reporting they did this more than once. Nearly a quarter have experienced a situation while on a business trip where they thought they were in immediate danger.
Health and safety concerns are by far the most viewed threats to business travel today among SMB travelers, but they shouldn’t be. There are precautions that SMBs can take and valuable solutions that can make employees feel at ease, with the peace of mind that they’ll be protected on their business trip. Here are five tips for SMBs to deploy safety strategies for employees at scale.
SMBs should start by ensuring data is in place to make educated safety and support decisions. Data will be needed to make timely, reliable information available, provide travelers and other employees with trusted guidance, properly assess safety risks, and support when needed.
To build a framework of reliable information, consider integrating data from sources, including health advisories, weather, security updates, and transportation disruptions. Additionally, consider building a risk scoring system to evaluate destinations, guide employees, and explore risk scenarios to measure the impact of incidents on employees and operations.
This might seem like a lot of work, but technology can help automate much of this data vs. compiling manually. For example, organizations like International SOS offer senior health and security experts to advise organizations on comprehensive plans and procedures in the event of an emergency. International SOS or Anvil Group also provides tools to track employee locations and communicate at a moment’s notice. Travelers can also use TripIt Neighborhood Safety Scores to monitor the risks at their destinations.
Most importantly, plan to meet employees where they are—utilize flexible and dynamic technology to communicate with them and gather information on their whereabouts that meets a wide range of employee needs.
2—Conduct Regular Risk Reviews
As a next step, SMBs should regularly review risks that could hinder travel, operations, and employees. In today’s world, rising political polarization and global instability mean leaders need to follow changing rules and address concerns. An excellent place to start would be the U.S. Department of State’s Travel Advisory webpage, which provides timely and reliable safety and security information about every country in the world. The site shares country-specific details that could impact travel, such as entry/exit requirements, local laws and customs, health conditions, transportation, and other relevant topics.
It’s important to weigh the cultural and political environments of travel destinations and assess whether travel policies and processes can flex with disruptions. Ensure systems are in place to communicate with employees about risks and resources to help when situations go sideways.
3—Evaluate Travel Policies
Make sure travel policies protect employees. This should include emergency plans for theft, harassment, natural disasters, transportation accidents, medical issues, etc. While natural disasters and geopolitical disruptions certainly can affect the health and safety of employees, health incidents are seven times more likely to occur than security incidents.
In addition to incident preparation, be sure that employees have a way to say no. Nearly half of SMB travelers expect to be able to surpass company policies to ensure they’re safe when traveling. Of the 93% willing to refuse a business trip, safety or social concerns about traveling to certain parts of the world and health concerns about the destination are the top reasons.
One of the best things companies can do to protect employees is to provide education. SMBs can use technology and establish the best travel policies, but at the end of the day, employees are their own first line of defense.
Businesses should prioritize education about risks, prevention, and resources that ease access to medical attention while on trips. Look for community resources such as local health and safety organizations to provide training. Duty of care solution providers or insurance providers likely offer resources as well, so check with existing partners to get expert advice and training materials.
5—Implement a System that Supports All Employees
It doesn’t have to all be about technology, either. Businesses will need a system that recognizes the vast differences in employee preferences. There are many nuances to consider across generations, personal preferences, or hybrid/remote employees.
For example, older employees may be more concerned with data privacy, while younger employees are more likely to be ok with sharing more. LGBTQ+ business travelers, women, or those with certain religious beliefs or disabilities may feel unsafe or unequipped to visit certain regions.
When business leaders create a safe environment for everyone, it can establish employee trust and loyalty and promote retention.
A complete guide to developing a safety strategy at scale includes predicting risk, taking preventative measures, and reacting quickly to crises to help maintain business continuity. Try implementing these five tips to deploy safety strategies across SMBs to provide impact for all employees.
Ryan Demaray is the Global Head of Sales SMB at SAP Concur.