Why business travel may never be the same again

Last week I started the day with a client meeting in Singapore, checked in with the team in London, Yorkshire and Surrey at 9am, had a mid-morning catch-up with one of the team by a lake an hour north of Oslo, went to Germany to discuss the detailed programming of a new project and then headed back to Asia for a meeting with our Singapore client.

It dawned on me that all this would have been technically possible pre-Covid, but would it have been culturally acceptable? I would have felt some sense of duty to be physically in either Germany or Singapore. I might have worried that my client would feel that we were not taking the project seriously enough, if I had suggested holding the meetings online, or even ‘over the phone’. I perhaps would not have taken the risk and instead headed to the airport.

If I am honest, I probably would have gone to either Singapore or Germany, with all the added cost, time and carbon footprint associated with such a trip. But now I feel a sense of release that I can’t travel so much, a sense that I probably travelled a little more than was absolutely necessary, and a sense of freedom that I can now serve clients in different continents on the same day.

As we plan forward towards a Post-Covid new normal, I feel that I need to help us move to a more sensible blend of face to face, and remote working.  That we should not automatically revert to running off to Heathrow every time we need to meet. A new balance will need to be the order of the day, and a new cultural norm will need to be cast… and the benefits will be manifold: lower stress levels, less time away from home, more time on client business, less cost to the us/client system for the travel, and lower carbon emissions. 

This will take some corporate courage on all our behalf, but we should map out the ‘new normal’ we want and not just sleepwalk back into our usual habits again.    

The Herd

09.02.21