Study Shows Importance of Business Travel in Era of Hybrid Working

Seven in 10 people acknowledge that a primarily remote work model may lead to employees feeling disconnected from their organization. This intel comes from American Express Global Business Travel (Amex GBT) and Harvard Business Review Analytic Services' new report, "Empowering Culture and Enhancing Engagement through Strategic Travel Investments: Navigating Disruption Successfully," which surveyed over 400 business professionals.

Respondents recognized the significant advantages of in-person meetings for internal purposes (among employees, teammates and new hires). These benefits include fostering stronger relationships among employees and teams (74 percent), promoting greater collaboration (60 percent), cultivating a more robust organizational culture (55 percent), enhancing employee engagement (54 percent), and fostering a heightened sense of inclusion for remote workers and dispersed teams (46 percent). In today's hybrid work environment, travel often becomes a crucial element in facilitating these essential face-to-face interactions.

While remote working has many benefits and has been adopted by around 93 percent of respondents, it can create hurdles to building an office culture and fostering engagement. Business travel can play a key role in bridging this gap, with business respondents identifying meetings, off-sites, and workshops as important tools in relationship-building and collaboration. They agreed that it is more effective to conduct these interactions in-person compared to virtual meetings for team-building (79 percent vs. 19 percent), brainstorming (70 percent vs. 26 percent), interviewing a candidate for a key appointment (64 percent vs. 32 percent) and onboarding/training (58 percent vs. 31 percent). 

Six in 10 respondents also agreed that most employees in their organization believe business travel is a key component of their professional development, and 51 percent agreed leaders in their organization believe the same about employees’ professional development. Perhaps employees want to make up for lost time—40 percent believe that fewer in-person internal meetings during the pandemic had a negative impact on their organization’s professional development and training. 

Less office-based working and curtailed travel imposed by the pandemic were identified as leading to significant workplace challenges. More than half (53 percent) of respondents said their organization had collaboration issues because of fewer in-person internal meetings, while 52 percent experienced decreased employee engagement, and 49 percent faced communication challenges. 

Despite these recognized challenges, respondents indicate travel for internal meetings has not returned to pre-pandemic levels for many organizations, suggesting a potential employee interaction gap. 63 percent said travel to meet colleagues offsite has decreased compared to pre-pandemic, and 56 percent said travel to onsite company meetings is lower. However, according to the 2024 Amex GBT Meetings & Events Global Forecast, meetings professionals expect internal meetings to see the strongest growth of all meeting types in 2024.

Source: Amex GBT

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