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“This could have been a zoom meeting:” the company rethinks travel

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Boeing CEO David Calhoun has access to the company’s aircraft as part of his work. Still, he told the interviewer that he didn’t expect to fly too far into a post-pandemic internal meeting.

Calhoun, like any other colleague, is very effective at checking in with colleagues, and according to his Leading at a Distance account, minimizes advance notice for more meetings. I found that I could participate and schedule. A recent book by James M. Citrin and Darleen De Rosa.

“I do more customer trips because it’s still the most important way to build relationships,” Calhorn told the author. “But most trips when leading a big company visit your own team. Not so much.”

There is broad consensus that the frequency with which we fly for work and the purpose for which we travel will change significantly after a pandemic. Travelers may also be different. The result is a change in what the travel industry offers to business people. This is a source of nearly one-third of pre-pandemic revenue.

With a year and a half of quitting virtually all trips and doing business with video conferencing, many businessmen find that many of their previous trips are not worth the time, physical and mental condition, family and environment. Even before considering the role that travel played in transmitting the virus across continents.

I have Popular meme: “This meeting may have been an email.” A person who has traveled long distances in a single work meeting simply says, “This trip may have been a zoom call.” I know I can do it.

And some organizations and individuals are taking steps to curb it before the trip is fully resumed. Significantly increasing pressure is an effort many companies are making to reduce emissions. This is a goal that often accompanies reducing carbon dioxide emissions on business trips for employees. ..

One scenario was proposed by Calhorn. Companies can dramatically reduce the overall travel category, including direct meetings with internal colleagues in other cities. For example, last year’s Wall Street Journal analysis predicted that in-house meetings and training would account for 20% of all business trips, 40-60% of which would be permanently gone.The journal concludes: 19-36 percent The number of business trips will disappear. Bill Gates predicted at a DealBook meeting last fall Even after things have been normalized, the trip will be more than 50% lower.

In contrast to domestic leisure trips Most have recovered, Business trips are relatively slow. According to the report, only 9% of companies have resumed pre-pandemic travel levels. Recent survey According to the International Association of Certified Accountants. United Airlines When Delta Air Lines Both recently said that despite the increase in recent months, business trips remain about 60 percent below pre-pandemic levels. As the number of cases of coronavirus increases in the last few weeks, recovery from business trips may be further delayed.

However, Calhorn’s plans to reduce internal business trips reflect the findings of the Association of Accountants, with two-thirds of companies allowing business trips for sales and customer meetings, internal objectives and training. Business trips for the program are not allowed.

Early signs suggest that most companies are reluctant to dramatically reduce an estimated two-thirds of business trips, including professional services such as sales calls, customer visits, meetings, and consulting. .. Executives continue to be wary of losing to rivals they meet in person or losing significant contracts due to inadequate virtual communications. Jamie Dimon, Chief Executive Officer of JPMorgan Chase, said: May The customer told him that “another banker visited, but our bank did not.” His bank lost its business.

United Chief Executive Officer Scott Kirby, Forecast earlier this year “Business trips are about relationships, so business demand is fully restored,” he said in a conference call, adding that “it is not possible to build relationships in such a medium.”

Some believe that corporate travel could expand as increasingly dispersed workers need to regroup on a regular basis.

Lindsay Nelson, Chief Experience Officer and Brand Officer of online travel agency Tripadvisor, said: “But the types of people traveling and the purposes they are traveling to will change.”

Nelson predicted that the telecommuting arrangement would mean more employees returning to the company’s office. As a result, a greater percentage of workers will jump into the headquarters or offsite meeting locations and gather together, rather than an elite subset of employees who constantly fly away from headquarters.

These changes could allow hotels and airlines to rethink their loyalty programs, which have typically addressed enthusiastic road warrior travelers, and attract the business of regular but infrequent travelers. .. Nelson said such travelers may look for a variety of perks, such as extended flexible flight cancellation terms that were popular during pandemics. Another trend the industry can address: nearly 90% of business travelers Survey by SAP Concur Recently, they said they plan to take a personal vacation on their business trip next year.

However, companies can not only accept the recovery of business trips, but also take advantage of changes in practices over the past year to open new chapters on how to approach them. A compelling reason to do so is the environmental impact, especially when organizations seek to reduce their climate footprint.

Commercial air travel is about 3-4 percent of total US greenhouse gas emissions.. Due to the low density of seats, first class travel can generate four times as much emissions as sitting behind an airplane.

For example, in Zurich’s reinsurance company Swiss Re, flights accounted for about two-thirds of its operational carbon dioxide emissions. As part of its commitment to net zero emissions, the company took advantage of last year’s decline in corporate travel as an opportunity to reduce carbon dioxide emissions more permanently. Air travel for the company’s employees is expected to be down about 80% from last year’s 2018 level and more than 30% this year from the 2018 baseline.

In January, Swiss Re began adding a significant carbon emission surcharge, equivalent to about $ 500, to flights purchased by 13,200 employees, in addition to the price of a ticket for a flight from Zurich to New York. The team’s budget can absorb these charges that Swiss Re uses to fund carbon offsets and removals due to the low flight volume of its employees.

But when the trip comes back and the extra charges affect the budget, the goal is to get employees to think more about whether they really need it when booking the trip.

Misha Repman, Swiss Re’s Senior Environmental Management Specialist, said: “We can integrate our trips and travel more carefully than before.”

Other companies are heading in the same direction. Salesforce Announced in April We plan to reduce our business trip carbon dioxide emissions by 50% from 2019 levels as a percentage of our revenue.Deloitte has announced a goal to reduce travel emissions per employee 50 percent by 2030.. EY’s goal It is to reduce business trip emissions by 35% from fiscal year 2019 to fiscal year 2025.

In addition to reducing the number of flights, companies calculator To determine where the meeting has the lowest emissions, such as where some participants can reach by train. And some are “Cluster conference, ”Participants gather at nearby hub locations and virtually connect with participants in other regional clusters.

Environmentalist and writer Paul Hawken calls flying long distances for business meetings a “catastrophically huge waste of resources” and argues that companies will be better off with fewer trips. .. “We have learned a good lesson on how to work without moving the protoplasm,” he said.

It’s easy for an organization to revert to previous practices, and probably many will. But their environmental goals will encourage some businesses to rethink who travels and why. And while we are familiar with the limitations of video conferencing, there are compelling reasons to resign to stop traveling and settle for Zoom.

Delaney is co-founder and editor-in-chief charter, A media and services company focused on workplace transformation.

What do you think? Do companies need to reduce business trips indefinitely? How? Tell us: Dealbook@nytimes.com..

“This could have been a zoom meeting:” the company rethinks travel

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