New ways of working bring new ways of meeting

“New ways of working will create new ways of traveling,” said Caroline Strachan, Managing Partner of Festive Road, during the kick-off conference session of the recent Business Travel Show Europe in London.

Strachan was just one of many speakers reflecting on the implications for the displacement of post-Covid workforce no longer congregating in offices but instead operating in solitude – most likely in their own homes. The big questions that this mini-revolution raises for companies are when, where and how should they bring together their employees?

In fact, there is a fourth related question: who should bring them together? The answer, some argue, lies with travel managers, for whom an opportunity presents itself to evolve into a larger role as collaborative managers of highly strategic employees.

“After the pandemic, companies have had to change their HR and real estate strategies because people don’t use their workspace in the same way,” says Scott Davies, CEO of the UK Institute of Travel Management and from Ireland. “A number of our members are now involved in a five-way conversation with HR, Property, Security and Senior Management. “

Strachan’s colleague on Festive Road, consultant Louise Kilgannon, makes an almost identical observation. “I see travel managers interacting a lot more with the other departments of the company: sustainable development, ESG [environmental, societal and corporate governance], HR, real estate and those in charge of the future of work, ”she said. “It’s a real opportunity to have a seat at the table in terms of decision making.

As for what is being discussed at this table, Kilgannon thinks that a lot of it is “the redefinition of what a business trip is.” Going to the office becomes more of an event, and the goal is much more a matter of collaboration, while time spent at home is devoted to in-depth work. What you can’t duplicate at home is the chance that you run into someone in the hallway and discover something related to the project you’re working on. This is why companies are leading collaborative initiatives.

There is also growing discussion about assessing when business travel is and is not justifiable. Scott Gillespie, managing director of travel management consultancy tClara, told another BTS Europe session that at the highest level, companies have an identical conversation about whether or not to fire their staff. in shared workspaces.

“The issue of getting back to the office is the same issue we have in terms of justification for travel – it’s just the same thing in a broad sense,” Gillespie said. “That’s the dilemma: does remote working or not, and if not, when does it not work? “

Instinctively, even anecdotally, we all know that remote working has its limits. Whether it’s going to the office or traveling, said Gillespie, “Think about why we are meeting. It’s because we think there’s a spark, a tension, a magic that’s going to happen when we get together in a room that we can’t get through a virtual channel.

The challenge is that there is no satisfactory way to measure Gillespie’s “spark” or Kilganon’s “serendipity”. Yet companies see clearly that they must adapt in order not to miss them.

One company that does exactly that is AMS, a company specializing, in its own words, in “Total Total Workforce Solutions”. It took AMS a few months to pilot with commercial property services company JLL, a booking platform that brings together hotdesk and meeting space providers across the UK. Employees can reserve a space by the day or even by the hour.

AMS has three offices in the UK: in London, Bracknell and Belfast. But, says Michael McSperrin, senior director of real estate and travel, the company is hiring more and more people who don’t live near either of these locations, while existing employees have left them in the past two years. last years.

“We want to make sure they feel connected to each other,” says McSperrin. AMS is therefore turning to hotdesk rental “rather than renting dedicated offices here, there and everywhere”, although it adds that the platform “helps to gather details on where we might need to be. more of our own office space in the future.

The reviews, says McSperrin, have been “overwhelmingly positive. Our employees have the chance to meet colleagues for the first time in two years or, in some cases, never. “

McSperrin adds that there are many reasons to offer hotdesks, including “doing interviews, getting away from the dining room table or the kids, and just having a team of AMS people sitting together, even if ‘ they do not work directly with each other. We find that building relationships with other teams is just as important, ”he says.

“Initially it was seen as a workspace issue, but as we follow the project we find that it is very strongly related to travel. This gives people the ability to meet anywhere and reduce long distance travel to our own offices, which is a benefit to employee well-being, ”said McSperrin.

At BP, meanwhile, the energy giant’s travel team is actively working to answer a crucial question: “Are we realizing an alignment on our return to power and our future agile hub, club and roam program?” , where we make people independent and individually responsible? to make decisions about where they operate safely and efficiently? Asked Global Head of Travel & Meetings Richard Eades at BTS Europe.

The Eades team seeks answers to this question in partnership with real estate and facilities – and beyond. “Travel is part of the entire digital and talent environment at BP,” he said. “How are we going to use [our] space in the future? There are 6,000 offices in our Sunbury office. We are clearly not going to have 6,000 people in the Sunbury office now. “

Eades and his colleagues plan to convert some of the office space into what he called “collaboration or meeting space” instead of using external locations.

He said these are the kinds of questions most large organizations are asking themselves now – questions that travel managers can be increasingly influential in framing the answers to.

“Over the past year we have certainly had more engagement, more visibility and more room at the table,” he said. Collaboration management helps travel management grow.

About Mary Moser

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