Changing Travel Policy and Implementing Mandatory Video Conferencing
I clearly think travel policies should focus on the need to travel in the first place and not torture employees who are traveling for the employers benefit. This isnt about coddling employees, it is ensuring they arrive at their destinations safe and ready to work.
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This would suggest selecting carriers who have modern equipment (some economy class carriers are actually not bad) over those with aging fleets; selecting carriers who have the best safety records; and yes, reinstating business class policies for travel that exceeds an 8-hour working day (personally I think it should be anything over 5 hours).
To keep costs down, raise the level of approval needed for all air travel and implement Video Conferencing as a lower cost alternative.
HP, Cisco, Polycom, Tandberg and others have a variety of systems which HD quality can dramatically lower travel costs, increase employee productivity (by keeping them off planes), and decrease the likelihood they will be injured while traveling. LiveSize recently brought out a system for under $5K making this technology nearly low cost enough to put in an employees home and making the cost of a trial deployment for any large firm near trivial.
HP just completed a deal with the Marriott to put systems in Marriott hotels so that you dont even have to buy a system; youll be able to rent one once they are installed and available.
Think for a moment what you would say if asked, after an employee or group of employees had died, why you hadnt looked at alternatives to air travel given what was known about the problems, and particularly if your own top executive flew on a private jet.
Wrapping Up: Protecting Our Greatest Asset
Employees are our greatest asset. Forcing them to take personal risks to save a buck when you can both save that buck and protect the employee is bad policy. Think about the employees attitude, the quality of their work, and what it would be like to look at their wife and children should something happen that could have been avoided on a business trip.
If that isnt enough, litigation is increasing in areas related to employee safety, and this one could focus people like lasers on CEO corporate jet perks, with devastating results.
Risk is risk, if someone is badly hurt citing statistics isnt going to be much comfort. People dont have to fly as much as they currently do, there are less expensive alternatives; and if they do have to fly, torturing them to save money is simply bad policy for them and for you. Employees are people, they arent cattle, and when we start getting more concerned about cattle safety then employee safety it is time for a change.