The survey, commissioned by Hotel Solutions Provider HRS, revealed that in order to justify a night’s stay away to management, employees needed to be almost three hours’ drive away from their place of work in the UK – meaning that they’d typically have to travel six hours in a day as well as being expected to carry out work duties.
Even more shockingly, for employees on business in Europe the flight time needed to be at least two and a half hours to get the green light from management to stay the night in a hotel. This means that for those travelling from London airports to destinations with a flight time of less than two and a half hours, such as Berlin, Madrid, Milan and Amsterdam, employees would typically be expected to travel back on the same day – putting a company’s duty of care into question.
Jon West, Managing Director of HRS in the UK and Ireland, commented: “It’s staggering to think that bosses expect their employees to travel abroad, attend a full day’s meeting and return on the same day. Travelling abroad can add a huge amount of pressure on an employee and affect their performance, and bosses should really consider their duty of care to the workforce.”
But is every night’s stay away on business truly justified or are employees sometimes pushing the boundaries when it comes to the generosity of businesses? A quarter of those asked admitted to sometimes staying away on business even if they didn’t need to. Of those, nearly 50% said they liked to do so because it’s simply nice to stay in a hotel, whilst a quarter said it was nice to get away from home for a night.
With 60% of those surveyed saying that they enjoyed having an overnight stay when on business, Jon speculated on why business travellers often preferred to stay away, commenting: “In the main, our findings show that business travellers’ reasons for a night away are certainly valid and sensible, but it is telling that 60% say that they enjoy staying overnight on business.
“Despite people often bemoaning the fact that they have to stay away on business to their colleagues, the findings show that in reality some people see a night away as a perk of the job. This could also suggest that people are using this as an opportunity to escape the daily routine of home life and seeking to recharge their batteries before returning back to ‘the norm’.
“We found that nearly 50% of employees said that they sometimes took advantage of the opportunity to extend the length of their stay so that their spouse or partner could join them, which again could be perceived as a bit of a perk. However, some companies who are watching the bottom line may want to question if a night’s stay away truly is justified to ensure they’re not being taken advantage of.”
The research showed that many employees use their free time to relax and unwind at a hotel. On average employees had only four hours of free time to themselves when staying away on business, with the majority saying they used this to relax in the hotel, enjoy hotel facilities such as the restaurant or spa, sleep or catch up with family or friends on the phone. Some business travellers (11%) also took time out for a spot of sightseeing around the local area.
Interestingly a small proportion of business travellers used the time away from home to make the most of their social life; 6% used it to socialise with colleagues, or friends (2.5%) whilst a small percentage (2.3%) of those surveyed admitted to using the time to meet new people. Only 8% said that they used their free time to catch up on work – but perhaps this is because some work whilst in transit to and from their destination.
Jon continued: “In an age when it is so easy to reach out to colleagues, friends or new contacts through social media channels, it’s interesting to see that some people use their spare time to socialise whilst on business. I wonder if these percentages represent a true picture of how social people are when on business, or if in reality people may be more active but do not want to admit it.”
The findings also showed that on average business travellers stay away from home for nearly 13 nights per year – the equivalent of just over one night per month.
Of these, managing directors clocked up the most nights away, averaging 17 nights, followed by senior management at 16 nights. Interestingly, people working in industries such as electronics, energy and utilities, and transport and logistics, on average clocked up nearly 19 nights away annually.
In addition to travel time, the top four reasons cited when justifying a night away on business included practical considerations such as the time of meeting, nature of the meeting, journey itinerary and the importance of the client.
When asked about what influences their choice of hotel, it was clear that business travellers place real importance on convenience. 46% said that the location from the meeting place was the priority, followed by the distance from the airport or train station (22%) while 17% cited distance from the city centre.
Jon concluded: “These findings provide real insight into the patterns of business travellers when justifying a stay away to bosses, and should give food for thought to employers.
“With the majority citing convenience as a key factor when booking accommodation there is, therefore, a great opportunity for hotels to capitalise on this by offering the best possible experience to ensure that their guests have everything they need to hand – from great facilities to access to Wi-Fi.”