Staying in the loop on travel expenses

11 January 2013
More than two-fifths (44 per cent) of HR directors have seen an increase in remote working over the past three years. When dealing with these employees, the challenge for companies is to ensure that policies such as those for travel and entertainment (T&E) are well-communicated so remote workers feel they are kept ‘in the loop’. In turn this will help businesses keep control centrally of T&E-related costs across the company. While having employees off-site brings cost and productivity savings, T&E makes up a sizeable amount of overall business spend and is necessary to support growth. Having a robust T&E policy can ensure employees are aware of and remain compliant to company guidelines. An easily accessible T&E policy should detail how employees should manage their travel bookings. Whether providing information on the approved travel management company that must be used, or outlining class of flights, standard of hotel rooms and other guidelines, this system allows businesses to exercise tighter control over outgoings and ensure colleagues across the company have a consistent travelling experience. A key component to any T&E policy is a preferred suppliers list. Negotiated rates with agreed suppliers such as accommodation, meetings venues and car rental bookings, means that company-wide T&E costs can be better managed and monitored. By maintaining central use and volume data, businesses will have greater visibility over spend, placing them in a much stronger position to renegotiate supplier rates when contracts are up for renewal.  In addition, if remote employee travel expense requests are automatically linked to a central database, businesses can spot expenditure trends and react to these by amending T&E policies as the need arises. For global businesses, remote working provides invaluable access to skilled employees worldwide without the overheads. But T&E costs can vary widely country to country, the cost of a meal in one country may not go very far in another. Therefore it is important that global T&E policies include local addendums, enabling an element of flexibility that adequately reflects local market conditions. Technology provides greater flexibility in where, when and how employees work. By making teleconferencing, instant messaging and web sharing available, the isolation of working remotely is eliminated and people can stay in touch and work as if they are in the office. If a business offers mobile resources to its employees on the move, a T&E policy can help travellers take advantage of useful applications that will provide both for day-to-day support and emergency assistance. It shouldn’t be a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’. Keeping track of a remote workforce may present logistical and managerial challenges for some sections of business, but when it comes to travel and expenditure, having a policy in place can help organisations better manage spend, while employees benefit from the perks that working away from the office brings. ☛ Karen Penney is vice president and general manager UK at American Express Global Corporate Payments
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